Here in Oregon, the leaves on the blueberry bushes blush crimson. The pumpkins in my patch glow orange. And I’m feeling a little blue because the kids returned to school this week. After a long summer hiatus, I am finally back to blogging.
This week for Picture Perfect Fridays I selected THE LITTLE BIT SCARY PEOPLE. With humor, writer Emily Jenkins explores the idea that there’s more than one side to all of us.
(For a mammoth list of links to picture book reviews, check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)
Title: THE LITTLE BIT SCARY PEOPLE
Written by: Emily Jenkins
illustrated by: Alexandra Boiger
Hyperion Books for Children, 2008, Fiction
Fun for Ages: 4 and UP
Themes/Topics: empathy, facing fears, multiple perspectives, don’t judge a book by its cover
First line: “The big boy with thick eyebrows rides his skateboard on the sidewalk and cranks the radio so loud, my dad yells out the window for him to turn it down.”
Brief Synopsis (from publisher): “Some people are a little bit STRANGE or a little too LOUD, and just a little bit SCARY. But I bet, if you knew them, and knew their favorite things, you’d think that maybe, (probably) most people aren’t so scary after all.”
Why I Love This Book: This story shows us a variety of potentially scary characters and then, with each page turn, invites us to imagine along with our wise-beyond-her-years narrator what that character might be like in a different scenario. On the second page, the big boy with thick eyebrows is curled up in bed with his cat. Maybe he’s not so scary after all.
Fear can be crippling for some children. This book helps readers see that there is more than one side to each person and maybe, just maybe, the “scary” people they fear aren’t so scary after all. I think the story also encourages empathy. It reminds us to withhold judgments until we get to know a person.
Finally, Alexandra Boiger’s inviting illustrations depict the multiple perspectives with humor and kid appeal.
Ideas for Teachers: This book is a natural fit for a lesson concerning empathy. After reading the book with the class, the teacher could invite students to think about someone in their life who seems “a little bit scary.” Students would be asked to imagine that person in a different setting or situation and then draw a picture of and/or write about the “scary person” reimagined in a less scary scenario. Might the mail carrier who never smiles be less scary when she’s walking through the woods with her dog?