Thursday, February 23, 2012

Picture Book: Perfect Square (Michael Hall)

Summary of Perfect Square (by Michael Hall): 

“A perfect square is transformed in this adventure story that will transport you far beyond the four equal sides of this square book” (from end paper of book).  

The perfect square is perfectly happy.  Each day of the week, something unexpected happens which prompts the square to change.  For instance, on Monday it is cut into pieces and poked full of holes.  As a result, it makes itself into a babbling fountain.  On Tuesday it is torn into scraps, but it does not get discouraged.  It makes itself into a garden.  The square embraces the changes that happen to it—like being shredded, shattered, snipped, or crumpled—to becomes more resourceful and creative.  When on Sunday nothing new happens to it, the square initially feels confined and rigid.   In this satisfying ending, the square finds a way to continue to embrace the world around it and to be content in any circumstance. 

Like his earlier critically acclaimed My Heart is Like a Zoo, author Michael Hall takes a simple concept and makes it something brilliant.  I love the minimal illustrations that depict what has happened to the square and then what it becomes.   In each incident it is difficult to imagine how the square can transform into something amazing, but it never ceases to delight.  Each development has one dominate color to signify a new stage, but for young listeners it is an opportunity to practice identifying colors and for older readers you may discuss why each color was chosen.  Also, the straightforward text and narrative makes this a book that people of all ages can enjoy and appreciate.  A young child will be enchanted by the colors and pictures created with basic shapes.  Older readers will find pleasure in the square's journey.  Despite all manner of circumstance, it never gets discouraged.  Instead, it “thinks outside the box” to make something beautiful out of a seemingly unfortunate situations.  The square’s resilience and contentment are remarkable.   I highly recommend Perfect Square to all ages.  

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Art—Give each child a square and basic paper tools; allow them to make their own creative pictures using only the square, the tools, and minimal pen marks OR prompt them to mimic the art work in the book (see Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers blog post for an example)  
  • Math—Identify the shapes on each page (where relevant) and count how many there are of each
  • Colors—Identify the colors together (younger); brainstorm the feelings associated with each color and how they may related to the narrative (older)
  • Calender—Recite the days of the week (younger); teach how the days of the week are used as a narrative framework for the action and to signify the passing of time (older)
  • Writing —Write a story using the days of the week as the framework (from Karen at Layers of Learning)
  • Language Arts—Allow children to summarize the story (younger); discuss how this story uses symbolism (the square going through changes) to illustrate the abstract (how circumstances impact people)--draw parallels between what happens to the square and the lives of people or characters in other books (older)
  • Predicting Skills —As each new change occurs to the square, allow the listener(s) to guess what he might become 
  • Character Development—Discuss the character qualities of the square (resilience, determination, creativity) and how it helped him to be content and fulfilled in all circumstances
This post is linked up at Hope is a Word for Read Aloud Thursday.  Check out other great read alouds HERE.  

This post is up at Enchanted Homeschooling for Enchanted Thursday.  Check out other great reads and activities for home HERE.


  1. I love how you tooka book and added ideas in other subjects to go with it! Sounds like a great idea for younger kids! Thanks for stopping by my bologna!

  2. So awesome when kids' books combine a story and great truths. Love all of your teaching opportunities ideas. It would be fun to have kids write a story with the days of the week framework.

  3. That is an amazing idea Karen! I will add it! Thanks.

  4. Thanks for the link back! I'm so happy I found your full of great ideas!

  5. We loved this one, also! I actually checked it out from the library again so that we could do an art activity similar to what you describe above. Great ideas!


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