This book is really cool and it has teacher written all over it (two sentiments that sadly, do not always find their way into the same sentence).
I love discovering a book that is well-conceived, funny, and is chockful of easy links to the classroom. Hanoch Piven starts off this one in a place that many kids can relate to. The little girl who narrates draws a picture of her family, and even though her teacher likes it, she thinks it stinks. She can’t see how the ordinary looking people she’s drawn are in any way close to her complex and interesting family members. This is where the fun starts. She compares her daddy’s personality to various everyday objects. He is: “as jumpy as a spring,” “as playful as a spinning top,” “as fun as a party favor” and “as stubborn as a knot in a rope.” Then, turn the page, and her bland portrait turns fun-house wacky, as these objects combine in a new and improved portrait of her dad, bright, crazy and creative. She goes on to do the same thing for her mom, 2 brothers and her dog Schmutz.
Pretty obvious the sorts of lessons that could spring from this. I can imagine many little ones would grasp how similes work as a result of this book’s simple set up and uncluttered design. Obviously, this concept could become a gorgeous centrepiece to any “All About Me” unit. But it would work very well in a novel / story study too, if the students created a portrait of a character using a similar process. While I think the story is pitched at early primary age group, I can imagine the right Grade 4 or 5 class getting really into the challenge of finding new, unexpected items to represent different character traits.
And I bet all you teachers out there are envisioning the world’s coolest bulletin board right now.
As an aside, the book is dedicated to the children and teens who are patients at the Schneider Children’s Medical Centre of Israel, with whom Piven did workshop sessions, creating these sorts of self-portraits. The children’s pictures are showcased on the endpapers. At his website, you will find more kids’ portraits to admire.
My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven, is published by Schwartz & Wade Books.