Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book #267: Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt, Illustrated by Tricia Tusa

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Sometimes the little girl in this book stays with her mother and sometimes she stays with her father. But it doesn’t matter if she sleeps in the bunk bed at one house or the regular bed at the other, Fred stays with her. In a matter-of-fact fashion, the girl explains how her life works with her separated parents. Although she points out the differences in her two homes, she also points out the things that stay the same. She has the same friends, goes to the same school, and both her parents are fed up with Fred! When each of her parents say, “Fred can’t stay with me!” the girl puts her foot down, “Excuse me, Fred doesn’t stay with either of you. Fred stays with ME!”

The text is written from the little girl’s perspective and the tone perfectly captures a child’s manner of describing events. Although the book is clearly about divorce, this word is never mentioned. It’s refreshing to read a book about the topic that doesn’t feature a character struggling to accept the situation or trying to get their parents back together. All the characters seem to accept the separated status quo; this is just the way life is for them. The humorous mostly sepia-toned illustrations remind me of candid photographs. They seem to capture moments in the girl’s life in mid-motion.

Use this for a storytime about different kinds of families. Try pairing it with Same, Same but Different or Bye-Bye, Baby. This is an especially helpful book for children who do not have divorced or separated parents because it shows divorce not as a problem, but as part of life. Discuss the idea that just because the girls parents don’t live together that doesn’t mean they aren’t a family.

You could also easily incorporate this book into a storytime about pets or dogs. Ask the kids if they think Fred and the girl are friends. How can you tell they are friends? What kinds of things do they do together that show this friendship? Do you have a pet you consider your friend and what kinds of things do you do together?

Follow up by making your own canine friend. Try a paper lunch bag dog puppet. Use white paper bags and dark brown paper if you want your dog to look like Fred. Fold a simple origami dog head. It only requires three folds, so it's a nice introduction to origami. I also like this dog hand puppet made out of a business envelope. If you don’t want to buy envelopes save up the envelopes you receive in junk mail.


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