Emily H.'s Reviews > The Sweetest Fig

The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg
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May 06, 12

bookshelves: roser_top-25

Book type: Picture storybook (fantasy)
Intended Audience: Can be read by five year olds, and can also be used for writing activities in fourth grade

Although some people perhaps feel that their enjoyment of Van Allsburg was taken away when his two Caldecott illustration winners, Jumanji and Polar Express, were turned into children's movies, I cannot say the same for myself. I'd seen both movies and had not read the books and was blown away by the writing and the illustrations. I really enjoyed the pacing and the tone of the books. The old fashioned moral story told by a British grandfather. I have no idea why I also picture the narrator being British, but it's true. The morals of the story include the importance of being nice to other people and to animals, and also to be very careful about what you wish for.

In The Sweetest Fig, there is a sadistic dentist (we can't cut the dentists a break can we) who refused to medicate a woman on which he has just performed dental surgery. She offers him two figs that will make his dreams come true. The first time it happens, he takes his dog for a walk and finds that his dream has come true: he does not have any clothes on and the eiffel tower is surrealistically warped. So he trains himself to lucid dream and dreams of the day when he is wealthy and has his own boat and ditches his dog for a Great Dane. He gets ready for the meal and when he looks back, he sees that his pet dog (the signature dog that appears in every Van Allsburg book) has eaten the fig. He goes to sleep and the next morning awakes to find that they have switched places, and that the dog is the monsieur and the monsieur is the dog. I can't get enough of these gotcha unexpected endings that Roald Dahl popularized.

Illustrations:
The illustrations are cross hatch marks of pencil. They are intricate and dream like and very realistic.

Lessons:
--Writing: explain about plot, suspense, humor, etc.
--Predictions: ask students to predict what will happen next (and think about JA Langer while you're doing it)
--Humor: what makes something funny?
--Geography: what do they eat, speak, do, build in France? How is it different from the US?

Book Pairing:
--Any Roald Dahl book
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