Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Boy Who Grew Flowers: A Book Review

Recently, I discovered this gem of a picture book, The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz.  A few months back, I attended a Barefoot Books party and was instantly attracted to this picture book.  After I read this synopsis, I just knew I had to purchase it!

 "This heartwarming story celebrates difference and friendship, as Rink meets a girl with her own secret, and they discover ways to help each other."
(From the Barefoot Books website)

What is the book about?

Rink Bowagon lives on Lonesome Mountain with his eccentric family.  The townspeople "down below" view the family as odd and "a hotbed of strange and exotic talents".  In fact, Uncle Dud tames rattlesnakes and rumor has it that Fat Lucy sleeps on the end of his bed.  Rink's talent is that during a full moon he sprouts flowers all over his body!  He is described as "shy and quiet and different from the other children".

Because he is different, he is ignored at school and isolated, sitting in the back of the class.  Even the teacher seems to ignore him.  He is a sad, misunderstood little boy.  However, all that changes when Angelina, the new girl, arrives in his class.  She is different than the other children, and Rink has an instant connection with her.

Angelina with her beautiful, compassionate heart, befriends Rink, and from there everything changes for Rink.  I won't spoil the rest of the story for you!  You'll have to check out this stunning picture book for yourself to see how it ends!

Themes and Messages

When I first read the book summary on the website, I was intrigued by Rink's character and immediately thought of my eight year old son who has Selective Mutism.  Like Rink, my son is "different", shy, often ignored, and definitely misunderstood.  Throughout the story, several themes emerge:

  • We all have individual gifts and talents
  • We all have shortcomings and challenges
  • Spreading rumors is hurtful
  • Friendship and helping others
  • We have more similarities than what appears 
  • Being different makes us special
  • With a little love and understanding, we can overcome obstacles
  • Courage to move outside of our comfort zone

Why use the book in the classroom?

Because a classroom is comprised of little ones with many kinds of differences and because sometimes these children are not understood, this book makes the perfect story to start the year off and to begin building classroom community.  Whether you have students with learning, emotional, psychological, or physical differences, part of building a classroom community is understanding that we all have special talents and special contributions to make.  And, that even the most shy student craves compassion and friendship.  Being a friend to a person who is different than us can richly bless not only that person, but us as well.  Although Rink was not bullied (he was ignored and deemed an outcast), we can learn about anti-bullying AND not undermining someone's worth just because they are different than us.

As well as the themes of friendship and individualism, the book has several teaching points:

  • Personification
  • Imagery/visualization
  • Compound words
  • Rich vocabulary
  • Comparing and Contrasting characters

This beautifully illustrated story is targeted for students ages 4-10 years old.  I think it would be perfect for kindergarten through 2nd grade as a read-aloud at the beginning of the year.  We should all aspire to be like sweet Angelina.  What a better world it would be if we did so!

Click here if you would like to visit my blogging friend Emily's Barefoot Books site to check out the book.  


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