Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Power of the Picture Book

I consider 3, 4 and 5-year old children to be "my people." I've spent thousands of hours observing and interacting with them in my classroom at the Hogarth School these last 29 years. They are a source of endless fun, fascination and inspiration for my writing. In fact, the lines between my teaching life and my writing life are so blurred as to be almost nonexistent. My teaching informs my writing, and my writing informs my teaching.

Today was a great day for this teaching writer. It was the first Show-and-Tell day of the school year. Here at Hogarth we call it "Sharing Day," and I'm always curious to see what comes through the door, especially the books. Each month, I can count on at least one or two books being in the treasure trove.

Today 3-year old Arthur brought in one of those search-for-the-hidden pictures books in the Where's Waldo vein, except it tied in with the Disney movie Cars. 4-year old Hayden brought in When I'm Big by Sam McBratney, which I read to the class. They liked it just fine, but were more interested in finding pictures of Lightning McQueen in the Cars book. (How do you compete with Disney and the mass merchandising of Cars?)

The thing that really caught my eye was a globe. Mounted in a highly polished stainless steel (I think) base, the different countries were fashioned from mother-of-pearl, jade, and God knows what other kinds of stone. It was fantastic. One of a kind. I asked Brady, the 3-year old who brought it in, to tell us about it. He immediately spun the globe and found South Korea. "That's where I was born!" He searched out another spot and planted his little 3-year old finger. "That's New Zealand!" I'm not sure what special meaning New Zealand holds for him, but I hope to find out. Another 3-year old, Dev, had shared a dohl drum from India, so we searched out India on the beautiful globe.

I asked Brady if he'd like to tell us anything else before we moved onto the picture John was going to share, and he immediately gave the globe a final spin. Without even having to hunt for it, he jabbed his finger onto Spain. "This is where Ferdinand lives!"

I was flabbergasted. Ferdinand! One of my favorite picture book characters of all time! The fact that this barely 3-year old boy could find Ferdinand's home on the globe speaks to the power of the picture book. (And the power of involved, loving parents.) This little guy connected so strongly with Munro Leaf's classic story of peace and the strength of the individual, that when he was learning about important places in the world, he wanted to learn where Ferdinand lives.

I'll be reading The Story of Ferdinand to my students tomorrow. I can't wait. I really need to thank Brady.


Diane said...

What a lovely story of Brady! I'm surprised Ferdinand is still being read to little ones, but, I'm glad it is!

Mur said...

I'm teary-eyed! I loved the Ferdinand book, too. It was years before I knew that cork trees really didn't look like that! :)

Thanks for sharing.

Sally said...

They don't??