Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Play's the Thing Ages 5-9

Miss Brilliant is full of ideas. With her students she celebrates everything: teeth, corn, mummies, spiders -- and plays!
Only José isn't interested in "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or being a Brilliant Player, or even his surprise role. But as José learns about drama and tension and working with his classmates, he finds that he, too, has his own special place in Miss Brilliant's class and in her heart.
Aliki has created a memorable teacher and a class full of personalities that all readers will want to join.
A Play's the Thing By Aliki
Illustrated by Aliki
Edition: illustrated
Published by HarperCollins, 2005
ISBN 0060743557, 9780060743550
32 pages
Inventive and jolly, Aliki tells a tale in her familiar comic-strip style, with shiny bright colors and enough sly references to convulse adults, even if the kids sail past them. Miss Brilliant, who must have gone to the same teachers' college as Ms. Frizzle, announces to her class that they are going to put on a play based on "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Her multicultural cast hops to with a will, except for José, who bears a passing resemblance to a certain Pierre who didn't care and who spends almost the whole story acting out against everyone else. They write the script—Miss Brilliant assigns them their roles (Bandana, whose English isn't big yet, is a musician; Steffi, who uses a wheelchair, is the narrator)—lines are written and learned, costumes and scenery prepared. The parents are invited, and it's a great success even for José, who not only plays the teacher but whose mom leaves work early to see him. The children are a rainbow of the American classroom, and the lessons gently taught. (Picture book. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.
Gr 1-3-Aliki's latest production ...
... explores how an experienced teacher uses a student-led performance of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to help one of the children deal with his bullying behavior. When Miss Brilliant's class decides to put on a fractured version of the story poem, Jos must learn to work with his classmates and overcome his antisocial tendencies. Children will readily identify with the variety of characters and dynamics that populate this class. The students represent a smorgasbord of nationalities and often make references to their cultural heritages. The format of the book resembles comic strips with blocked pictures in various sizes used to contain the action and conversation bubbles. An independent narrative runs beneath these boxes. This text needs the dialogue to flesh out the plot. It is in the conversation bubbles that Jos 's defiant attitude and self-awareness are evident. Using the book with a group may prove difficult because children will not be able to appreciate the nuances of the boy's expressions and his deliberately unkind actions. This is, however, the type of work that children will be drawn to again and again because they recognize their world so aptly captured in both word and art. Each time they revisit, they will find something new in the colorful cartoon illustrations that prove that Aliki knows her audience.-Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA «

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