Skip to main content

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater

I can't believe I haven't reviewed The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater before now! This is one of those books that I owned before I ever had kids. My husband grew up with Pinkwater and introduced me to him as well as NPR, where Pinkwater and host Scott Simon have been reading and reviewing picture books for years. The two men clearly delight in the books that they share and their readings are always worth listening to.

I just love this book to bits, especially as someone who has lived in four tract housing developments over the course of her life. Pinkwater's book a straightforward tale with a subtle message, wrapped in a story that somehow manages to be realistic and ridiculous at the same time.  The Big Orange Splot is illustrated by Pinkwater in his unique fashion - not quite as nuanced or painterly as some other illustrators, but distinctive and capable of telling the story just as well as the words.  The Big Orange Splot begins, "Mr Plumbean lived on a street where all the houses were the same. He liked it that way. So did everybody else on Mr Plumbean's street. 'This is a neat street,' they would say. Then one day . . . " A seagull carrying a can of "bright orange paint. (No one knows why.) And he dropped it (no one knows why)" right over Mr Plumbean's house."

At first the neighbors sympathize with Mr Plumbean's mess, saying, "Mr Plumbean will have to paint his house again." Mr Plumbean supposes he will, but as time goes by and he makes no move to remove the splot the neighbors change their exclamations to, "Mr Plumbean, we wish you'd get around to painting your house."
Mr Plumbean buys some paint and fixes up his roof (and whole house) in the middle of the night because that is when it is cooler. The neighbors awake to quite a surprise. Mr Plumbean's paint job only inspires him to get more creative in the cool of the night, adding a clocktower, baobab and palm trees, a hammock and an alligator. Then Mr Plumbean settles into his new oasis to enjoy a pitcher of lemonade.
The neighborhood is in an orderly uproar and they ask Mr Plumbean's next door neighbor to go and talk to him. The two share a pitcher of lemonade under the palm trees in the cool of the evening. The next morning the man has transformed his house saying, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams." The uproar continues, as does the change in perspective as various neighbors try to reason with Mr Plumbean.

By the end of the book the whole street is transformed and ends with these words:

Whenever a stranger came to the street of Mr Plumbean and his neighbors, the stranger would say, "This is not a neat street." Then all the people would say, "our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.

So many books today, picture and chapter, try to encourage kids to "be yourself" and "follow your dreams." In my opinion, they end up coming off as saccharine, heavy-handed and dull. But, when a true genius puts his pen (and brush) to this subject as Pinkwater did way back in 1977, you get something worth buying and reading over and over. No wonder this book is still in print, and thank you to Scholastic for keeping it so! This is a pretty cool website I found while researching The Big Orange Splot. Visit Teaching Philosophy to Children for some great discussion questions linked to The Big Orange Splot, appropriate for all ages.


And here is a house that could happily fit on Mr Plumbean's street!



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …