Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Marshmallow Incident by Judi and Ron Barrett, as reviewed by Freaky

Just in time for the September 18 release of the movie version of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", we have a new book by Judi Barrett featuring, of course, food in a strange land.

The Marshmallow Incident tells the story of two neighboring towns, Left and Right, so named because the people who live in the former are left-handed, and the people in the latter are right-handed (or are they? Look at the pictures). And if you're starting to wonder, "What happens if two right-handed people have a left-handed child?", don't even go there. It's a picture book, not a lesson in genetics, and it's called suspension of disbelief.

A bright yellow dotted line keeps the two towns and all their inhabitants apart. Signs proclaim, "Left is Left Behind", and "Righties, go right home", offering a great opportunity to explore expressions, maybe make a list of phrases with the words "right" or "left". Tedd Arnold's Parts and More Parts would be great tie-ins.

The line is guarded by an order of ambidextrous knights, who also guard a large store of marshmallows one of them won in a poetry contest (it could happen!). When it finally happens (you knew it would) that someone accidentally crosses the line, the knights retaliate with the nearest weapon at hand - the marshmallows.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? This is my kind of war! I feel like I'm channeling Brer Rabbit here - oh, please, sir, don't pelt me with yummy fluffy marshmallows! And whatever you do, don't follow it up with chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries! Wouldn't that make another fun activity for the kids? Ask them what other types of food could be used to make war, and what would the consequences be? A very daring teacher or parent could even...try some of them out!

Not feeling quite that brave (or principal won't let you)? Bring in piles of marshmallows and see what the kids can make out of them. Or old saltines. Or celery stalks. Or pretzel sticks. You get the idea. Use this as a segue into a unit on inventing.

And then of course there is the whole topic of arguments that get out of hand and prevent friendships. This book is full of extension and activity possibilities that could keep your classroom or your kids busy for a week or more. Youngsters will enjoy just looking through the pictures, finding new details they did not notice the first time. More brightly colored than Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, they have all the great facial expressions and miscelleneous animal participants we saw in both that and Pickles to Pittsburgh. I predict this one will soon be a staple in classrooms, libraries, and home bookshelves as well. Order yours now through the following link:

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