My choice for the letter A is David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes. Poor Camilla Cream wants to please everyone, so she literally changes colors and eventually her shape to suit others. At last, she admits that she likes lima beans. What? It seems that she was afraid of what others would think if she confessed her “secret.” Some have argued that the images in this book are too grotesque for young kids. My first reaction to this moral tale is that you should exercise caution before using it as a read aloud for anyone, especially the sensitive students. Do we still have kids out there who haven’t been exposed to flying body parts, nudity, and zombies?
Teachers encourage students to make connections to texts, the most common being personal connections. “I chose Camilla Cream for Book Character Day” (that’s how a kid would answer) partly because I love wild makeup but my career choice limits creativity in that area. I admit once teaching with a large glob of sunblock on my nose, assured of getting everyone’s attention until the novelty faded. But A Bad Case of Stripes reminds me of a first grade experience with a loving teacher whom I wanted to please, no matter what. One morning, she asked everyone what they had for breakfast that day. (Looking back, I have to wonder what on earth she was thinking, but that’s another post.) There was an incredible uniformity of answers: cereal, cereal, occasionally toast, and cereal. The teacher smiled approvingly as each child answered. My stomach was in knots because NO ONE had said French toast. I was terrified as my turn approached. I wanted to be like all the rest. I wanted the teacher to smile approvingly. So I said, “cereal.” And when we had all answered, the teacher announced that her favorite breakfast food was French toast. Unlike Camilla Cream, I am still learning an important lesson.