Jane Manning, Author and Illustrator
Philomel Books, Fiction, August 2012
Suitable for: Ages 3 and up
Themes: Feeling left out, Behavior, Self-acceptance, Self-esteem
Opening/Synopsis: “Millie was too short to be tall, too quiet to be loud, and to plain to be fancy. When she spoke at show-and-tell, hardly anyone listened. When she walked into a room hardly anyone looked up.” One day Millie is drawing a flower with chalk on the sidewalk, when three girls from her school walk over her flower until nothing is left but a big smudge. “I’m not a smudge,” she said. Millie is tired of not being noticed and comes up with a plan. She frizzes her hair, sharpens her nails, stomps, and growls. Her behavior becomes obnoxious and wild so people will notice her. She paints the dog’s face blue, scratches the blackboard with her nails, pulls the buds off her neighbor’s flowers, and dumps jelly beans all over the classroom floor. The kids at school notice Millie now, but she doesn’t receive the reaction she hoped for. Millie wishes she were invisible again. Perhaps being fierce isn’t the best way to get noticed.
What I like about this book: You can’t help but love Millie and feel her pain. What child hasn’t felt invisible and left out. No child wants to feel like a smudge. Jane Manning has written a fun and important story about how far a little girl will go to get attention. This is a great lesson that will stay with children for a long time. Being mean doesn’t mean kids will like you. Kids will definitely identify with Millie. Although Millie’s behavior is extreme, it’s a very funny book because of her creative and outrageous character. It also teaches without preaching. Manning’s illustrations are vibrant and colorful and capture Millie’s expressive behavior to a tee. Manning says that “Millie Fierce must have been rattling around inside me for a long time.” “I remember feeling like Millie on many different occasions when I was a kid – like I wasn’t being seen, or heard, or considered.” She has illustrated dozens of books.
Resources: Great discussion book for the classroom. Ask kids if they ever feel like Millie and to share situations when they have felt invisible and left out. Do they feel sad, hurt or mad? How did they handle the situation? What advice would they give Millie? Have kids write a letter to Millie, or draw an exaggerated self-portrait of themselves that shows their sad, angry or wild side.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.