Sunday, April 21, 2013

If You Give...

I love this entire series of books by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  They are fabulous books for teaching cause and effect as well as circular storytelling.  The pictures themselves are fun for kids, as in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, when they detail the utter chaos the boy creates in responding to each of the mouse’s demands.  Then, of course, just as the boy has finished cleaning up the chaos, it all begins again, with the mouse’s request for a glass of milk (and by extension, a cookie to go with it). 

This book is wonderful in its predictability, though it is not always predictable in the ways that we expect.  For example, the boy stares in the mirror, decides to give himself a trim, after trimming, wants a broom to sweep with, then a mop for cleaning, then wants to take a nap, but needs a bedtime story that leads him to request some crayons so that he can draw a picture.  As each request is delivered, we understand and find the request to be a natural one, though we didn’t necessarily anticipate that particular request at the time.  It is only at the end, as he arrives at the refrigerator to post his picture, that we can anticipate what the next request will be – milk! 

There are any number of fun extension activities that can be done with this book, particularly around cause and effect.  I don’t just mean cause and effect in the text, but also within the pictures.  The request for a straw leads to a mess that we can see spilling out onto the page.  The request for a broom leads to dust clouds in every room and the request for a mop leads to suds across the floor. It’s chaos unending and it is quite enjoyable for students to analyze and talk about.

While the text indicates what the mouse is requesting, it is only through the illustrations that we understand the results of these requests. Similarly, without the text, we would not know what the boy’s motivation was, nor would we understand that the mouse was the driving force behind all of the boy’s actions.  Without the text, we would have only half the story. 

In essence, the text and the pictures work together to tell the complete story.  The text complements the pictures and the pictures complement the text.  Without both working together, we would have an incomplete story at best. 

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