Title: The Whopper
Author: Rebecca Ashdown
Illustrator: Rebecca Ashdown
Target Ages: 4-8
Genre: Imaginative Realistic Fiction
Publisher Summary: A humorous, quirky story about a little boy who tells a lie, which turns into the Whopper, a hungry and persistent monster. As Percy’s guilt grows, the Whopper does, too, until finally…the Whopper EATS Percy! It is only when the Whopper threatens to also eat Percy’s brother that Percy finally speaks up.
First Lines: Boris and Percy loved it when Grandma came to stay. There was just one problem. Grandma had been knitting again.
Memorable Moment: The next day, Percy decided to send his grandma a letter to say that he was sorry for ruining the sweater. A week later, a package arrived. Percy loved getting packages. There was just one problem…Grandma had been knitting again.
The Whopper is a whimsical combination of realistic fiction with some imagination. The characters and storyline are familiar and realistic. A boy receives a present he does not like. In his mischief, the gift is ruined. The boy lies. The imagination part is the Whopper character. No one sees it but Percy and his brother (who knows he is lying).
The monster is perfect. He looks relatively harmless. Most lies start off that way or at least they seem that way. Slowly the monster gets bigger and bigger, even sleeping in Percy’s bed with him. The parallel is clear—you cannot escape the web of a lie, and it is only going to get worse. It does too! The lie swallows Percy whole! Again, the connection is vital. Lying can easily become foundational in a person’s character or eat away at his conscience.
Eventually, the monster tries to eat his brother. It is the final prick to Percy's conscience. He tells his mother the truth. Again, nothing preachy here. His mother praises him for telling the truth “at last” (clearly, she knew he was lying but waited for him to admit it). Then, she makes him take responsibility (apologizing to his grandmother).
Writing books on moral issues, such as lying, is a challenge. There is a real temptation toward tedious moralizing. Author-illustrator Rebecca Ashdown clearly and effectively makes the point: Lying is destruction to you and your loved ones. However, the story never feels like a "lesson."
Lying to get out of trouble often seems like the easy way out. Learning that getting in a little trouble is so much better than carrying a lie around or making dishonesty a habit is vital. The Whopper is an outstanding picture book to illustrate that truth in a concrete and memorable way.
Ideas for Extension Activities at Home or Lesson Plans for Teachers:
- Unwanted Gifts: Inevitably, a child will receive a less than desirable gift from someone. If it hasn't happened already, use the book to prompt a talk about the importance of gratitude and graciousness in those situations.
- Reality vs. Fantasy: This story is ideal to practice distinguishing the two. While Percy’s story is real, the monster is a fantasy. It is a metaphor representing the lie and its destructive nature. Discuss why the author uses the monster to represent the lie.
- Object Lesson: There are several object lesson ideas online about lying that you could potentially use. Objects such as fool’s gold, ice cream with salt, and a spider web are just a few ways to get across the impact of lying in a concrete way.
- Article: How to Teach Kids to Stop Lying article provides insights into the problem and how to fix it, depending on the age of the child.
- Teaching Children About Honesty w/Free Printable Worksheets
For more Perfect Picture Book suggestions, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog round up.