Friday, 12 May 2017

Is the Big Orange Splot the best book ever written?


I was lucky, my dad loved books and I was raised in a home rich with reading material. Dad selected books carefully because he thought content mattered, and that books should provoke deeper thinking; I think he was right.  My dad bought me The Big Orange Splot.  Yesterday as part of our exploration of Narrative writing, I introduced Room 2 to The Big Orange Splot.

So here's a basic synopsis:
Mr Plumbean lives in a house where all the houses are the same.  Mr Plumbean lives in a neat street. After a stroke of bad luck, Mr Plumbean seizes the opportunity to reinvent his home and ends up with a house that he explains 'looks like all my dreams'.   The house is painted brightly, there's a clock tower on the roof and a crocodile in the yard.  Naturally, the neighbours go into an uproar, and send one of the strongest opponents over to Plumbean's house with the expectation that he'll talk some sense into him.  The next day this neighbour's house is transformed into a ship styled home...
Get the picture?

The author, Daniel Manus Pinkwater never tells us what is said during the conversation.  As readers we are only told that they stay up all night talking and drinking lemonade.  


The mystery of this conversation is a gift to budding writers. What was said that night?  How did Mr Plumbean convince his neighbour to change his house to look like his dreams?  This was clearly a watershed moment for the neighbour; what caused his enlightenment?

I just love this kind of learning opportunity.   It presents a chance for children to participate in deeper philosophical discussions, and is also an opportunity to explore the importance of dialogue in character development.

In terms of teaching moments, it also provides a moment to explore symbolism.  We talked about how young children might read the book as being about changing houses, but the kids in Room 2 (an insightful bunch) recognised immediately that the house is a really a symbol (or metaphor) for the people who live in the houses.  In terms of mental well-being, we talked about the true message in the book - being true to yourself and celebrating uniqueness.

The kids have now paired up, and are writing scripts that we will act out next week.  What I like about this activity is how broad the appeal is.  It is fantastic for my creative kids but also fabulous for those kids who enjoy experimenting with the intellectual art of argument. .  You know you're on to a good thing when the kids moan when you ask them to put their devices away. ;-)

Follow the link directly below to watch a reading of The Big Orange Splot

Kids transfixed
Kids are working together on shared documents
Daring to be different

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