|Image from PivenWorld.com|
A young girl is asked to draw a family portrait for school. Although her teacher thinks it’s wonderful the girl thinks it leaves out so much. Her flat pen and paper drawing just doesn’t convey all the aspects of her family. So she creates a portrait of each of her family members using objects that tell the viewer about their personality, appearance, likes, and dislikes. Her father has springs for eyebrows because he’s “jumpy as a spring.” Her brother has a rubber snake for a mouth because he can be “as sneaky as a snake.” She even creates a portrait of her dog, Schmutz, who’s “as smelly as dirty socks.”
The text, written from the young girl’s perspective, is conversational and descriptive. The font changes size to emphasize certain words or indicate asides. Younger children will enjoy the playful and fun portraits, while older kids will grasp the wordplay. The illustrations are a combination of gouache on watercolor and found objects. First, Piven shows the objects separately against a plain white background. Turn the page and Piven has united the objects to create a portrait.
An author’s note prefaces the book with information about the experience Piven had when he gave a workshop at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel. The portraits the children created using everyday and hospital objects are featured on the endpapers.
Piven encourages readers to create portraits about their special family in the last two pages of the book. To get started, he provides a list of objects and what they might represent. For instance, objects that convey the idea of “soft” include a teddy bear, cotton balls, or a slipper.
Have kids make a simile poem about themselves or a family member. If you want, you can make a simple handout with the words, “My _____ is as _____ as a ______.” This makes it easy for parents to guide their children through the activity.
After the kids have spent a few minutes making their poems bring out objects for the kids to arrange into portraits. Instead of trying to attach the objects to paper or canvas, take pictures of each portrait. Photos can be given to the children at the next storytime or class. Have each child write their name on a piece of paper and place it in the corner of the portrait so you can keep track of the pictures. It also means that you can save the objects to be used again. Give each child a tray (old baking pans, cafeteria trays, or shallow cardboard boxes work well) to use as their canvas to keep things neater.
For more ideas, check out this reader’s guide created by Keller Independent School District.
If your kids enjoy this book, check out My Best Friend is As Sharp as a Pencil and Other Funny Classroom Portraits, also by Hanoch Piven.