It is another Perfect Picture Book Friday in the kidlitosphere, a meme hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. As Fats has very kindly shared her “perfect picture book offering” last week (see here for Fats’ post on Stella, Star of the Sea), it is now my turn to share one of my newest favorites: Imogene’s Antlers by David Small – also in keeping with our Girl Power theme until next week.
Story and Pictures By: David Small
Reading Level: Ages 4-9
Publisher: Dragonfly Books, New York (1985)
Themes: Acceptance, dealing with differentness, girl power, metamorphosis, changes and new experiences
Opening Lines: On Thursday, when Imogene woke up, she found she had grown antlers.
Synopsis: With an opening like that, you know that you’re in for a rare treat. The entire book shows only a singular day in the life of good-natured Imogene who seemed to have taken her growing those huge beautiful antlers overnight – with grace, with humor, and with panache! While the grown-ups all around her seemed thoroughly perturbed by this strange occurrence (her mother thought that the only way around it would be for her to hide the antlers with a huge hat), it was her younger brother, Norman who did a bit of research and consulted the encyclopedia – and promptly declared that Imogene turned into a miniature elk. Despite all this, Imogene takes in everything with a smile on her face, going about her day, and seeing how she can make full use of those beautiful antlers. The ending is also a work of genius: would Imogene be stuck with these antlers for the rest of her days? To know more, I leave you to find the book and discover the answer for yourself.
Why I Like This Book: I have only just recently discovered David Small because of our bimonthly theme on girl-power-books, and I am simply loving his artwork and storytelling style. The book is also very short, only a few pages long, with very few text (bound to be popular with very young kids), yet it conveys a very subtle but powerful message when it comes to valuing one’s self, accepting and dealing with one’s different-ness, and taking things in stride (try not sweat the small stuff – like ya know, antlers on your head???).
I also love how ineffectual some of the adults are portrayed in this book: Imogene’s mother has several fainting spells, the doctor appeared flummoxed, while the Principal simply gave an impotent glare but could offer absolutely no advice. This is in direct contrast to Imogene who accepted this incident without qualms, with perfect equanimity matched with irresistible playfulness – atta girl!
It actually has a Kafka-esque element to it (think Kafka’s Metamorphosis) or even Edward Gorey’s The Shrinking of Treehorn - as the latter is also shown to be with totally-bewildered adults who simply could not make heads nor tails of Treehorn’s dwindling size.
This book is bound to be a favorite in a lot of households. I could foresee a lot of young girls feeling through their own heads and perhaps even wishing that they’d grow antlers overnight!
Links to Resources: In Horace Mann’s website, they shared how they asked the students to use the computer programme KidPix to ‘draw’ antlers on their very own picture.What an inspired idea! I would extend that further by asking the children to write about what struggles they can foresee in having the same kind of experience (a lovely exercise in perspective taking and empathy) as well as the possible joys of growing antlers overnight.
Since I found very few resources from the internet, here are some of my own recommended activities for children inside the classroom:
- Young kids could also be asked to research on animals that have antlers on their head and what its possible functions are which enable them to survive in the wild.
- The kids could be asked to imagine what kind of animal they would wish to be if given the chance – would they also choose to have antlers? Or feathered, multicolored wings, perhaps? Or stripes on their bodies? They could draw themselves with all these appendages or use a computer programme for this activity.
Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. Dragonfly Books, New York, 1985. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
Featured Selection for more than 10 years on PBS’s Reading Rainbow, California Young Readers Medal, Parents’ Choice Foundation, Award for Literature, 1985
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 42 (35)
PictureBook Challenge Update: 52 of 120