Too Darn Cute

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing
Written and Illustrated by Ashley Spires

This is a charming story that I can really relate to. It's about a "regular" girl and her best friend, her dog. She is a creative, hard-working, spunky girl who likes to invent things and then build them. When she thinks up THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING, she excitedly gets to work to make it happen. Unfortunately, it's not coming together quite like she imagined and there are several hiccups along the road. But she overcomes her feelings of defeat and finds a way to create something magnificent, even though it may not be perfect.

One of my favorite things is before the story even begins, when Spires dedicates the book to "all the little perfectionists of the world." Ya know how everything is always way harder and way more time consuming than you think it is going to be? Like I said, I can relate to this one. And I bet most kids can. But it's important to learn strategies to deal with those feelings of frustration and defeat. This is a great story to talk about what makes us feel frustrated and what we can do when we feel like quitting.

It is such a fun story and has adorable illustrations. My two-year-old loves it and I love reading it to him. It's a great bedtime story but I would absolutely use it in my classroom, too. Here are a few ideas:

Verbs: Learning and practicing parts of speech is an important part of every grade. This book is great for exploring verbs. Here in Utah, students are expected to "explain the function of verbs" in third grade (standards here). This story could be used to introduce verbs earlier than that or to review them in the later grades. There are SO MANY verbs in it. It's the thing that jumped out to me the first time I read it. This girl is always doing something. After discussing the role of verbs, ask students (individually or with partners) to make a list of all the verbs they can find in this book. Go over a page or two together first so they can see how you do it.

Writing: This story is a great inspiration story to kick-off a personal writing session. Ask students to write about a time when they had a problem and had to solve it. Or when they created something. What problems did they run into? How did they deal with them? What did they create? In fifth grade, Utah students are supposed to "write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences" (standards here). Make sure students pay attention to the event sequence. There should be a clear problem and solution. Ask them to use descriptive verbs in their story like Spires. I love that there are so many different words for "make." Sure, she spends most of the story making something. But there are so many better, descriptive, interesting words for what she is doing. The story would be a whole lot more boring without those juicy words.

Prediction: Prediction is probably the easiest comprehension strategy to practice because it can be used with almost any story! This one is fun because from the first page, we know the little girl is going to make something magnificent. Each page and picture after gives us clues to what it is, but it's not until the very last page that we find out what she has been envisioning all along. To practice, ask students: What do you think she wants to build? How will she make it? What do you think it will look like? What will she do when she starts to feel frustrated?

Experimenting: I'd love to start an experiment or project (or heck, even a math lesson) with this story to talk about how scientists and engineers often spend a lot of time and energy to find answers or make something that works. A big part of their job is to come up with a hypothesis, test their experiment, analyze the results, and then go back and tweak their experiment. It probably won't work the first time but that's okay! Making mistakes is okay. Working hard is okay. The process of trial and error is important in a lot of subjects and professions (just ask my husband, the computer programmer). Failing is a part of finding answers. Failing is valuable. It is usually through our mistakes that we recognize what is right. The girl in the story has to revisit all 14 of her "wrong" inventions, come at her problem from a different angle, and find the parts that she did right before she finally creates the magnificent thing that is just what she wanted. This is a great pattern for us to realize in our own lives. (Related side note: This made me think a lot about the great book I'm reading now called Mindset. Check it out! It's definitely worth reading!)

Are you convinced that this is a great story yet? Go read it to the little tinkerers and inventors in your life. It's got a great message, subtle humor, and a magnificent story!

Sunday, August 9, 2015


This handsome guy is going to be a thinker. It seems he is always deep in thought and even though he's a little guy, I'll bet he has some big ideas and big dreams.

He made us work pretty hard for some smiles, but luckily his mommy knows how to get a few out. It is amazing to watch a woman become a mother for the first time and Natalie is a natural. I love that we live close enough to see her more often and watch him grow. He is such a sweet boy and I feel pretty lucky to be his aunt. Happy four months, Thaddeus!