Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna; illus. Loren Long


Mr. Peabody's Apples takes place in 1949 in Happville, USA. One Saturday, Mr. Peabody, the beloved elementary school teacher and baseball coach, finds himself all alone on the baseball field. He wonders where everybody is until he sees the bat boy, Billy Little, walking toward him with a sad look on his face. Billy tells him that another student, Tommy Tittlebottom, spread a rumor that Mr. Peabody was a thief after Tommy saw Mr. Peabody taking apples twice from the local market.

Mr. Peabody then shows Tommy that what matters is the truth - not how things appear - and teaches him an unforgettable lesson about how we must choose our words carefully to avoid causing harm to others.

The Elliott Review:

This story is written very simply and clearly and is basically a modern-day parable about the power of our words - about jumping to conclusions and spreading rumors. The symbolism of the feathers of a pillow being like our words is very powerful.

My middle school students and I have a great time talking about plot conflict and resolution using what happens to these characters. There are several layers of meaning that the middle grades can learn from this, but it's simple enough to just be a good story for younger kids, too. The best part of discussing this is the fact that I can have a teaching moment to show an example of why it pays to be nice and find out the truth before spreading rumors.

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