About the Book
Before Reading the Book
About the Book
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."
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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.