Picture Book Resources
A Perfectly Messed up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Louie's story is not going as planned. It keeps getting interrupted by a very sloppy and inconsiderate reader. His story is ruined he's sure, because who wants to read a book that's less than perfect?
- Proper Book Care: Whether you teach Kindergarten or Seniors, you probably at some point of the year have to talk to the students about how to take care of their textbooks and other class books. This is the perfect book to make that discussion a little more fun. The "reader" of Louie's story does a HORRIBLE job of taking care of the book. Food gets onto the pages, things get torn and scribbled on (it's the stuff of nightmares for librarians). But the negative example provides the perfect opportunity to talk about how best to care for books so that they last.
- Perfectionists: I definitely sympathize with Louie's perfectionist sentiments as a perfectionist myself, and I know lots of students are in the same boat. This is a great book to talk about when it is ok to be less than perfect or how to deal with those times when things just aren't meeting your standards. It's a very real stressor for many students, and it's good for them to talk about when to let the perfectionist strive for perfection, when to tell it to take a chill pill, and how we can be our own worst critic. Louie thought his book was a disaster, but ask students if they still enjoyed it.
- Interactive Books & Setting/Characters: This book adds another dimension to the normal story, in that the reader supposedly enters into the story and the character starts interacting with the reader. If you want to challenge kids to think outside the box while talking about setting or characters, ask them to identify the setting and characters in this book.
- Class Rules: This is a great way to lighten the mood when talking about class rules or before brainstorming class rules. Magnolia's alligator gets her into all sorts of trouble (and not the kind you'd expect). It's a good opportunity to talk about why we have rules. Also, it's a great time to talk about what is appropriate to bring to school and what should stay at home (or in the swamp). By the end of the story, Magnolia is super sorry she ever brought the alligator to school.
- Who's Influencing You?: This story also provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to kids about who they choose to spend time with and how those people influence them. Magnolia's hanging out with the alligator gets her into all sorts of trouble. Obviously, he's not a good influence on her, and she eventually sends him away. Discuss with students some strategies for avoiding bad influences.
- De-stress Fun Read: There are just those days when everyone's tired and needs a little break. This is a humorous read that can help bring a little joy into a stressful day that needs a bit of fun.
- Humor in Art: 2/3 of the humor in this book are in the illustrations. Teachers can have students evaluate how Parsley achieved this and how the story changes if you take either the words or the art away.
- Alphabet: Of course, if you have students learning their alphabet, this is a good book to spread out and read a story for each letter that's introduced. You can also have them find every time the letter appears in its story.
- Observation Skills: As the book goes on characters from previous letter stories start appearing again. Challenge the students to see how many reappearances they can notice.
- Concise Writing: Jeffers manages to tell stories in about one paragraph for each letter. If you're trying to teach students to write concisely, there are some great examples in this book.
- Writing Prompt: Emulating Jeffers' book, challenge students to write their own little stories for each letter of the alphabet. This could even be an opener activity for a whole month, prompting students with a different letter each day.
- Foreign Languages: You can adapt the writing prompt idea for a different alphabet or language.
- Fun Short Filler Activity: If you need a book you can pick up and read short snippets of aloud to fill in random minutes of the school day, this is a good one since all the letters are individual stories (though some eventually start to overlap).
- Vocabulary & Dictionaries & Semantics: Jeffers includes some excellent vocabulary in the stories. And given the short nature of the stories, you can easily take time to demonstrate how to find out what a word means without disrupting the flow of the story much.