Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The King who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head

The King who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head
By Mirra Ginsburg
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Based on a Russian tale)
4/5 ****
3rd-5th graders

I thought this was a very interesting story.  It is about a poor King and Queen and their three daughters, who eventually marry the sun, moon and black raven.  The King visits each of his happily married daughters, and learns something from each of them, but fails to replicate the task. 

One literary element that really stood out to me was personification.  The sun, moon and raven (all non-humans) married the three beautiful young princesses.  They were then later referred to as the King’s “sons-in-law” which is an interesting concept in itself.  Although the sun, moon and raven all married the princesses, they remained their non-human selves, yet they had faces and seemed to act in a human way. This would be a great way to introduce a new type of writing to younger students, who may or may not be aware of having non-human characters in their writing.  It could also be a way to introduce the idea of metaphors, on the very basic level of having an object represent a concept or idea.  

Something else that really stood out to me with this book was the thematic content.  There are a couple themes that I think would be great to incorporate into the classroom.  For one thing, the issue of poverty and the idea that people can still thrive even though they may not be rich or own lots of material goods.  (In this book, the King and his family are very poor).  Another great theme is that each individual has special talents, and those talents should be valued by others.  In addition, each individual should be proud of his or her own talents. In the book, the sun can make the most delicious omelet, the moon can create light in the darkness and the raven can keep people warm on cold nights.  The King tries to replicate these talents, and he fails.  The book ends with the quote “And they lived peacefully and by their own wits forever after”.  They realize they have their own talents and it is un-necessary to try to imitate others.  

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