Book of the Week-The Most Magnificent Thing

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At the end of last summer, I sat down with my friend Maggie at Stories Bookshop in Park Slope who helped me find lots of books that I could use with my kids at The Meetinghouse during the school year.  One of the reasons I partnered with Maggie on this year long blog project is that she is not only a book expert, she has two school-aged children so I knew she would help me identify some great books.  We talked about some of the themes that children struggle with and one that we both identified with with our own children is the idea of making mistakes and having to be perfect.  It’s amazing how many books are out there that cover this.

My pick for week number is The Most Magnificent Thing written by Ashley Spires.  Over the last few weeks at TMH, our focus has been working on helping kids deal with making mistakes and understanding that perfection is not the most important thing.  I spend lots of time talking to parents and other professionals working with children, and this is something that they see quite often.  While wanting to do well is a great thing, sometimes what happens is that kids have this need to be perfect and if something isn’t perfect, they aren’t good enough.  When wanting to do well interferes with a child’s success in school or socially, then it becomes a problem. 

In The Most Magnificent Thing, we follow a little girl and her best friend, her puppy, as they set out to make the most magnificent thing.  Nobody knows what this magnificent thing but the little girl knows just what it is and exactly how it will look.  She collects all kinds of bits and pieces and begins putting it together.  Her first attempt doesn’t go as she had planned and while she becomes upset, she tries again and again.  After a few times she becomes so angry and wants to give up on her idea.  Her dog convinces her to take a walk which gives her time to calm down and rethink her magnificent thing.  She comes back to see all of her attempts laying out and it gives it another go.  In the end, she is able to finally make exactly what she set out to….it just took not giving up.

In addition to focusing on the theme of making mistakes, this book is also great for teaching kids about the following:
perseverance-not giving up, even when things aren’t going just the way you want.  Sometimes you have to keep going despite the obstacles you may face along the way
feelings and emotions-in this book, the little girl experiences a whole range of feelings and emotions.  When I read this book to my group, I have them pay attention to the illustrations and look at the little girl’s face and how her feelings are changing as the story progresses.  I think it’s extremely important for kids to learn how to read another person’s expressions and be able to identify how they may be feeling.
coping skills-it’s easy to just get angry and give up.  However, the more upset one becomes, the harder it is for them to focus on the task at hand.  In The Most Magnificent Thing, the little girl is convinced by her dog to take a walk which gives her time to calm down and think about her project.  Taking that break allowed her the time to think about things and not be so angry.
team work-it took the little girl’s dog telling her to take a break that allowed her time to cool off and come back with a new attitude.  In the end, he helped her accomplish exactly what she wanted to!

Below, you will find some questions and activities you can do with your children:
~ask your child to name some of their most magnificent ideas.  You can talk about what they would need to make their idea, how they would go about it and what they would do if something doesn’t go just right.  Being able to problem solve on how they would go about to make their creation is important, but discussing strategies they could use when things don’t go just right is equally as or possibly more important.

~be sure to have your children analyze the little girls face throughout the story.  This is a great opportunity for kids to work on being able to work on identifying a variety of thoughts and feelings.  You can discuss what triggered these feelings in the little girl and what she could do to deal with some of the bigger feelings and emotions.

~if you have a group of children, provide them with materials (such as wooden building blocksMagna-Tiles, Popoids and Straws and Connectors Building Set are a few of my favorites) and have them decide as a group on something to build.  If they are old enough, you can encourage them to draw out what they want beforehand and then they must work together to build their most magnificent thing.

~check out a bunch more activities from the folks at The Core Coaches.  They have a lot of great ideas to teach school age children about growth mindset and character development if you want to use this as part of your curriculum.

Be sure to check back next Monday to see what book I’ll be sharing.  As always, if you have any wonderful ideas or have any questions, please reach out ot me.  I am always a click away and love hearing from all of you!

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