A few months ago, Betsy Bird had a post on her inimitable blog, A Fuse 8 Production about unreliable narrators in picture books. This post intrigued me, especially the inclusion of I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat, both by Jon Klassen. To me, these books are better examples of situational irony. Defined in my trusty Benet’s Readers Encyclopedia as when “there is a discrepancy between what might reasonably be expected and what actually occurs–between the appearance of a situation and it’s reality.”
I was reminded of this post over the weekend when I read Creepy Carrots (Simon & Schuster, 2012), by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. If ever there was an example of situational irony, this is it! It’s also a great example of how authors build suspense. Peter Brown received a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations. Brown describes how he created his incredible artwork and his inspirations here:
That Is Not a Good Idea! (Blazer + Bray, 2013) by Mo Willems is another picture book with situational irony that will have children on the edge of their seats until the very end. Then they’ll be squealing with delight!
Another recent Mo Willems book, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Blazer + Bray, 2012), has lots of verbal irony. Lines like “I SURE HOPE NO INNOCENT LITTLE SUCCULENT CHILD HAPPENS BY OUR UNLOCKED HOME WHILE WE ARE…uhhh….SOMEPLACE ELSE!” leave little doubt about the dinosaurs’ true intentions for Goldilocks.
According to the CCSS, irony is introduced in 8th grade (which is when we introduce it now). The standard (RL.8.6) states that students will “Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.” Our students typically need lots of scaffolding to understand the subtleties of irony in 8th grade texts. But introducing the concept with these picture books makes it much more accessible, not to mention more fun!
Whether you share these books with middle school students to introduce the concept of irony or as a read aloud with five and six year olds, it really doesn’t matter. Just share them. Everyone will be glad that you did.
Be sure to visit Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts to find out what others are reading today.