Flora and the Flamingo
Flora and the Flamingo
By Molly Idle
Published by Chronicle Books, 2013
ISBN # 978-1-45211-006-6
Grades PreK and up
A nimble flamingo and an earnest but clumsy little girl make an unlikely dancing duo in the interactive and wordless picturebook, Flora and the Flamingo. Donning a bathing suit, swimming flippers, and a yellow bathing cap, Flora sidles up to the flamingo whose graceful ballet she tries to emulate. It’s no easy feat to follow, and the flamingo isn’t the most willing of teachers as it resists, ridicules, and rejects little Flora until her sheer sincerity begins to win it over. Moving the story cleverly forward are large flaps that can be turned over in a number of ways to create multiple plotlines. Author/illustrator and former Dreamworks animator Molly Idle ensures the spotlight remains on the dancing pair through the use of a minimal background and restrained palette of pastels reminiscent of fellow wordless picturebook illustrator Suzy Lee. The result is cinematic, for sure, as this dance of a blossoming friendship carries readers of all ages along with its delicate rhythm and pacing. Full of versatility, Flora and the Flamingo is a delightful text for any part of your classroom instruction.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Grades K and up
- Precise Description with Verbs. As a class, brainstorm a list of action verbs that explain and describe what Flora and the flamingo are doing on each page. For younger grades, use interactive or shared writing to write the text of the story. Older grades can refer to this list in writing workshop. In either case, make sure to help students revise their writing by listing and using more vivid verbs.
- Precise Description of Character’s Emotions. Similar to the activity above, turn to any page in the book and brainstorm a list of emotions that the characters are feeling at that moment in the story. Make sure to discuss the difference in gradient of the different emotions, such as the
difference between sad and dejected, happy and elated, to help students write more vividly.
- Partner Picture Walks and Storytelling. Wordless picture books are terrific tools for helping children develop their oral language and emergent reading skills. Have pairs of students sit side by side, each handling one side of the book (i.e., one handles the flamingo’s story, while the other handles Flora’s story), and encourage them to walk through the illustrations and tell the stories of what is happening on each page to each other. They can take turns with each page, or take turns telling an entire story. To emphasize the book’s interactive component, encourage them to also try telling the story differently if they flip the flaps down in a different order. You might also want to then have them do this with some of the other wordless picture books listed below in Further Explorations, such as Barbara Lehman’s The Red Book or Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy.
- Choose Your Own Plotline. The genius of the book’s large interactive flaps is that readers can construct how Flora’s friendship with the flamingo develops in different ways. Walk students through the number of possibilities that could occur across a single scene in the story, such as the double-page spread where the flamingo notices Flora’s hurt and heartache after falling. Then have students write out the text of the story, choosing the order in which they flip over the flaps and ultimately decide how the story goes.
Grades 2 and up
- Animals that Dance. The animal world is full of species with unique dancing talents. Read some of the online articles and view some of the videos listed below in Further Explorations. As a class, discuss why different kinds of animals, including humans, dance. Then, read some of the picture books listed below for more creative tales of animals dancing. Have students select one of the animals from the articles or videos to be the subject of a picture book that they write and illustrate themselves.
- Dance as Metaphor. The act of dancing is a popular metaphor for many of life’s experiences and events. In Flora and the Flamingo, it’s primarily a metaphor for the development of a friendship. What other experiences can be described as a dance? To begin, help students analyze how Flora’s friendship with the flamingo begins, what challenges it faces, and what ultimately makes it a successful and smooth relationship. Then have students think about what’s involved in dancing: What do dancers need to do to keep the dance moving? What do they do when they stumble? What do they do when another person is their dancing partner? You might want to show your class different video clips of people dancing in pairs or groups from different cultures and using different dance styles. A Venn diagram might help students then compare and contrast how a friendship is like a dance. Use similar questions and diagrams to help them identify other life experiences that could be described with the metaphor of dancing.
- Filmstrip Storytelling. The influence of Molly Idle’s previous experience as a film animator is obvious in Flora and the Flamingo, as each page feels like another scene in a fluid movie. Invite your students to study the techniques that authors use for storytelling when their medium is pictures. You may find Scott McCloud’s Making Comics a useful guide to examining the choices authors make when telling a story visually. The artist/ author makes decisions about which moments to feature, how to frame and focus the image (think camera lens), how to arrange the images to convey the flow of the story, and what medium and artistic style best match the content of the story. Have students create filmstrips of their own wordless stories, using either paper or digital storytelling software, filling each with only drawings of the scenes involved. For further examples of how the illustrations are linked together as scenes in wordless stories, check out Suzy Lee’s books Wave, Mirror, or Shadow, as well as the wordless picturebooks we’ve blogged about already on this site.
- Color and Mood in Picture Books. Picture book illustrators often use color to enhance the mood of the story. Molly Idle limits her use of color to shades of pink, brown, and yellow. Why do you think she chose those particular colors? What effect does this limited color palette have on the mood of the story? Share a variety of picture books with your students that effectively use color to highlight mood. Some examples include Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry… Really, Really Angry, David Shannon’s How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, Jeanette Winter’s Mama, and Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days.
- Illustrator Study. Molly Idle has written and illustrated a range of titles in addition to illustrating many books written by other authors. Gather multiple copies of her books to conduct an illustrator study. Survey Molly Idke’s illustrations, and identify her artistic style, her artistic idiosyncrasies, and favorite artistic media to use. Gather information about her from her websites listed below, your local librarian, the Internet, and as other biographical sources.
Molly Idle’s website
Flora and the Flamingo book trailer
Top 10 Animal Dance Moves – Earth Unplugged
6 Animals that Science Has Discovered Can Dance
Scholastic Lesson Plan: Do the Animal Dance
Strictly Animals Dancing
BBC Article – Are humans the only species that enjoy dancing?
Baker, J. (2010). Mirror. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. See our entry at http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/11/mirror.html
Lee, S. (2008). Wave. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Lehman, B. (2004). The red book. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Lehman, B. (2011). The secret box. New York: Houghton Mifflin. See our entry at http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.com/2011/03/secret-box.html
Sis, P. (2001). Ballerina! New York: Greenwillow Books.
Raschka, C. (2011). A ball for Daisy. New York: Schwartz & Wade. See our entry at http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.com/2012/02/2012-caldecott-medal-winner-ball-for_13.html
Tricarico, C. (2012). Cock-a-doodle dance! New York: Feiwel & Friends.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
SLJ Blog Network