Recently while at the library to pick up a few hold items for myself, I gave my three-year-old about 30 seconds to pick up a couple of picture books (I know, top-notch mothering right there), and he was really excited to pick out Watch Out for Wolfgang. I was too, even after we read it once, twice, a hundred times.
And even after we discussed the implications THOROUGHLY of what it means to be a robot and be taken apart. (He does NOT like reading about machines that break. It freaks him out in a profound way. This anxiety is increased when the machines have eyes and ears and are friendly characters in a book.) His anxiety about the book translated to an obsession with it and he read it over and over until he loved it. He was excited to show it to his dad, and even more excited to say “and now is the scary part!” (It’s not actually that scary, unless you have a thing about machines being taken apart. Which we do.)
This re-writing of the three little pigs, with three little robots and a robot recycler named Wolfgang, is a great book with awesomely gorgeous illustrations. And the activity I’m going to share with you below was not my idea at all. My son made the whole thing up.
Title: Watch out for Wolfgang
Author/Illustrator: Paul Carrick
Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale Retelling
Summary and activities to do with the kids:
This is a great book to share with your kids for so many reasons. First, the fact that it’s a retelling of the Three Little Pigs makes it a great way to discuss how the same story can be told in different ways. Even older kids would benefit from making comparisons to the swinier version. The second reason it’s totally awesome is that the third pig (robot) is not a savior because he’s hard-working, he’s a savior because he’s “different.” In a totally great way.
But here’s a fun activity that my son made up: we added a fourth robot.
He first took a flip coloring book with lots of robots in it. He chose the perfect robot for the story. He said that he wanted his robot (Glabby, a boy name in case you weren’t sure) to be like Rod, the first of the three robots in the story. He also said that Glabby’s factory (they build factories instead of houses) was a baking factory, which I secretly thought was brilliant.
Then we read the story and at each page we held up Glabby’s picture next to the illustrations and I made up and read aloud a paragraph about what Glabby was doing. It was so much fun! Glabby, since he was like the first brother, did get recycled by Wolfgang. But since they are all saved in the end by the third robot, Glabby did okay.
But it was so much fun! I would love to hear if any of you try this with your own kids! It doesn’t have to be this book, and it doesn’t have to be a robot, but maybe pick a story your child knows well and see if they can invent a character to add to the story. Have your child invent certain important facts about the character, and then when you read the book, read in their character. My son was so excited and proud of the new story with his inventions in it.
And then let me know. Do you think you will try it? With what book? And if you did try it, how did it turn out?
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About the Author:
Wendy Lawrence is a Seattle native who is now living with her husband and two young sons in Nashville, Tenn. A longtime educator and former middle school head at Eastside Prep in Kirkland, she now blogs about parenting and books at The Family that Reads Together.