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Teacher Review: The Most Magnificent Thing



 

Written by: Christina Barber


Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches a full-time gifted program for students in Grades 5-7. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian literature and history through her reviews at The Miramichi Reader and on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays for her students.

 

Perfectionism is that dogged creature that can plague gifted children and adults, persisting and pervading their creative and intellectual pursuits. In the classroom, I am often confronted with children who, in spite of their ideas and knowledge, have a hard time committing to, beginning, and accomplishing the tasks and assignments that would help them realize their visions and experience the success they crave. Through my experience in the full-time gifted classroom, I have found a number of indispensable titles that have helped my kids address their perfectionism and adopt more proactive and healthier strategies. In the following series of reviews, I will share some of these titles with you and how I use them in the classroom. These reviews are not just for teachers though and many of these activities and discussions can be done at home.



THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING BY ASHLEY SPIRES


Ashley Spires is one of my favourite children’s authors and I use a number of her books in my classroom. The first one that I would like to share with you is “The Most Magnificent Thing.” This is a class standard and I read this one to my students every couple of years.


The Story:

Spires’ young protagonist is a girl on a mission. She has conceived of an idea to build “The Most Magnificent Thing” and she knows just how she’s going to do it. With the help of her assistant, a clever and devoted pug, she goes about turning the ideas in her head into the real and tangible. Naturally, nothing goes as planned, and our protagonist finds herself frustrated and angry and on the verge of giving up. After a massive and explosive melt-down, she comes to the realization that it doesn’t need to be exactly like what was in her head, that it doesn’t have to be just so, and in the end, she finds her resolution and satisfaction.


What I love:

Spires presents a very realistic situation with which most gifted kids and adults will identify: the highs that come with the original idea, the excitement of getting the supplies together and starting in, the frustration of the process of trial and error, the increasing frustration and disappointment of the reality of trying to realize a creative project, and the very real experience of massive frustration that can ultimately be explosive and painful. Spires sees this experience and relates it authentically and provides a great ending showing that it’s okay if what you come up with doesn’t match your original plans. From the little dog-assistant, we also get messages of self-care and companionship related throughout the book: the importance of taking breaks, playing, and going for walks together, which are such a lovely treat for kids to identify on repeated readings.


In the classroom:

I like to read this book before starting a big project like science fair, where the expectations don’t often match the final product. When we finally get to the project, we can discuss our overall expectations and how to deal with planning, procrastination, and stress, and also how to mitigate disappointment.

  • We discuss as a group or students are encouraged to write a personal reflection of a time when they felt like the main character. We look at how the frustration was resolved or how it could have turned out differently.

  • Go back and reread the story to find the subtle tips along the way about how to better manage stress - which ones do students already use? Which other strategies do they employ? Make a list and keep it handy during project work to encourage healthier strategies and behaviours.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Spires is an award-winning Canadian children’s author and illustrator. She lives in British Columbia.



Publisher: Kids Can Press

Language: English, also published in 19 other languages

Softcover: 32 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1-55453-704-4


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