Archives For Tuesday by David Weisner

I hold up the book I will be reading aloud, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. The students start commenting:

This is one of my favorite books…
I love Thing #1 and Thing #2!
I (loved) or I (hated) the movie!
Can we read Green Eggs and Ham, too?

Cat in Hat book coverI settle the students down and begin,

“The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
Just sit in the house all that cold, cold wet day.”

32 eyes blink brightly up at the pages as I turn them.
Several mouths move without sound to recite along with me.
The students are mesmerized.

Oh, did I mention that these are seniors in high school?

I am using a picture book to explain Freud’s theory of the Id, Ego and Superego (see post). Thing #1 and Thing #2 represent Id, and that righteous fish? The Superego. Yes, Dr. Seuss is great for psychological literary criticism, but he is not the only picture book in my repertoire of children’s literature used in high school. Here are a few of my favorites to use and why:

Tuesday by David Wiesner_CoverTuesday by David Weisner. We use this text for our 9th grade mythology unit because a myth explains the unexplainable. Our students have to create a myth for why frogs might lift off from a local pond and terrorize some inhabitants of a small town (see post).

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell. This mash-up of the 1931 film Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel is ideal to stimulate discussion on the relationship between a creator and the created. In McDonnell’s version, however, the Monster is sensitive, compassionate, with more of an interest in warm, powdered jelly doughnuts than in seeking vengeance…a nice break from the rigors of Advanced Placement English Literature.coverbook_monsters-monster

the-arrival-by-shaun-tanThe Arrival by Shaun Tan. Surreal images capture the point of view of an immigrant experience which makes this wordless text ideal for students who are studying Ellis Island or Angel Island. Many of the illustrations are available on the website so students can look at the haunting pictures on their own devices as well.

Harris BurdickThe Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. A book full of provocative images that has inspired thousands of stories explaining the mysteries in each sepia toned drawing. This book is wonderful for writing classroom, and there have been contests for the best stories written by children. Celebrated children’s authors have also taken an opportunity to try their imaginations using the pictures as story prompts in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone; illustrated by Mark Smollin and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer. Both of these books have been incorporated into our Heroes and Monsters English IV (grade 12) elective. I use them as a starting point for an inquiry project about images of monsters given to children contrasted with the images of monsters we know as adults. Most students discuss the “fuzzy factor” with cute, loveable old Grover as something they remember fondly. They also remember very clearly the monster that lived in their closets. The anxiety of Mayer’s “Nightmare”, sobbing at the foot of the bed, usually brings about a discussion of facing fears.

grover

There are YouTube Videos for students to watch in advance of class (flipped classroom):  The Monster at the End of this Book and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet

Nightmare

Fredrick

Fredrick by Leo Lionni. What does the poet do for society? This little fable answers that question and works well in any poetry unit. Frederick’s use of language paints pictures in the minds of the other mice who are struggling through a particularly bleak winter season. There is a delightful video recording of this to share in class or to have students watch on their own (flipped classroom).

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Lane Smith. Want a lesson on point of view? This retake of the three little pigs is one of the best ways to present the advantages of this literary device to students of all ages. In his explanation of the story, A. Wolf comes across the first little pig after the house of straw caved in. With culinary justification, he says,

True story“It seemed like a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw. So I ate it up. Think of it as a cheeseburger just lying there.”

The story presents opportunities to use other fairy tales for students to practice retelling stories from another point of view once they buy into Scieszka’s formula.

Fables by Arnold Lobel. Here are modern little fables that are one page long with morals such as “It is the high and mighty that have the farthest to fall.” One year, I used these fables with my drama class as short sketches. My favorite sketch to watch was the story of the Lobster and the Crab where the insanely spirited Lobster took timid Crab out for a ride in a boat during a tremendous storm. When the boat capsized, the student playing Crab cried out in despair, “Horrors!” while the student playing Lobster jumped and shouted with glee.”Down we go!” she yelled at the top of her lungs.
FablesLobel writes:

The Crab was shaken and upset.
The Lobster took him for a relaxing walk along the ocean floor.
“How brave we are,” said the Lobster. “What a wonderful adventure we have had!”

The moral? “Even the taking of small risks will add to the excitement of life.”

The same can be said for using children’s literature in high school.
The use of a well-chosen picture book will add to the excitement of a lesson! Continue Reading…

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, by David Wiesner (New York: Clarion, 1991)

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.