Newest Review: ... one is prepared to share, but the bad-tempered one would rather fight over them. The friendly ladybird calls his bluff by agreeing t... more
Aggression Gets You Nowhere!
The Bad-tempered Ladybird - Eric Carle
Member Name: Verbena
The Bad-tempered Ladybird - Eric Carle
Advantages: Where do I start? It's great!
Disadvantages: I can't think of a single one.
Eric Carle is probably one of the best known and most well loved of children's authors and illustrators. Probably the best known is The Very Hungry Caterpillar with its voracious appetite. Most of his books are suitable for the age range of our preschool, i.e. 2 years to school entry. Many tell tales of wildlife, animals or how things grow, so many of them connect to children's interests. This story, alongside the Caterpillar and The Tiny Seed, are always popular at this time of year when, after the long, dark winter, the children begin to rediscover the delights of the great outdoors. I'm often horrified at the way small children will sometimes pick up a ladybird very carefully, show it to their friends and staff, then drop it on the floor and stamp on it! It's part of our role to help them to understand why this behaviour is unacceptable, and anything that helps them to develop an understanding of the little creatures is helpful. That's one area where this book is so good.
My copy is a paperback published by Picture Puffins. A little unusually, all of the information usually found on or near the front cover is at the back. It tells me that this book was first copyrighted by Eric Carle in 1977 and published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton the same year. The Picture Puffins version was first published in 1982, so this story has stood the test of time. The American version is called 'The Grouchy Ladybug'. The U.K. price indicated on the back is £4.99. I've seen £5.24 quoted on the Amazon U.K. recently, or as little as £1.97 used.
===By The Clock ===
The first four pages form an introductory section. When the sun rises at 5 a.m. a friendly ladybird alights on an aphid-covered leaf, but a bad-tempered ladybird arrives from the opposite direction. They both want to breakfast on the aphids. The friendly one is prepared to share, but the bad-tempered one would rather fight over them. The friendly ladybird calls his bluff by agreeing to fight. The bad-tempered one is less confident now and backs away, blustering that his counterpart isn't big enough for him to fight. When the response is 'then why don't you pick on someone bigger?' he responds 'I'll do that!' and flies away.
From here the book's layout is not dissimilar to The Very Hungry Caterpillar's, as at hourly intervals the bad-tempered ladybird encounters a new potential foe on pages that reflect the size of each foe. This is also cleverly reflected in the font size used for each section. Starting with a wasp, these creatures increase in size as the story progresses. To each opponent the ladybird says 'Hey you' 'Want to fight?' and when they answer 'If you insist' he says 'Oh, you're not big enough' and flies off. This continues until 5 in the afternoon, when he confronts his largest supposed enemy who doesn't answer him. At the end there's quite literally a twist in the tale /tail! We end up right back where we started from. We go back to normal-sized pages with this 5 o'clock episode, too. The font used here is huge in size, but reverts back to 'normal' for the end of the story.
If you're familiar with Eric Carle's style of illustration I think you'll appreciate this one - bright, clear and as distinctive as usual.
===Learning Through Ladybirds ===
There are lots of things to like about this book.
The front cover has a brief description of aphids, what they are, what they do, the fact that ladybirds eating them is good for plants and trees. I like the 'Three cheers for them!' comment - Carle is definitely giving children the message that ladybirds are beneficial insects that should be valued. So you can see why I lie to use this book with the children in my care.
There are opportunities to enhance children's mathematical concepts. Obviously there are the ladybirds' spots - they look like seven-spot ladybirds from one angle, but from another more like the dreaded Harlequin! You could count the stars, the fireflies, the aphids on the leaf and so on. On each page starting from six o'clock, and the five o'clock page earlier, there is a small clock in the right hand corner - ideal to reinforce the skills of children who are beginning to recognise and name numerals, or even to tell the time. Of course there is also the aspect of size comparison to explore.
Children's knowledge of world wildlife can be expanded through the brief description of each creature encountered. The hyena, for instance, is 'laughing eerily and showing its teeth'.
Language development - I think the vocabulary introduced is done skilfully - such as 'encountered' 'eerily' and 'lowering'. This is done sparingly and appropriately. Carle has also used alliteration as in 'ran into a rhinoceros'. These techniques are predominantly in the central section and lend it an almost poetic tone. The repetition of key phrases encourages children to join in. All of these help reading skills develop.
It's obvious that this book addresses issues of behaviour, sharing, kindness, consequences of actions and so on. Not so long ago I used it to calm down a three-year-old boy who had major behavioural issues that involved throwing chairs at other children and hitting staff on the cheek with Brio trains. For his own safety as well as everyone else's he had to be removed to a quieter environment and often this story was the only strategy that worked. I think he liked the 'want to fight?' line! I'm not sure how much the messages of the story had an impact on him - he was later diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum as well as having ADD - but in some way that book certainly helped!
I've found this story particularly good when working with boys. That's not to say that it's not a hit with girls, because it is, but many educators will be aware that it can sometimes be difficult to engage some boys in the world of books. Not so with this, in my experience.
I wouldn't want to overlook one of the key things about this book: it's funny and children enjoy the humour of it!
===Taking Learning Further===
Is it OK if I briefly share a few of my thoughts?
Do some research on the ladybird lifecycle; you might learn something! I remember keeping some ladybird eggs in a container when my children were small. As they hatched we fed the larvae aphids and watched them grow through to the hatching stage. Lots of comparisons here with the caterpillar lifecycle!
Find a companion factual text about ladybirds, caterpillars or frogs. Try the 'Lifecycles' range by QED publishing. www.qed-publishing.co.uk You could put together a story sack, especially if you work in an early years setting.
Take children outside with a bug box and find some ladybirds. Look at different kinds: they're not all red, for instance. Look for aphids and the damage they can do to plants. Count the spots.
Explore all the other animals depicted in the story to learn more about them.
Make a clock face and use a split pin to attach the hands.
Try making pictures in the style of Eric Carle. His website is http://www.eric-carle.com/
There are some free downloads available there, too. He also explains how he creates collages using painted tissue paper and explains how it's done! Well worth a look.
I'm sure you can come up with many more ideas!
No surprises that I really recommend this book and it's a five-star-rating from me; I'd give it more if I could!
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İVerbena April 2013
Summary: This is a book to enjoy, particularly at this time of year!
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