Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peacock Picture Books for Children

My daughter has been a little obsessed with peacocks after reading Three Hens and a Peacock last month so I tracked down a few more peacock tales at our local library. Peet and Polacco are both master storytellers/illustrators and these two peacock books did not disappoint. Both stories are on the longish side, and they are probably best for children that don't have limited attention spans.

The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock by Bill Peet. Houghton Mifflin (1973); ISBN 0395154944; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

"My tail has gone wild!" exclaimed Prewitt. "It's turned into a green-eyed monster! What a terrible tail! But then, after all," he sighed, "I grew it, so I suppose I'll just have to get used to it."

Prewitt the peacock is anything but proud. His pathetic, scraggly tail with only two eyespots is nothing to boast about. Even worse, one day his tail goes wild and turns into a "green-eyed monster." The two eyespots grow larger, fierce eyebrows and a mouth appear and two of the feathers look like scary arms. The other peacocks don't like the look of his new, spooky tail and tell him to leave or get rid of his monstrous feathers. However, Prewitt's weakness becomes his strength as his unique tail becomes a useful weapon in a dangerous jungle.

Tsk-tsk! I'm ashamed to admit this is the first book written by Bill Peet we've read, but let me tell you, it certainly won't be the last. Peet's story is funny and memorable plus it also teaches a valuable lesson, the importance of being who you are by maintaining your individuality despite oppression. The illustrations are spot-on and full of expression (and a monstrous face). You can't help but feel sad for poor Prewitt and cheer when he triumphs.

Related Link: Bill Peet Website

Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco. Bantam Doubleday Dell (1990); ISBN 9780553058840; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

"What are we going to do?" Ruth asked. "Fancy is too fancy to be Amish!"

While a peacock plays a big role in this book, the main focus is on Amish life. Two Amish sisters, Naomi and Ruth, find an unusual egg in the field outside their home. Longing to own something fancy, Naomi gently takes the "fancy" egg to the henhouse in hopes that it will hatch. When a strange chick emerges from the egg, they name it Fancy. The two girls keep Fancy a secret and when they witness his glorious tail, the two girls worry that the elders will shun him.

Just Plain Fancy provides an interesting and brief glimpse into the Amish way of life and mentions the practice of shunning. The plain life of the Amish largely contrasts with the fanciful bird, and through this special example of "God's handiwork," children can learn a little about the beliefs and customs of the Amish community. Polacco's illustrations offer clues along the way as to the species of bird, yet it is still an extraordinary surprise for readers when, in a two-page spread, Fancy the peacock displays his glorious tail in front of the elders.

I'm so glad we discovered this book. Within the past 10 years, several Amish families have moved into our area and we often pass their buggies on the road. Polacco's book is useful as a springboard for discussion about a culture not well understood by outsiders. Polacco offers a corresponding Amish culture lesson plan on her website.

Related Links:
Patricia Polacco Website
Homeschool Share Just Plain Fancy Lapbook Unit

Book Talk Tuesday Better late than never. I'm linking this post up at What My Child is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns and The Lemme Library's Book Talk Tuesday in addition to Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word.

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Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

We love Polacco books - she handles difficult theme with grace and poise. My only complaint about her books is that they tend to be really long and therefore daughter loves to ask for them at bedtime! Thanks for joining WMCIR!

Joanna said...

and I am a Bill Peet fan. he has a whacky imagination and often writes books about identity, like this one. Now I need to check out Polacco.

Unknown said...

These books look so great! Both Bill Peet and Patricia Polacco are such good authors.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I adore Polacco, but we've never read this title. Peet is an author I've only begun to explore this year. Peacocks are such interesting birds!

Thanks for linking up to RAT!