Saturday, April 5, 2008

Four feet tall, one foot wide, and a half inch thick

As I've said before, one of the chief joys of parenthood is being able to discover all the terrific children's literature that you somehow missed when you were a child yourself. This weekend Archer brought home a bag of activities related to Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. The kids in his class are passing a paper cutout of Stanley from home to home in a roaming-gnome fashion (it's a modified stay-at-home version of the full Flat Stanley project detailed here). While he's at your house, you can take him along on your travels and take pictures of him to be included in an eventual scrapbook, write in his journal about what he did while visiting, create postcards of places you think he ought to go, make your own Flat Stanleys and send them off to relatives or friends in far off places, etc.

This afternoon we read the book, much to Archer's delight. (We had checked the picturebook version out of the library before, but the original is a short chapter book.) I was charmed by the effusive, slightly mannered style of the writing. A short excerpt will make my point: In chapter 4, "The Museum Thieves," Stanley and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lambchop, are distressed to learn that their neighbor, who is the director of the Famous Museum of Art in town, is being plagued by theft. Mr. Lambchop reads a quote from the Chief of Police in the newspaper:
"We suspect a gang of sneak thieves. These are the worst kind. They work by sneakery, which makes them very difficult to catch. However, my men and I will keep trying. Meanwhile, I hope people will buy tickets for the Policemen's Ball and not park their cars where signs say don't."
I'm not sure why Archer was so enthralled by this story -- perhaps because he already knew it from discussions at school or our previous picturebook version. But during the brief episode where Arthur, Stanley's brother, piles encyclopedias on himself in a fit of jealousy, Archer interrupted me to observe: "He's trying to get flat." It's highly unusual for Archer to even understand motivations in a story; most often when asked about why someone is doing something, he's stymied. The fact that he not only comprehended this, but was interested enough to comment on it -- combined with his spirited rendition of the final chapter, which he read aloud to Cady Gray and me -- made this particular storytime very special indeed.


Paul C. said...

Wow, that's a pretty awesome development for Archer.

Also, am I alone in thinking that selection you quoted from the story would be right at home in a Wes Anderson movie? Someone call his agent- I think we've found his post Fantastic Mr. Fox project.

Ryeanna said...

Aww, Flat Stanley! I remember my Flat Stanley project in first grade... I sent him to my cousin Asher, who was going to school up in WA. He went all out, taking pictures, sending postcards, writing a letter about all the fabulous places they went-- the beach, the volcano, restaurants, forests. Really captured the spirit of the place I sent him!

I'm glad people are still doing Flat Stanley these days. =)

Timothy said...

I hosted Flat Stanley in Knoxville last week for my 1st grader cousin who lives in Louisiana. You'd be shocked by how much my grad school friends got into having fun with the roaming gnome. I love the project!