Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Picture Book Wednesday: Elmer and Rose, by David McKee

Published in the UK five years ago, but now here in hardcover. If you haven't been introduced to Elmer, the multicolored elephant, you need to get to your local library and check him out. The first book, Elmer, is a simple story about appreciating the things that make you different. We like to use it for story time and then give the children elephant outlines to decorate as they choose - sort of our own version of the Painted Ponies. The other books in the series introduce other 'different' elephants, and mostly follow the same themes of self-acceptance and friendship.
In Elmer and Rose, Elmer and his cousin Wilbur debate the concept of being unique (as this is a picture book, by "debate" we mean two or three sentences.)  Elmer's grandfather then asks them to escort a young, pink elephant back to her herd. They think her color is unique, but discover - surprise - that her whole herd is pink, illustrating that the conept of unique is relative.
The lesson is fairly obvious, but not delivered in a heavy-handed way, and obvious is a good thing with younger readers. We would have liked to see uniqueness demonstrated in areas other than color, but a teacher/parent/librarian can easily make that connection in discussion after reading.
Our favorite part of McKee's illustrations are his trees. From twisty trunks to ball-shaped foliage and triangular red tops, his wide variety of shapes and colors are sure to inspire your kids' imagination. For another fun extension, ask children to follow his example and come up with wildly different flowers, or fish, or cars. This could even be an art lesson for older kids - maybe something for substitutes to keep in their emergency back-up kits. (For those who are new to substitute teaching, an emergency back-up kit is a bag of any-age-level-activities you can turn to when you show up to teach middle school social studies and discover the regular teacher was kidnapped by aliens who apparently also took her lesson plans. You need a kit, trust us.)
Copy provided by publisher for review. If you purchase a copy by clicking on the picture link, we receive a (very) small portion of the proceeds, which then goes to our local library.

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