Squids Will Be Squids Previous Next

About the Book
Before Reading the Book
Classroom Activities

About the Book

Aesop's fables may be thousands of years old, but they are just as fresh and popular today as they were then. Children still grow up hearing "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Lion and the Mouse," and everyone recognizes Aesop's famous morals like "Look before you leap" and "Slow and steady wins the race." Fables also exist in many other cultures, making them an international form of storytelling.

Squids Will Be Squids is full of brand-new, modern fables... and they couldn't be more different from Aesop's! Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's collection of fables poke fun at the old traditional fables (just as their book The Stinky Cheese Man poked fun at traditional fairy tales). Unlike Aesop's traditional animal characters, this crazy cast includes a sad squid, a duckbilled platypus, a piece of toast, a horseshoe crab, and even a beefsnakstik! And the morals of these stories aren't bits of wisdom; instead, they are nonsensical modern messages, including: "Just because you have a lot of stuff, don't think you're so special," "Don't play with matches," and "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

Before Reading the Book

Before you read Squids Will Be Squids, take some time to explore classic fables and morals with your students. You can start by reading aloud the short, funny introduction to Aesop and his fables in the beginning of Squids Will Be Squids, but it lacks a lot of detail, so look elsewhere too.

To teach your class what the elements of a fable are, begin by reading a few aloud. Some classic fables that many of your students will probably recognize are "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," "The Ant and the Grasshopper," "The Tortoise and the Hare," and "The Fox and the Grapes." After you have finished these stories, ask your class what all of these fables had in common. They will probably discover for themselves the two prominent characteristics of a fable, which are:

All fables feature animals (or occasionally, objects) who speak and act like human beings. All fables contain a moral.

Once your class has discovered these two characteristics that define all fables, you may wish to use further questions to get them thinking harder about fables. For example, ask your class why they think fables are told with animals rather than with people. Discuss the meaning of the word "moral" (a lesson drawn from a story that teaches correct behavior or a universal truth). Would a fable still be a fable if it didn't contain a moral?

Classroom Activities

Fractured Fables
Write your own silly fractured fables, Mad-Lib style! Pick a classic fable from Aesop (like "Tortoise and the Hare" or "The Fox and the Grapes") or a fable from Squids Will Be Squids. Circle the words that you will replace: the names of the characters, a few nouns and verbs, the setting and situation, and some or all of the moral. You can do this together as a class, or create a reproducible for each student to create on his own (which is also useful for a crash review of nouns and verbs). Either way, your students will create their own funny fables; "The Tortoise and the Hare" might turn out to be about poodle and an ostrich who are competing in a hot dog eating contest!

Animal Personalities
Fables usually feature animals that demonstrate very specific human characteristics. Make a list of some of the animals that appear in the fables you read in class and discuss the characteristics associated with them. For example, foxes are portrayed as smart and sneaky, chickens usually act a little stupid, wolves are always ferocious and mean, and lions are usually courageous, noble, and brave. Some of the creatures with definite personalities from Squids Will Be Squids are the Elephant, the Slug, the Matches, and the trio of the Shark, the Wasp, and the Bacteria. You may also want to discuss other stories, fairy tales, or cartoons where animals demonstrate human personalities.

Coming Attractions!
Lane Smith did some pretty good illustrations of the crazy characters in the book? now it's your turn! New movies always have huge "Coming Attraction" posters to get audiences excited about their movie. Pretend that Squids Will Be Squids is the latest huge movie, and that you're creating a "Coming Attractions" poster. Write the title and author in big bold letters on a huge piece of paper, and illustrate it with several of your favorite scenes from the book. They don't have to look like Lane Smith's pictures either; draw them any way you want to! You may also want to do this as a class on an enormous piece of paper or poster board.

Considering Your Words
The last two pages of the book deal with the reported story of Aesop being thrown off a cliff because an ancient king recognized that Aesop was saying bad things about him in his fables. Discuss the ways in which words, both written and spoken, can hurt people's feelings. Making fun of people can be especially hurtful, and even though these fables are all written in good fun, your students' writings should never make fun of anyone else.

Multicultural Approach
Aesop, who was an ancient Greek, was the most famous writer of fables. However, fables have been written in cultures all around the world. There are fables whose origins lie in Japanese, African, and Native American cultures, to name just a few of the many. Find some collections of these fables (many of which are labeled as folk tales) and make a point of including them, as well as a brief discussion of their origins. These would also compliment a multicultural day, or a study of another culture.

Fairy Tale Message Board
Once your students have completed some of the activities above, you can have them publish their work online.

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