Delphine Perret has created an opportunity for children to dig into their imagination in her book, Pablo & His Chair. This bright masterpiece includes beautifully sketched illustrations with pops of color. You will immediately be mesmerized by her artful use of words paired with expressive faces capturing the characters.
In the story, Pablo is celebrating his birthday and receives a chair. Being an active child, he is immediately disappointed and angered by the gift. Shutting himself in his room, he begins to see the potential within the chair and starts on a journey around the world after mastering the art of chair acrobatics. Pablo becomes an entertainer, filling theaters and halls with his amazing talent. Despite his fame, he remains a humble soul and eventually sets off on a journey back to his home. Upon arriving, his family greets him with a “There you are!” His spot at the table empty, he finally pulls up his chair and sits down.
As I read this story, I immediately saw so much potential for young writers. Just as Pablo saw in his chair. The first page, both in structure and form, gives you a glimpse at Pablo the character. I love it when authors use the “what it isn’t” style move in writing. Perret does this expertly when she begins with, “Today is the first day of autumn. That’s what the newspaper said on the morning of Pablo’s birthday.” She then goes on to say what the newspaper does not have printed on the page such as Pablo’s scabbed knee, his victorious soccer game, and of course no mention of his birthday. I think this is such a great technique for children to try within their own stories. Often times more details arise when students have to think about what isn’t there and describe the scene.
There are several characters introduced only through illustrations within the story. Some are family, audience members or bystanders of the many towns he visits on his journey around the world. Every time I open this book I am caught by a new expression and I begin to wonder, what’s their story? I think students would enjoy choosing a character from Pablo’s life and writing a character description or flipped point of view from the different scenes within the book.
Perret used words and language that really brought you to the moments of the story. When she writes, “-so close you could count his eyelashes” and “The road slipped a bit of dirt into his socks.” Within these moments of flowing language through the story, teachers could easily share and invite students to test out similar moves within their own writing. Allowing the class to sift through or assigning a page to partnerships, encouraging students to find the best line on the page. The mentor sentences throughout this text are bountiful and provide a rich vocabulary for eager writers.
With my students, because we were immersing ourselves in opinion writing, I wanted to use this story to launch us into some short bursts of sharing an opinion with some supporting reasons and evidence. After reading the story to my class, we talked about some of our most favorite birthday presents. We then talked about the message of Pablo’s story. Students piped up with lots of ideas:
“Don’t judge something before trying it.”
“Give things a chance before getting angry.”
“Sometimes things surprise you.”
As we collected our thoughts and ideas through our discussion we began to see that Pablo, even though at first was angry, he didn’t give up on the chair. He turned something, that he originally didn’t like much, into an amazing opportunity. I asked the class, “Do you think this could be true for anything? Could even the most boring of gifts at first turn into something valuable and wonderful?”
They all agreed that this must be true! So I put them to the test. In a bowl, I had written down various “boring” objects that students would have to convince us all were more than they seemed. Students were eager to choose their “present.” I had to chuckle as they pulled out words like, hair brush and stool. I explained that they would first have to convince themselves that the gift had some kind of value and was worthy of the word “great!” Then they would need to list or write some reasons they believed their gift was worth receiving. Students got to work and I watched as they stared here and there, looking around the room. The room was hazy with clouds of thought. Before I knew it they were busy writing.
I loved all the ideas my students were able to dig out from their imaginations. It took some thinking. I think this activity will really help when we discuss more thoroughly counter-claims in our persuasive unit essay. It’s always a good idea to see the other side and sometimes, the other side might surprise you!
- To win a copy of Pablo & His Chair please leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, November 2nd 11:59 p.m. EST. A random number generator will be used to pick TWO winners.
- Please be sure to leave a valid email address when you post your comment, so we can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only. My contact from Princeton Architectural Press will ship to the winners.
- If you are the winner of the book, you will receive an email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – PABLO GIVEAWAY. Please respond to the e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days.
- I will post the winners at the bottom of this post by November 7th! Good luck.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.