Book of the Week: Stuck

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Author/Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Philomel (2011)
Recommended grades: Preschool - 3
Hardcover, 32 pages

My oh my, this is a long overdue book of the week! Featured this week is "Stuck" by Oliver Jeffers. I found my beautiful hardcover copy at Ollie's (what a steal, $3.99), but it is also available on Amazon

This book tells the story of little Floyd, who gets his kite stuck in a tree. Desperate to get it down, he collects and chucks numerous things (including the kitchen sink!) into the tree to try to dislodge his kite. When Floyd finally gets his kite free, he abandons the problem he has created in the tree and simply goes to sleep! The book is outrageously funny, and a wonderful teaching tool for kids who might not initially understand what makes the book funny. It is a good way to talk about how absurdities and lack of logical thinking/problem solving can be silly and funny

Some good social lessons here:
  • When something isn't working out, you need to change your approach. Doing the same thing over and over again will just make you frustrated and will not help solve your problem.
  • When we are dealing with a problem, feeling anxious or frustrated, we may need to take a minute to think about the best solution before acting. Floyd was so desperate to get his kite down from the tree that he threw a ladder at it. Now what else could he have used the ladder for.. ?! :)
  • Stop and think about problems other than your own. In the end, Floyd did get his kite back, but he didn't fix the problem he created. How will his parents feel about that? How will everyone stuck in the tree be feeling?
  • Ask for help when (before!) things get out of hand!
And lots of traditional language goals can be targeted as well! I read this book with two kids who were working on different goals: Answering wh-questions and describing object functions. Both had pragmatic issues as well. It is also a great one for teaching prediction and inferencing. See below for specific ideas.
  • Functions: shoes, ladder, chair, bicycle, sink, door, car, boat, truck, house, lighthouse, firetruck, saw
  • Wh-questions, predictions, inferences: 
    • Cover: Who is this story going to be about? What do you think will happen?
    • Page 1: Where did his kite get stuck? Who did the kite belong to?
    • 2/3: Why did he throw his shoe? What do you think he will do next?
    • 4/5: Who is Mitch? what will happen next?
    • 6/7: What should Floyd do with the ladder? How does Floyd feel?
    • 8/9: What will Floyd do now? If you were Floyd, what would you do next? How does Floyd feel right now?
    • 10/11: Who did the ladder belong to? What color is the paint? Where did Floyd thow the paint? How does he feel now?
    • 12/13: Why is he throwing all this stuff? Where is he throwing it?
    • 14/15: Why is this person saying, "hello" with their head inside? How does she feel? Who got thrown in the tree?
    • 16/17: If this was a real tree, what would happen? How is he going to get this stuff out of the tree?
    • 18/19: Could Floyd really get all this in the tree? Why or why not?
    • 20/21: How does Floyd feel? How does the milkman feel?
    • 22/23: What should Floyd have done with the firemen? Where did he throw the firemen?
    • 24/25: Who will be upset with Floyd? What should Floyd do with the saw? Why is there a lightbuld over Floyd's head?
    • 26/27: Was that a good idea? What will happen next? When will Floyd stop throwing things in the tree?
    • 28/29: What sis Floyd forget? what will happen next?
  • Pragmatic: Add some thought bubble post-its to the characters and have the kids fill in what they could be thinking (both Floyd and those stuck in the tree/discorvering that he threw their things).
  • Articulation: of course, any kiddos working on "st" are going to get lots of repetitions in! Have them write down any "st" words they hear during the story and share them at the end. Challenge them to add as many "st" words as they can to their list.
"Stuck" is so beloved by kids that they I'm sure they would delight in writing their own tales with the same theme. If I had more time I would definietly extend the book in this way. It would be a good time to introduce some of the literary/sylistic concepts that come up in the book, e.g., hyperbole, cause and effect, problem and solution, ellipses, capitalization, etc.

My only complaint about this book for a read aloud is that the wacky font is difficult to read upside down! I found myself stumbling over some of the words the first time I read it to kids, which detracted from the dramatic effect. But after you read it once or twice this isn't an issue :)

Hope you find these suggestions useful. Let me know if you've read "Stuck" with your kiddos and how you apply it to therapy!

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