Author/Illustrator: Quentin Blake Publisher: Tate Publishing, 2014 Age: 4-8 Themes: abilities, friendship, road trip Opening: Once, not very long ago, and not very far from here, there were fve friends. There names were Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric. They were all fantastic.
Summary: (from the author’s website) THE FIVE OF US is a captivating tale of adventure, friendship and teamwork: Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric are five fantastic friends, each of whom has an unusual ability. Disaster strikes on a day out to the countryside but, working together and combining their individual powers, the Fantastic Five save the day. Teeming with Quentin Blake’s characteristic sense of fun and his exuberant illustrations, THE FIVE OF US is also a powerful, though subtle, reminder that the world is a better place when we focus on what we can do, rather than on what we can’t.
I like this book because: I was actually on the hunt for counting books when I came upon this Blake title I had not yet read (I believe I have read most of his authored books…but happy to find out I haven’t!). The story is so simple yet powerful, and as usual the drawings lively and loose – just the way I like ’em! But read this for the heart. It reminds us how much we can accomplish with our own special quirks if we put them to good use!
Resources/Activities: For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.
Food for thought: Recently a friend mentioned that her Alma Mater had once renamed a celebratory picnic because of the word’s origin. The reason? It’s alleged ties to the slave trade. I was dumbfounded! Never had I heard this before! I asked if she had checked it’s etymology and she hadn’t – she believed that if an institution of higher learning were to go that far it must be true. I have been astonished by the truth behind word origins before, but this one ate at me. So I dug in!
Wikipedia does not mention such a connotation at all, but traces the word back to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française. Marking the first appearance of the word in print, it mentions pique-nique as a term “used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something.”
So what frightened university officials? A claim had spread on the internet that picnic was a shortening of ‘pick a nigger’ and referred to an outdoor gathering where families enjoyed boxed lunches while a randomly chosen black man was hanged.
A research fellow in African-American Studies at the Smithsonian, Dr. Alonzo Smith, has debunked this in detail, including the following comments:
To attempt to tie lynchings to family outings, where food was served, is to misunderstand the real nature of these events. Rather, they were outbreaks of mass white hysteria, and attempts by groups of Whites to terrorize and brutalize the entire Black communities where they occurred. Often, they were motivated by alleged acts of violence by Blacks against Whites, alleged disrespect and other breaches of Southern racial “etiquette,” and on many occasions, victims were chosen at random. Although women and children were frequently present, it is more accurate to view these events as collective psychotic behavior, rather than family outings.
I take great pleasure in words and their connotations, as well as a good potluck. What do you bring to the table?