"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not!)

We're all misunderstood, but thankfully those perceptions can change.

Bobby has teacher problems. He is having a hard time making the right choices at school.  Not surprisingly, Bobby's behavior sometimes frustrates his teacher, Ms. Kirby, and turns her into a monster, or at least that's the way Bobby sees her. When Bobby meets up with Ms. Kirby in his territory, they both make some surprising discoveries. 
There's something about Peter Brown's illustrations that makes me want to be part of the characters' world, (even one where teachers are perceived as monsters). I am drawn to the hues and shapes and natural world. 

In My Teacher is a Monster!I would almost describe certain aspects of the page spreads as delicate, but find it hard to do so when a very large and very green monster/teacher is in the spread. Greens and browns are celebrated and fabulously rich, Peter Brown's color palate captures the depth and variety of nature's more subtle colors. If I was Bobby's friend, I would definitely be hanging out with him in his favorite spot.
Can I talk a bit about Bobby's hair? It is just so perfect. I have a few students that are a spitting image of Bobby, and who will quickly identify with more than his hair style...coincidence?

There's an "aha!" moment in this book, when perceptions change and therefore so does what Bobby sees. I read the book with second graders and the "aha!" moment was perfect (no spoiler alert, here, you'll have to discover this for yourself).  I patiently waited as three classes of students made their discovery. We would have to go picture walk the book from the beginning, just to see what had not been seen right away.

What did the students think?

The students loved this book. They were completely caught up in the illustrations and wanted to stop and talk often. They commented on small things that I hadn't noticed.  I love that they are really reading books, including the art. The story itself was a bit confusing to a few of the second graders, was the teachers really a monster? In the end, they all understood the message. Here's a comment from one student that says it all:

Story elements and art that caught my attention:

I love that on her "down time," Ms. Kirby is reading while sitting on a park bench.

Bobby's expressive eyes say it all. I love how wide they are, as if they are expecting something to happen at any moment.

I appreciate Ms. Kirby's deadpan expression and eyes that indicate she has seen quite a bit in her time as a teacher.

I love the awkward silence between Bobby and Ms. Kirby. The reader can feel what it is like on that park bench.

I love the way Bobby's and Ms. Kirby's arms hang straight down their bodies at times during the story - there is something endearing about this gesture.

I appreciate how the peach in the teacher's bag compliments Bobby's features and balances the art.

I like how the color of the end papers compliments the blurb on the inside jacket. 

I like the weight of the pages while resting on the fingers during the page turn.

I love the message I hear: It's all in the perceptions we carry - how we think people feel about us and we feel about them.

I love inhabiting one of Peter Brown's worlds, if just for a while and even if, in that world, teachers are perceived as monsters!
I am looking forward to reading this with more students and seeing and hearing their reactions. 
Stay tuned!

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