Thursday, October 20, 2011

Isabella Abnormella and the Very, Very Finicky Queen


Readers Guide
By Tara Mayward

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2000. Isabella Abnormella and the Very, Very Finicky Queen of Trouble. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc.

Recommended for ages 7-10

1. Summary of book:
Queen Angeline is the Queen of a town called Trouble, she is having a very difficult time sleeping, “no comforters, plush pillows, sheets of silk or velveteen could bring a golden slumber to Her Majesty, the Queen!”  The King of Trouble calls on the townspeople to help vote on what he should do to help her sleep, but instead Isabella Abnormella Pinkerton McPugh comes to the Queen Angeline’s rescue and uses her creativity to help the Queen slumber like a baby!

2.  Review Excerpts/Awards
·         Storytelling World honor book, 2000
·         “A rollicking good read for children 3-8.” -- Tampa Tribune Times
·         “Brooker's dynamic collage art almost skips off the page and Lewis's rhyming verse tickles the tongue.” -- San-Diego Union Tribune
·         Grade 1-4-In the first few lines, Lewis sets the stage for this tongue-in-cheek rhyming ramble. "The town of Trouble lay between/Good-Grief! and Who's-to-Blame?-/Three villages exactly almost/Opposite the same." The trouble in Trouble is the petulant, pouting Queen Angeline, who is unable to find a suitable mattress. Brooker's comic scenes of the kingdom in turmoil smoothly blend paper, fabric, and paint into energetic views of the worried folks trying to please the sniffy queen. The royal costumes, in jewel tones of rust, maroon, and blue, make cunning use of jewelry and sequins. Humorous details abound, punctuating and expanding the goofy verse, and many of the actions of the wide-eyed, large-nosed courtiers are laugh-out-loud funny. Everywhere, the grouchy queen is attended by an eager, smiling girl, Keeper of the Royal Cat. Isabella Abnormella Pinkerton McPugh finally introduces herself after the king has posed a long list of impractical possibilities to give Her Royal Highness a comfortable sleeping place. While readers may think Isabella's solution has a flaw, it works in the book and the story races along to a corny conclusion and a splendid double-page view of the smiling queen in her new queen-sized water bed. Lewis and Brooker make a fine match to tell a well-paced silly story that begs to be read aloud. -- School Library Journal

3.  Questions to ask before reading
·         Looking at the cover of the book alone, what do you think this story is about? 
·         Why do you think the queen is so very, very finicky?  What do you think finicky means?
·         What is a Queen?  A King?  A Princess?  What is their job?  Can you name any real life Queens, Kings or Princesses?
·         Who do you think Isabella Abnormella is and why is she carrying a cat on a pillow?

4.  Suggestions for reading poem aloud
·         This story is made up of stanzas; a teacher/librarian could read the book aloud one time through and then have each child read one stanza, each stanza is approximately 4 lines long.
·         There are not many characters in this book so breaking a class of students into small groups and having each group act out the story and play a part would be a great learning experience.
·         A teacher/librarian could read the poem one time through aloud and then read it a second time but after each line discuss any unknown words or explain how or why the line is phrased the way it is.  This story has some larger vocabulary words and phrases that might cause a younger child to feel a little lost, so discussing the line and defining words will help a child understand the poem as a whole.

5.  Follow up activities
·         Art
o   Explain the concept of a royal family and the coat of arms, have each child draw and color a coat of arms that represents their own family and heritage, have each child share this with the class.
·         History
o   When utilizing the British Royal Families website use the information on the site to give a history lesson about the royal family.  Most children will be familiar with the country Great Britain or the Royal Family due to the recent wedding so this royal family website will be most recognizable to children.  Use the History of the Monarchy, Royal Family Images and Fun Facts all listed on the website to help explain the history behind the family and what their purpose is now.
·         Writing
o   After utilizing the website about the royal family and discussing the history lesson on the royal family, have the children write their own royalty based poetry, fiction or non-fiction.  During the history lesson have them write down keywords they hear that describes the royal family, have them create a somewhat fact based storyline and turn it into a poetic story. 
·         Science
o   Isabella Abnormella solves the Queen’s sleeping problem by making a waterbed for her.  In the story Isabella makes the waterbed out of gunnysacks. Have the children build miniature waterbeds to see what materials hold water and which do not, discuss why some waterbeds work while others do not.

6.  Related web sites/blogs
· - Access J. Patrick Lewis’ website to read great information about the author, books he’s written, scheduling a SKYPE author visit or a visit to the classroom in person and much more.
· -  To help kids understand royalty, utilize the official website for the British Royal Family to help explain where and how the royal members live, what they do and why they do it. 
· - After the kids try to build their own miniature waterbeds in Science, go to this website to explain how to build real waterbeds.  There are great step-by-step pictures that show how to do it too.
· - This is a great website to get younger kids started creating a coat of arms.  They can be creative and try out different shields, symbols and colors. 
· - Here is a site that a teacher or librarian could walk children through and explain what different patterns, colors and the symbolism behind some designs.

7.  Related books
Fiction Children’s Literature:
·         Baker, E.D. 2010. The Wide-Awake Princess. Bloomsbury USA Childrens.
·         Cech, John. 2007. The Princess and the Pea. Sterling.
·         Wilcox, Leah. 2008.  Waking Princess. Putnam Juvenile.

Non-Fiction Children’s Literature:
·         Anderson, Scoular. 1999. Puffin Factfile of Kings & Queens. Penguin UK.
·         Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles. 1991. Heraldry: A Pictorial Archive for Artists and Designers (Dover Pictorial Archives). Dover Publications, Inc.
·         Hajeski, Nancy. 2009. Princesses. Hammond World Atlas.
·         Jamieson, Andrew Stewart. 1998. Coats of Arms (Pitkin Guides). Pitkin Unichrome Ltd.

About the Author:
J. Patrick Lewis is a children's poet and author of over 75 children's picture books including Riddle-icious, Please Bury Me in the Library, First Dog and The House.  He has been called "a master of poetic forms" by the School Library Journal.  Unlike his character, Queen of Trouble, J. Patrick Lewis did not find sleeping on a waterbed as enjoyable, he actually became seasick!  He currently resides in Chagrin, Ohio.

About the Illustrator:
Kyrsten Brooker started her career after college as an interior designer but she always loved drawing and painting.  She quickly began her career as a freelance illustrator and has been doing so since 1991.  She was selected as Publisher Weekly Flying Start for her illustrations in Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street.  She currently resides in Edmonton, Canada with her dog Sash.

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