Saturday, June 29, 2013

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, Illustrated by Elanna Allen

Image from
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010

7 year old Violet Mackerel has formulated the Theory of Finding Small Things. She believes that brilliant and important ideas most often happen just when you happen to find something small, but special on the ground. Of course, you should pick up this little something – a ribbon, a button, a sequin – and then continue to think about whatever you were thinking when you spotted it. This is how Violet comes up with her brilliant plot to buy the blue china bird she sees at a stall at the Saturday Market where Violet’s mother sells her knitting. Violet knows the blue china bird is special, so she knows an ordinary plan isn’t right. Luckily, she has lots of “out-of-the-box” ideas, such as becoming an archeologist so she can discover a new dinosaur (she would name it Violetosaurs mackerelus). Naturally, her discovery will get her interviewed on TV where she will mention that her discovery was all due to a blue china bird and then everyone watching at home will send her blue china birds in the mail. Will Violet’s brilliant plot work? Will Violet dig up a dinosaur skeleton in the backyard? And, most importantly, will she be able to buy the blue china bird?

This book, first in a series, features a single parent family in a positive light. Violet and her older brother and sister are being raised by their single mother, after their father left the family a few years ago. Through Violet’s unique way of looking at the world and the nurturing spirit of her mother, readers are encouraged to think outside the box for solutions to their problems. However, through the failure of Violet’s archeological dig Branford shows readers that sometimes brilliant plots don’t always work out as planned and that’s ok. Short chapters and large font size make this a great book for independent readers who are too advanced for early readers, but not quite ready for longer chapter books. Allen’s whimsical illustrations rendered in greyscale provide interest and context throughout the book, another great aid for new readers.

Originally published in Australia, I have found sources that say the text has been modified for the US publication, however I don’t know exactly what was changed. Although I’m not sure why, the US version has been published with illustrations by Elanna Allen, while the New Zealand version had illustrations by Sarah Davis. I’m not sure why this change was made. Finally, the UK version was illustrated by Sam Wilson. For those interested in comparing, here is an excerpt of the Australian version of the book, the US version, and here is the cover for the UK edition.

*Read more about Violet and her family in the other books in the Violet Mackerel series. Currently, there are 6 books total in the series.

*Violet creates her tubular scarf with found objects and a misshapen leg warmer. Create collages with found objects or bring in old sweaters for kids to cut up and repurpose. Check your local thrift shop for materials or raid your closet.

*Bring in knitting needles and yarn and teach the kids to knit.

Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows
Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look
Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Matt Phelan

Age 6+ / Grade 1+


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