humor, spotlight

Spotlight – I Don’t Want to Read This Book/Gladys the Magic Kitchen

I Don’t Want to Read This Book (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Written by Max Greenfield
Illustrated by Mike Lowrey

For ages: 4-8
For years, actors have tried their hand at picture book writing. I always meet these books with some skepticism, often wondering if the celebrity isn’t trying their hand at it because they perceive children’s book authoring as easier than writing for grown-ups. But, those of us who have spent years pouring over texts for kids know it takes a skilled person, almost a poet, who can parse big ideas with simple words. Max Greenfield (The New Girl) has presented his attempt at this seminal venture, and it’s not too bad.

Like B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures, I Don’t Want to Read This Book emphasizes a performative reading rather than a book with characters or a plot. The unseen & unnamed narrator is a person who doesn’t have a fondness for reading and makes sure the reader knows it. The book’s design is a crucial part of enjoying it as artist Mike Lowery closely collaborated with Greenfield to play with font style and size. The result is a book that appears to have been handmade by the same narrator who detests reading. It’s a perfect read for those children that are the most hesitant readers, helping them have a way to enjoy books and possibly turn their sentiments one day.

Activities

1. Students can make posters/pamphlets/commercials aimed at people who don’t like to read. Have them work individually or in groups to create these products and present them to the class. Whatever students make, they should include at least three reasons why reading their particular book is a good idea.

2. Students can brainstorm and come up with a list of things they do NOT enjoy doing. Have them pick one thing and write their short book in the vein of I Don’t Want to Read This Book. 

3. As a class, write a letter to Max Greenfield and Mike Lowery about their book. Then, send them the letter through their online social media presences and share any response you get with the class.


Gladys the Magic Chicken (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Written by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Adam Rex

For ages: 4-8
An Adam Rubin book is always welcome in my house, and this is no exception. Gladys is a chicken who belongs to the Shepherd Boy and might be magic. Or it could just be that she happens to be in the right place at the right time. Her journey across the land sees Gladys becoming the pet of a Traveling Merchant, a Learned Princess, and even a Fearsome Pirate. Each of them experiences a boon or punishment that they connect to Gladys. By the time we get to the end, Gladys has come full circle, yet we still don’t know if she truly is a magic chicken.

The painted illustrations of Adam Rex are fantastic. I first became aware of his work in The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors and have not been disappointed by anything of his since. Rex’s work is a perfect match for Rubin’s clever writing. An unnamed narrator contributes their commentary on the events with a dry observant wit that adds to the comedy. Little flourishes help bring the reader into this silly world, from the map shown at the beginning to the characters’ expressive faces and even accents that evoke classical Greece. If you are looking for a fun story with many story elements, Gladys has what you need.

Activities

1. Debate time! Have students break into groups based on where they fall on this question: Is Gladys magic? Give students structure and time to compose arguments for their side. Then have them present their opinion to the class and let the debate begin!

2. Which owner deserved Gladys? Have students compose a short essay in response to that question. They will need to provide evidence from the text.

3. What happens next? Have students write a new chapter in Gladys’ life. Will she stay with the Shepherd Boy this time or go on another adventure?

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