Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Farmer and The Clown

Title: The Farmer and The Clown 
Author: Marla Frazee 
Illustrator: Marla Frazee 
Publisher: Beach Lane Books 
Publication Date: September 23rd, 2014  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Wordless Picture Books
GoodReads Summary: Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.

A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer's vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves and about life!
Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.  
What I Think: There's been so much buzz about this book that I finally had to read it. I've read it now a few times with Little Bean because he thought it was so much fun. I love to hear giggles erupt out of my little reader. We so enjoyed this sweet story and it's wonderful characters. It's hard to believe this book is wordless because it seems so alive to me.
     As with many wordless picture books, it offers an opportunity for readers to try their hand at writing - write the story, write dialogue in a scene, write a description of what they see in a two-page layout. For this book, you might do any of these activities with students but as much as the characters have lingered with me, I think zoning in on the characters might be great. Who is the farmer? What is his story? Why might he be all alone? What might the companionship of the little clown mean to him?
     The book House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser with illustrations by Jon Klassen instantly comes to mind. With middle or high school readers and writers, I would read these two books and then either compare and contrast the characters in The Farmer and the Clown with House Held Up By Trees or to help students think about how there is so much more to characters in a story. This is a great way to look at character development for fiction or non-fiction writing. When we read, we use all the information the author gives us and our own knowledge and experience to understand the characters. As a writer, we have to truly know our characters inside and out to be able to write them believably and clearly so our readers understand them.
      I love the quietness of this book. It reminds me of House Held Up By Trees but also A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead. But at the same time, the farmer and Amos McGee also make me think of the old man from Those Darn Squirrels! which has a completely different feel. So here's a question you might pose to students...what experiences might have shaped the farmer and the man from Those Darn Squirrels to make them such different people. Interesting, right?
Read Together: Grades Pre-K - 12 
Read Alone: Grades Pre-K - 5 
Read With: House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin 
Writing Prompts: Write about an unexpected surprise that changed you - whether it changed your day or your life, describe what happened in the moment and then the impact afterwards. 
Topics Covered: Surprise, Caring, Compassion, Friendship, Love 
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