Book Review: The Most Magnificent Thing

MagnificentIt's rather difficult to dislike a children's book–especially a picture book. I mean the book has to be pretty bad to get any negative feedback from anyone. After all, children's books are written for children: there's a lot of pictures, few words, colorful artwork, and few pages. What could go wrong?

So it took me all of 5 minutes to read The Most Magnificent Thing and I'm glad I did. Sometimes I think those authors who write children's books are really writing to adults; secretly though, as if adults are the true intended audience. I could be wrong, but sometimes I think the intended audience should be adults when I read these certain children's books. What is a shame is that the lessons we learn when we read children's books do not stick with us when we finally become adults. It's a shame, really, that, I'm paraphrasing here, children's literature is lost on children. To them it's a fine story, a jolly good romp through a forest or a field or a fantasy. To adults, children's literature is a sword cutting deep.

This is probably why I read so much of it. It's easier to understand the lessons the author is teaching. I don't have to wade through a dictionary when I don't understand a word–I can just look at the pictures. I don't have to think too deeply if I don't want to and yet I find that even when I don't want to I can't help but notice something deeper about the book than I had hope for.

I like The Most Magnificent Thing. I teach special education and one of the things that I have found with my students is that they too easily give up. I recall a time when a particular student was having a most difficult time with a simple art project we were completing in the classroom. The student's first instinct was to get angry, throw everything on the floor, and simply quit. I assure you it was more complicated than that, but I'll spare the details. There was no reasoning with the student. That's how the day ended (or began, depending on how one looks at it). It is a constant, day in, day out, effort to convince my students that failure is OK as long as it is not the final word on a matter. In short, my students have a terrible time persevering through difficulty.

And I'm not sure why. There are probably studies available and perhaps some expert can explain in ten different ways why students with E/BD have a propensity to quit when the quitting is easier than the sticking with something.

This is the kind of book that I always need in my classroom because this is the kind of book that teaches us those important lessons we always need to learn. What I like about this book is the fact that the main character sticks with it. I like that there are adults in the story, but only somewhat invisibly. The character–who is unnamed–has to find a way through her difficulty on her own. We call this self-regulation, learning how to overcome difficulties and keep ourselves under control because we have learned to generalize skills we have been taught by others. I like that she goes for a walk. She clears her head. She distracts herself with other thoughts. Then, only then, does she come back to the problem and see it from a different angle.

Then she grows.

This is an important lesson for my children to learn and, I think, also for adults. We tend to downplay failure here in America but every now and again someone comes along and shows us that failure need not have the last word. I like that the failure of our main character did not have the last word but served as a catalyst for better and more creative thinking. I also like how others in the story even found uses for the 'failures.'

My students, despite all that they are typically capable of, will sit and listen to a story. Stories are the best intervention I have in my classroom. They are cheap, they are always ready, and they require little planning. This book fits that formula nicely.

This book has great artwork and I like how the text is written on the pages. I'm not sure how the pages render on a Kindle, but I viewed it on a NOOK and I wasn't too happy with the rendering either on portrait or landscape view. That's a small thing and didn't take away from the content.

Excellent picture book. Kids Can Press publishes excellent stories and I'm happy I can read and review the work of excellent authors like Ashley Spires. This is a great pick-up for the general education classroom or the special education resource room or self-contained unit.

5/5 stars

Preview the Book here:


Important Book & Author Things

  • Where to purchase The Most Magnificent Thing Amazon (Kindle, $7.39)
  • Author: Ashley Spires on Twitter: @ashleyspires
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • Resources from Kids Can Press: The Most Magnificent Thing
  • Pages: 32; picture book
  • Year: 2014
  • Audience:Children (primarily), anyone who can read would enjoy it
  • Reading Level: K-2
  • Disclaimer: I was provided a free reader's copy courtesy of  Kids Can Press via NetGalley.

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