Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book #278: "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" by Patricia Thomas, Illustrated by Wallace Tripp

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Oh no! Look out! The elephant thinks he’s going to sneeze! This sends the other animals into a panic. The last time the elephant sneezed the birds lost all their feathers, the stripes flew off the zebra, and the monkeys fell out of the trees. The elephant tries, but he really can’t help it he’s about to sneeze. And then at the very last second out pops a mouse with a deafening, “BOO!” The elephant is so scared that he forgets to sneeze! The animals think they're saved, but then the mouse explains that he scared the elephant so that he would stop sneezing. And the elephant finds this so funny he begins to giggle, then chortle, and guffaw. Soon the earth is shaking with the elephant’s laughter and the animals find themselves losing feathers and stripes once again.

The detailed line work of the illustrations fills the landscape with hilariously terrified anthropomorphic animals, from the alarmed buffalo to the horrified zebra. The book I have has mostly black and white illustrations with just a couple colored pages. However, I have seen other editions of the book that are completely filled with colored illustrations. Although the all colored edition is definitely more vibrant, the hilarious facial expressions and the text work well with black and white illustrations as well. The rhyming text is a joy to read aloud. It’s mostly dialogue and features a wide vocabulary and many synonyms. Although the book takes its time building up to the climax, the outcome of the elephant’s laughter is a sure-fire ending.

I like to read this story dramatically, with a few different voices. I also like to vary my speech pattern by drawing some words out and making other short and fast. It can be easy to fall into a sing-song rhyme with a rhyming book like this one. Change your rhythm to make your audience perk up and listen. For instance, I like to read the following words in a staccato fashion:

“Bumping and thumping down pathway and trail,
Bouncing and jouncing head over tail,
Tumbling and bumbling…
Your sneeze is a gale…”

Use this book with kindergarten or elementary school kids for a storytime that focuses on vocabulary and synonyms. How many words for “laugh” can you find in the text? How about, “shake” or “bounce?” Other great words are mentioned throughout the text, such as “confounded,” “amusing,” “twitch,” “prickle,” and “chortled.” Define these words before, during, or after reading and give the kids the opportunity to use them in a sentence of their own.

This is an easy book to add to an elephant storytime with other books, such as Seven Blind Mice, Emma Kate or The Thingamabob. Follow up with an elephant craft. I’ve posted several already (see above posts), but here are two more I like. Try this paper plate elephant door hanger. I like that the trunk is flexible, it makes me think of sneezing elephants. If you are short on time or money, just make the elephant head. You can also make your own elephant ears and trunks and let kids act out the story.


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