Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Picture Book: Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose by Nancy Gow

Summary of Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose:  
There once was a princess who was lovely, charming, and sweet.  She had one daunting flaw…gigantic feet!   Princes would stop by to meet her, but they ran out the door before they even took the time to greet her.  She remained optimistic though, for her mother sang to her this rhyme each night:

I am what I am and that’s all right with me.
I don’t have to be different, I just have to be.
I don’t want to be somebody else.  No sir-ree!
I am what I am and that’s all right with me.

Far, far away, there was a young prince who was warm, kind, and intelligent.  He, also, had one off-putting flaw…a nose like a barn!   All the maidens quickly rebuffed him at the sight of his enormous nose!   Fortunately, he had a father who recited to him the same inspiring “I am what I am” rhyme.   

While skiing in France, the princes and princess met.   Her feet were stealthy disguised as skis while his nose was covertly covered with a large scarf.  They talked, smiled, and laughed until they fell madly in love with one another!  As the day came to a close, both felt a great deal of anxiety at the thought of revealing their “defect” to the other.  The moment came.  He stared at her humongous un-princess-like feet as she gazed at his enormous un-princely nose.  Their response:  “They laughed and they giggled, and then he proposed.”

The couple happily rode off to his castle.   The reader is advised:

So if, one fine day, you should happen to meet
a guy with a schnoz and a gal with big feet,
don’t jump to conclusions, try not to be mean…

…for you might have bumped into
a king and a queen!

Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose immediately captivated me!  I adore Stephen Costanza’s warm, pastel illustrations.  The vivid colors of the characters contrast beautifully with the soft background shades.  Nancy Gow’s rhyming text is smooth and sweeping.  This satisfying story illustrates the importance of accepting who you are—flaws and all—and waiting for the right prince (or princess) who is willing to accept you as well.  Remarkably, it was the parents who conveyed to the protagonists that essential truth.  Readers are urged to not judge people by their outward appearance.  Ultimately, it is character and personality that make people worthwhile and interesting. 

Teaching Opportunities:

  • Rhyme—Identify rhyming words and brainstorm other words that rhyme with them
  • Character Education—Discuss the character qualities that make a good friend/person
  • Literature—Examine other princess tales and evaluate the role of appearance vs. the role of character/personality in the people falling in love
  • Art—View several pieces of art on a PowerPoint or in a gallery; allow students to evaluate their beauty with a score of 1-5 and discuss the results
  • Sociology—Older students/children can discuss the role of media and culture on the definition of beauty
  • Philosophy—Research: How did Socrates define beauty?  How do we/I define beauty?  Use the Socratic method to help students create a strong definition of beauty.

I believe picture books can be used as teaching tools for all ages.  Pick the activities that are appropriate for your children’s level.  Don’t be afraid to try something “above” them.  You may be surprised at what they understand and can accomplish!

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