Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mr. Wuffles, David Wiesner

Title:  Mr. Wuffles
Author:  David Wiesner
Publisher:  Clarion Books
Year:  2013
Pages:  32
Format:  Wordless Picture Book
Genre:  Science Fiction
Themes:  Aliens, Pets
Age Range:  1st-5th Grade

Summary: from Goodreads
In a near wordless masterpiece that could only have been devised by David Wiesner, a cat named Mr. Wuffles doesn't care about toy mice or toy goldfish. He’s much more interested in playing with a little spaceship full of actual aliens—but the ship wasn't designed for this kind of rough treatment. Between motion sickness and damaged equipment, the aliens are in deep trouble. When the space visitors dodge the cat and take shelter behind the radiator to repair the damage, they make a host of insect friends. The result? A humorous exploration of cooperation between aliens and insects, and of the universal nature of communication involving symbols, “cave” paintings, and gestures of friendship

Wiesner's book, Mr. Wuffles, was a 2013 Caldecott Award honor book.  The Caldecott Award is giving annually to the best picture book by the American Library Association.  Wiesner's book certainly belongs in the category of beautifully illustrated picture books.  His illustrations are sharp and engaging, with vivid colors and aggressive shading that provide depth and realism to an otherwise obviously fantastical story.  But what is most wonderful about this book is the juxtaposition of the adorable cat and the tiny aliens.  Wiesner cleverly takes the natural inclinations of a cat to bat around small objects, and uses it as a springboard for the trials and tribulations of a small group of ant-sized aliens.

This book is almost wordless, if you only consider Earth languages.  In reality, the aliens have a rich language that is scattered throughout the book, made up of symbols that are meaningless when viewed alone, but with the context of the wonderful illustrations it is pretty obvious what kind of things the aliens are probably saying.  The structure of the book is comic-book like, with multiple panels on most pages, and speech bubbles in place of traditional paragraphing.  The book could be used with younger students to emphasize the importance of using illustrations to look for comprehension clues.  Older students could be asked to "translate" the alien dialogue into English, inferring what the aliens are saying based on the context of the story and the illustrations, and essentially writing the text for Wiesner's illustrations.  Or, you can just put the book out for your students to enjoy, because even without words it is an engaging read.

Teacher Resources:
HMH Books Discussion Guide
TeachingBooks.Net Guide

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