Summary of The Three Billy Goats Fluff (by Rachael Mortimer):
How was he supposed to sleep?
Mr. Troll buried his head in his pillow and groaned.
The advertisement called it a “Troll Paradise,” but it has turned out to be a “Troll Misery” with all the noise overhead. On the mountain near Mr. Toll’s bridge live the three Billy Goats Fluff. They love the lush grass from the field on the other side of the bridge. It makes their fleece extra fluffy, which their mother uses it for her knitting business. Mr. Troll decides to put a stop to the goats' daily trips back and forth across the bridge. As the first one attempts to cross, Mr. Troll jumps out and says:
I’m a Troll with a very sore head.
Stop trip-tapping over my bed!
When I’m tired and feeling blue,
there’s nothing quite like a little goat stew!
The frightened little Billy Goat runs back to his mother. As the second goat attempts to cross, he hears a similar complaint. Their wise mother understands what it feels like to go without sleep, so she comes up with a plan—one where everyone is a winner!
I love a creative fractured fairy tale. The traditional tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff has been written from multiple perspectives in over 20 versions, but the story usually implies, directly or indirectly, that someone is a victim (usually, the goats) and someone is the villain (typically, the troll). The Three Billy Goats Fluff takes a more unbiased approach. No one is a villain. Instead, a little empathy and kindness allow the two sides to live in peace. Author Rachael Mortimer has created a charming retelling. The playful goats are adorable. Nevertheless, my favorite character is Mr. Troll. His snappy, rhythmic replies to the goats are amusing. Liz Pichon, the illustrator, uses vivid colors to draw the reader in. She shifts smoothly between more elaborate pictures (primarily related to Mother Goat) and minimal ones. Interestingly, Mr. Toll is depicted against a white background or under the bridge until the ending. Then, he has more color and details in his world. Each page is a wonder and delight. I recommend this book for ages 3-11.
- Problem Solving: discuss how Mother Goat solved the problem so that both sides “won;” use story as a starting point to talk about how to problem solve common issues between siblings, friends, or classmates
- Letter Writing: Mother Goat wrote a note to Mr. Toll; review the parts of a friendly letter and write one to a character in this story or another one
- Character Building: list the positive character qualities displayed; find special proverbs or sayings that remind children to act kindly even when the other person is not
- Sound Devices: identify the rhyming words in the text and practice brainstorming other rhyming words to go with them
- Comparison: read a traditional version of this fairy tale; make a chart or Venn diagramming comparing the two versions
- Science: learn about the importance of sleep for your body and how it can affect your body and mind when you are sleep deprived
- Graphing: examine the steps to Mr. Troll’s bedtime routine; then, list them on a bar graph and allow the students to raise their hands to acknowledge which steps they follow each night in their own bedtime routine (in other words, every who has a bedtime snack will raise their hands, count, and color in graph; everyone who reads a story before bed will raise their hands, count, and color in graph, and so forth)
- Math: take out counting bears or similar manipulatives to practice identifying big, middle, and little
- Characterization: examine each of the goats and identify character qualities from the illustrations