I’m so excited to share with you today what I think is the best picture book I’ve read in years, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.
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About this Magnificent Book
Title: The Most Magnificent Thing
Author: Ashley Spires
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Print Length: 32 pages
Summary from Amazon: Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy! But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.
This is truly one of the best picture books I’ve ever read. And I have read many, many picture books. This book hits the mark on so many levels. It is the book I desperately needed to have read to me as a perpetually frustrated little perfectionist child. The main messages of “keep trying and learn from your mistakes” are so beautifully shown in a very realistic way and without ever getting preachy. I could just feel the girl’s excitement to create and her building frustration as her project kept coming out not-quite-right. I appreciate the author’s recognition and allowance of the anger that can build inside, and the encouragement to handle it in an appropriate way and maybe walk away from the project for a few minutes. It is so hard in the moment to walk away, and this book shows that doing so is not only good for your health but can give fresh perspective to the task at hand. And I like the subtle reminder at the end that the goal is not perfection but a working solution.
All of the above would be more than enough to make for a great picture book, but this book has so much more that will have you and your family reading and re-reading and enjoying discussion after discussion about it. The illustrations are perfect with just the right amounts of color and detail for the reader’s imagination to soar. The language used is itself magnificent! I’m already planning how I can use this book with older students for a unit on incorporating strong verbs into their writing!
And then there are the science and technology themes! First of all, I love that it’s a girl doing the building and creating! Second of all, I love the empowerment this story gives to children that they can create things that are useful and fun. And finally, I love the fact that the adults in the story are visible but remain on the fringes, supervising for her safety but letting her struggle without swooping in to solve the problem for her or, worse, buying a solution for her.
I was immensely privileged to receive a complimentary electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I recommend this book wholeheartedly! I can’t wait to buy my own real copy and pull my kids onto the couch and share it with them for the first of many times!