humor, illustration, spotlight

Spotlight: Blue Bison Needs a Haircut/Attack of the Underwear Dragon

Blue Bison Needs a Haircut (Random House Studio)
Written by Scott Rothman
Illustrated by Pete Oswald

For ages: 4-8
Haircuts can be a surprising source of anxiety for children. This excellent picture book helps find humor in the situation. Blue Bison wants to look a particular way and tells his mother he *needs* a haircut, which she corrects that he *wants* one. However, Blue Bison gets increasingly annoyed as things don’t seem to go his way, and the local barber has closed down for a rest. His little sister Bubble Gum Bison is eager to help and clicks her scissors in his direction. Our protagonist has none of that. This is one of those children’s books that does not purport to serve up some profound message but lives in the silly place where kids start laughing and cannot stop. 

I see this as a good book to use to address patience with kids, learn how to label wants & needs adequately, and find humor in situations we don’t always like. The illustrations are wonderfully expressive and have that cut-paper texture that has become popular with many illustrators today. There are a lot of details to pore over too. It’s one of those texts a child will spend hours scanning over the pictures and finding bits of worldbuilding they may have missed on their first read. There’s also some surprising factual information on the difference between bison & buffalo thrown in for good measure.

Activities

1. Blue Bison experiences some difficulties with being patient. Have students write a letter to the little guy with some of their tips about how to remain patient when you really, really, really want something badly.

2. Maybe there are other hairstyles that Blue Bison would enjoy? Have students draw him with the hairstyle of their choice and write a short story about when Blue debuts this funky new do to his family.

3. This story taps into some great personal narrative writing opportunities. Have a carpet conversation about your students’ memories associated with haircuts. After you have a good dialogue going, have them draft a short personal narrative essay about the haircut memory they brought up.


Attack of the Underwear Dragon (Random House Books for Young Readers)
Written by Scott Rothman
Illustrated by Pete Oswald

For ages: 4-8
Cole wants to be a knight more than anything else, so he writes a letter to his favorite, Sir Percival. The brave knight is moved to tears, which the book tells us is a good thing. Even knights express their feelings. Sir Percival recruits Cole as his page, and the young boy helps out with horse-riding, sword-wielding, and soothing poor Percy when his fears of the Underwear Dragon become too much. Cole doesn’t always love helping out his idol, but ultimately he is enjoying learning how to become a knight. Then one day, the Underwear Dragon shows up and devastates the kingdom. Each knight rides out to face the beast and is defeated until only Cole remains.

Created by the same duo responsible for Blue Bison Needs a Haircut, this book is even funnier. It’s full of clever asides. Layered into the humor is a well-done deconstruction of masculinity using knights as the stand-in. Rothman spends a considerable amount of time talking about how some men perform their macho-ness to an absurd degree. Ultimately, it’s about being comfortable with your identity and expressing it to the world without fear of ridicule. Sir Percival is never made fun of because he cries; he’s completely understood and supported by Cole. Some excellent positive themes mixed in with tremendous humor.

Activities

1. This dragon will catch a cold if he keeps wandering about in his tighty-whities! Have your students design a stylish outfit for the dragon and come up with a new name for the character based on this change. For added depth, have them explain their outfit in writing and why they believe the dragon will love it.

2. Maybe Sir Percival could use another hand? Have your students compose a letter to the famous knight explaining why they would make a good assistant when Cole moves on to his next gig. This is an excellent opportunity to use the text for evidence 

3. Some people think that if they express how they feel, others will see them as “weak” or a “baby.” Have students make a colorful poster that encourages everyone to feel how they feel and suggests ways to share those feelings to connect with others. 

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