In The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, Leigh Chen Sanders travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents after the death of her mother. While in Taiwan, she forges a strong relationship with her grandparents, but she also uncovers family secrets and chases after ghosts, including her mother, who Leigh believes turned into a bird after her death. The book is a mix of magic and reality, the past and the present, with a little falling in love along the way.


Read the following excerpt from The Astonishing Color of After (found on pages 3-4).


“What color?” Axel said quietly.

This is the question we always ask to figure out what the other person’s feeling. We’ve been best friends since Mrs. Donovan’s art class—long enough that that’s all we need. One color to describe a mood, a success, a failure, a wish.


Pick One: Have students choose, as mentioned in the excerpt, a mood, a success, a failure, or a wish.


Paint the Scene: Have students choose a color that describes the mood, success, failure, or wish and explain why they chose their color and how it fits the scene.


Color Variations: Gather a variety of paint sample cards from a paint or hardware store. These cards typically have vivid names to convey the color. A yellow may be called Sunflower Kiss. A blue might be called Seaside Morning. Allow students to choose a color. If students picked their own color to describe a mood, success, failure, or wish, have them come up with their own paint store color name.


If they have composition notebooks, have them glue or tape the swatch (if they have one) in their notebook.


Have students describe a mood, success, failure, or wish that goes with their color sample and explain why the color fits with the subject they selected. 


Download the lesson below in a convenient pdf to print or save!




Michael M. Guevara, recipient of a 2019 Book Love Foundation Grant, spends his days advocating for choice reading and authentic literacy instruction. An Academic Trainer in a large urban high school in San Antonio, Texas, Michael works with teachers on improving their literacy instruction and uses choice reading to help students achieve academic success. A former K-12 ELAR coordinator, Michael has served as president of The Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts and an NCTE committee chair. He recently served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed new literacy standards adopted by Texas in 2017. His workshops with teachers focus on mentor texts and authentic student writing from their choice reading. Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel The Closest Thing to a Normal Life.