Monday, September 17, 2012

Book #261: The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, Illustrated by John Manders

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Jack the cat has the perfect plan. He builds the perfect nest in the barn, complete with a welcome mat and twinkle lights, and waits for a perfect chicken to lay a perfect egg to make the perfect omelet for Jack. Sure enough, a chicken comes along and lays a small egg in the perfect nest. Unfortunately, a duck waddles by and decides she must lay her egg in the perfect nest. And wouldn’t you know it, a goose has the same idea! It takes Jack a while, but he is finally able to lure the squabbling poultry away from the nest. But what happens when the eggs hatch before Jack can eat them? What’s poor Jack to do?

Friend’s text, printed in a large, bold font, has clearly been developed for reading aloud. Each character has a distinct voice; most notably the Spanish speaking chicken, the French duck, and the Southern inspired goose. Friend uses the rule of threes to emphasis and reiterate each point of the story. Jack is a humorous protagonist, a schemer who has quite a few wrenches thrown into his “perfect” plan. Manders’ gouache illustrations are witty and lush. Using a palate of browns and yellows, he creates a rich barnyard setting. Jack and the birds, painted in light blues, grays, and reds, pop to the forefront. Manders’ characters are never static, movement abounds. I especially like the hilarious sequence that shows the many ways Jack tries to get the birds out of the nest. Don’t miss the endpapers; the front papers show the barn during the day and the back shows the same scene at night.

Use this story for a storytime about size. Try pairing it with Press Here or George Shrinks. Put up felt eggs (small, medium, and large) on the flannelboard as the story progresses. Then you can refer to each of the eggs throughout the story. You could do the same with plastic eggs or paper cut outs. Try the small, medium, large activity on page 3 of this storyhour guide by Candlewick (scroll to page 8 for a printable of the activity).

This book can also be used for a storytime about eggs, which is a nice alternative if you want to do egg stories/crafts, but don’t want to do an Easter themed storytime. Try pairing it with stories such as, The Talking Eggs, Guji Guji, or Chicken Big.

Discuss the fact that birds are not the only animals that lay eggs. This is a great excuse to read a non-fiction title like, Chickens Aren't the Only Ones. Print out pictures of animals and have the kids guess if they lay eggs or have their babies live. This can lead to a discussion of the differences between birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals.

There are tons of egg crafts out there, but here are links to a few of my favorites: Alissa has posted some fun (and messy) string eggs on her blog, Craft Endeavor. The Classified: Mom Blog uses food coloring and crayons to make crayon resist eggs. Finally, Jellyfish Jelly uses paper plates and colored cellophane to make stained glass eggs.

I would love to use this story as the basis of a reader’s theater script. I haven’t been able to find a script on the Internet (please post a comment with a link if you do), however the distinctive characters and use of dialogue would make this book easy and fun to adapt. It can be done with as few as five actors. You can have the three birds return to play the three babies.


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