David Weisner’s Tuesday is one of the funniest picture books ever. Really. Watch the video. The funniest pictures, ever, hands down. The few words in this picture book are only for context when an invasion of frogs floating on lily pads invade a small town on a Tuesday night.
I was so happy when I found a copy for $.25 at the New Milford Public Library book sale this summer. I have a well-worn hardcover of my own that I do not want to lose; this paperback will be perfect to share in class. Wiesner’s picture book is ideal to start the 9th grade mythology unit which leads up to students reading Homer’s Odyssey (Fitzgerald translation).
Our 9th grade curriculum centers on the idea that stories make us human, so our freshmen will spend the year studying the elements of stories and archetypes. For example, in each story they read, they will be able to identify the “call to action” and the moment the protagonist or hero “crosses the threshold”. They will recognize the “challenges” for the hero as being a repeated pattern, especially when the hero is confronted with “temptations”. The students will be familiar with the ideas of “redemption” and “atonement” as the hero travels on the journey from the comfort of the known world to the trials of the unknown world. They will develop an appreciation for the wisdom of the hero’s mentor and the importance of the “elixir” that helps the hero succeed. They will look for these patterns in the stories they will read throughout high school. They will review myths as traditional stories that are accepted as history which serve to explain a phenomenon. The flying frogs in Tuesday are most certainly a phenomenon.
We want the students to appreciate the “call to adventure” as demonstrated in the lily pads which lift the frogs from their “known” locale, the swamps and ponds outside the town to the “unknown” territories of living rooms. We want students to predict consequences as the lilypads float the enthusiastic frogs literally “cross the threshold” of many of the homes.
We also want them to enjoy how Wiesner’s frogs cheerfully wave at disbelieving occupants or cavort using the lily pads as F-16s performing barrel rolls in backyard airspace, while other frogs sit comfortably and devise methods for changing channels in order to watch late night TV. We want them to note how all the frogs are “transformed” from their natural swampy state into comical caricatures.
The flight of the frogs is “challenged” by sheets hung on laundry lines or more directly by a slobbering guard dog. The frogs’ inexplicable journey is cut short when the “elixir” that made this incident possible mysteriously ends the spell. The frogs return to their “known” habitat. The mystery of the remaining lily pads scattered on the concrete roads and sidewalks all over town is wonderfully illustrated in the perplexed look on a detective’s face. Weisner uses a Orsen Welles look-alike in a rumpled raincoat who puzzles holding a dripping wet lily pad, a cadre of police officers and bloodhounds behind him ready to track down the invaders.
Tuesday will provide the students an opportunity to “write the myth” of what made the frogs fly. The student will need to reference the illustrations in the text as evidence in creating their own personal myth about the flying frogs. We are interested in the explanations the students will need to develop for why the lily pads floated so effortlessly from the pond. How will the detective explain the limp lilypads strewn around the streets and sidewalks? What predictions do they have for the next possible phenomenon? Some early suggestions started in class are:
- A new species of lilly pads grew legs and carried the frogs all over the town
- The lily pads are lunar charged when the moon comes up, then when the sun comes up, the power wears off.
- Lily pads were made radioactive when a battery fell off the space shuttle into their pond
David Wiesner’s picture book Tuesday provides my students an opportunity to identify universal story elements and create their own myths for the phenomenon of the hilarious frog invasion. This year is the year when they will recognize the elements of this story are the elements in all of literature. Thus, the picture book Tuesday prepares students for the epic poem The Odyssey, where the equally magic flights and fantastic adventures of the hero Odysseus await their explanations.
But before we start out for Ithaca, we had to spend Tuesday with some frogs.