Do you want to encourage your child to be unique? The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater is an excellent book to help your child celebrate the feeling of being unique and expressing your creativity in different ways.
Mr. Plumbean lives on a neat street where every house is exactly the same. Everyone enjoys this neat street and doesn’t want any changes to occur. One day, a seagull that is flying by is carrying a pail full of orange paint. He drops the paint on Mr. Plumbean’s house which creates a big orange splot on his roof. Mr. Plumbean was immediately told to repaint his house by his neighbors but instead he had a very different idea. Why not be unique? Why not express my creativity by decorating my house the way I want to, not the way my neighbors want me to? So, Mr. Plumbean decides to get more paint of many different colors and make his house the house of his dreams! His house is “like a rainbow” and “like an explosion” which really disturbs his neighbors. His neighbors want a neat street and describes Mr. Plumbean as being crazy by using the terms “popped his cork”, “blown his stack” and “lost his marbles”.
What does Mr. Plumbean do? He decides to add more creative decorations to his house, such as a hammock, palm trees and even an alligator. The neighbors are furious but Mr. Plumbean consistently responds by saying, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams”. One by one each neighbor becames inspired by Mr. Plumbean until each neighbor decides to change their own house to reflect their own individual dreams. One neighbor changes his house to look like a hot air balloon, another a monument and one a big ship!
Why is this an inspiring tale? This story can really help a child express the joys and challenges of being different. I love that Mr. Plumbean believes in his creativity enough to get through all of the ridicule and pressure from his neighbors. As both children and adults. we all feel challenges to look and act a certain way. For some children, it may be wearing a certain pair of pants or styling your hair a specific way. For adults, it may be how you design your house or what car you drive. When reading The Big Orange Splot to your child, discuss the examples of abstract language and unfamiliar vocabulary. When I was reading the book to my children, we looked up images for vocabulary I didn’t even know such as fragaponi and baobobs. My children were interested in what it means to have “knots in your noodle” which lead to a discussion regarding what the neighbors thought of Mr. Plumbean.
Carryover Activities: Have your child color or draw their own house! I found a website here that has tons of printable coloring pages. Looking for a recipe using oranges? Check out my recipe for bloody red orange carrot muffins here….
Are you a teacher? On the website, Teaching Children Philosophy, there are a list of questions that might be helpful in leading a discussion with student or your own children. Check it out here.