Saturday, June 19, 2010

Storm Boy

Storm Boy by Paul Owen Lewis is among my favorite books to read to young children. The story mirrors the classic plot found throughout children's literature of the protagonist leaving home, having strange, wild adventures in a strange, wild land, growing homesick, then returning home. Like Maurice Sendak's classic of the type, Where The Wild Things Are, Lewis employs the bare minimum of words (fewer than 500) and beautiful illustrations to convey a remarkably complex and satisfying story. 

I've been known to read this book every day for an entire week and I've never had a child complain. In fact, to the contrary, our understanding deepens with each retelling, the children excitedly shouting out their interpretations of what Lewis means by being under a "strange sky," the meaning of the "killer whale" costumes hanging along the walls of the great house in which he dances and sings with the giant people he finds in this strange land, or why it is that they eat fish that are not cut up or even cooked. How could it be that the Storm Boy's adventures last only a day, but when he returns home he finds he's been gone for a year? There is so much here to investigate and discuss.

The strange sky, we finally figure out, is really the view from under the sea, looking up through the green water.

I read the story to the children twice last week, the second time following it up with an art project we've been doing since I first started teaching. By and large, I've moved beyond these pre-programmed type projects, but this one, with my pre-cut orca whale shapes, pre-mixed "strange sky" paint-glue, and mat board pre-wrapped in foil, has stuck around largely because I've learned that families seem to keep these forever. I know of one family that has collected dozens of these from their 2 kids who attended Woodland Park for 3 years each, all hanging together on the kitchen wall. And I can't count how many times a parent will walk in with a younger sibling and say something like, "Oh look! Now it's your turn to make a Storm Boy painting!" as if it's something they've been looking forward to for years. 

I guess you could say that it's become more of a tradition than art project. The basic idea is to draw white markings on the whale bodies with chalk (we have the book and several toy orcas handy for reference), paint the foil with the paint-glue, position the whale, then finish with green and silver glitter. But of course once they get going, no one tells them that there is a right or wrong way to do it.

We made many dozens of these last week. They look magnificent all together on a bulletin board -- like a giant pod of killer whale people.

And, naturally, we have an orca whale song:

Orca whale (move one arm in a leaping motion)
Orca whale (move the other arm in a leaping motion)
Little sea scallops (both hand open and shut like shells)
And an orca whale (leaping motion)

Orca whale
Orca whale
Little sea scallops
And an orca whale.
Sea otters (sung while pounding fists on chest in motor boat fashion)
Sea otters.
Little sea scallops
And an orca whale.

(Repeat forever!)

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Theresa said...

Those are beautiful! No wonder the parents keep them for ages. I would! I wish my kids could go to your preschool!

Unknown said...

I have never heard of this book but I will be sure to check it out at the library the next time we are there!

Gary and I were flipping thru the channels last night and came across a food network show that was taking place in Seattle! I was so excited that you live there. I spent the whole time telling him about you : ) and your class.

Wishing you a happy fathers day tomorrow.

Michele @ The Hills are Alive said...

Storm Boy here in Australia is an entirely different book. Also v lovely and one read over and over again (also a movie) - about a young boy and a pelican and his relationship with nature and his father etc. these orcas are Gorgeous! (is one really entirely covered in glitter - love it!) and love that making these is now a tradition with your generations of children coming through and furthermore treasured by the parents.

Deborah Stewart said...

Simply gorgeous results!