It is another Perfect Picture Book Friday in the kidlitosphere, a meme hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. As Fats has very kindly shared her “perfect picture book offering” last week (see here for Fats’ post on Stella, Star of the Sea), it is now my turn to share one of my newest favorites: Imogene’s Antlers by David Small – also in keeping with our Girl Power theme until next week.

Imogene’s Antlers

Story and Pictures By: David Small
Reading Level: Ages 4-9
Publisher: Dragonfly Books, New York (1985)
Genre: Fiction
Themes: Acceptance, dealing with differentness, girl power, metamorphosis, changes and new experiences

Opening Lines: On Thursday, when Imogene woke up, she found she had grown antlers.

Synopsis: With an opening like that, you know that you’re in for a rare treat. The entire book shows only a singular day in the life of good-natured Imogene who seemed to have taken her growing those huge beautiful antlers overnight – with grace, with humor, and with panache! While the grown-ups all around her seemed thoroughly perturbed by this strange occurrence (her mother thought that the only way around it would be for her to hide the antlers with a huge hat), it was her younger brother, Norman who did a bit of research and consulted the encyclopedia – and promptly declared that Imogene turned into a miniature elk. Despite all this, Imogene takes in everything with a smile on her face, going about her day, and seeing how she can make full use of those beautiful antlers. The ending is also a work of genius: would Imogene be stuck with these antlers for the rest of her days? To know more, I leave you to find the book and discover the answer for yourself.

Imogene’s considerable struggles given her antlers.

Why I Like This Book: I have only just recently discovered David Small because of our bimonthly theme on girl-power-books, and I am simply loving his artwork and storytelling style. The book is also very short, only a few pages long, with very few text (bound to be popular with very young kids), yet it conveys a very subtle but powerful message when it comes to valuing one’s self, accepting and dealing with one’s different-ness, and taking things in stride (try not sweat the small stuff – like ya know, antlers on your head???).

The doctor on the left, the Principal on the right – both unable to provide sound recommendations.

I also love how ineffectual some of the adults are portrayed in this book: Imogene’s mother has several fainting spells, the doctor appeared flummoxed, while the Principal simply gave an impotent glare but could offer absolutely no advice. This is in direct contrast to Imogene who accepted this incident without qualms, with perfect equanimity matched with irresistible playfulness – atta girl!

My favorite David Small Illustration in the entire book! Absolutely beautiful. See Imogene’s smile. Was she worried? Na-ah.

It actually has a Kafka-esque element to it (think Kafka’s Metamorphosis) or even Edward Gorey’s The Shrinking of Treehorn – as the latter is also shown to be with totally-bewildered adults who simply could not make heads nor tails of Treehorn’s dwindling size.

This book is bound to be a favorite in a lot of households. I could foresee a lot of young girls feeling through their own heads and perhaps even wishing that they’d grow antlers overnight!

Links to ResourcesIn Horace Mann’s website, they shared how they asked the students to use the computer programme KidPix to ‘draw’ antlers on their very own picture.What an inspired idea! I would extend that further by asking the children to write about what struggles they can foresee in having the same kind of experience (a lovely exercise in perspective taking and empathy) as well as the possible joys of growing antlers overnight.

Since I found very few resources from the internet, here are some of my own recommended activities for children inside the classroom:

  • Young kids could also be asked to research on animals that have antlers on their head and what its possible functions are which enable them to survive in the wild.
  • The kids could be asked to imagine what kind of animal they would wish to be if given the chance – would they also choose to have antlers? Or feathered, multicolored wings, perhaps? Or stripes on their bodies? They could draw themselves with all these appendages or use a computer programme for this activity.

Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. Dragonfly Books, New York, 1985. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

Featured Selection for more than 10 years on PBS’s Reading Rainbow, California Young Readers Medal, Parents’ Choice Foundation, Award for Literature, 1985

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 42 (35)

PictureBook Challenge Update: 52 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

25 comments on “PPBF: Imogene’s Antlers by David Small

  1. I love David Smal. Have not seen this book and enjoyed your review. David’s a bit quirky, and it makes for good material. I love his book the “The Gardener.” And there he has a wonderful graphic book, Heard him at the SCBWI LA conference last year and he’s very entertaining. I especially like his book and I think I can guess how her antler’s disappera. The pictures are priceless. Too have such a talent!


    • Hi Patricia, David Small is a recent discovery primarily because of our theme. I am SOOO glad to have discovered his books, I am enjoying each and everyone of them. So lucky that you heard him speak! How nice that would have been. 🙂 I’ve also been personally fascinated with artists who write their own books or vice versa: both storyteller and illustrator. Such talent indeed. 🙂


  2. Christie Wright Wild

    Definitely a fun one. Thanks!


  3. I, too, heard David Small speak at SCBWI LA in August 2011, and was captivated and moved by his story and his art. He is truly an amazing man. I haven’t read this book, but I must. My favorite is The Library, written by his wife, Sarah Stewart, with his illustrations.

    Thanks for adding this book to our Perfect Picture Book list!


    • Hi Beth, so glad to see you drop by again. I should attend one of those SCBWI conferences – sounds like so much fun! I haven’t read the library yet, so I should probably look out for that one. 🙂


  4. I have had this book on the shelves in my classroom for years. You have inspired me to take it out, shake off the dust and read it to my kidlets. thanks

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    • Hi Sandi, do share with us your experience with the kidlets. I would love to know how much your kids enjoyed it. 🙂


  5. Well, you know why I like this post, and we already have the book, read to Ingrid, about her little sister, Imogene. It is a beautifully written & illustrated book! Thanks Myra!


    • Hi Linda! Once again, I was thinking of you as I was creating this post. In fact, I made sure I reviewed both ‘Imogene’ picture books because I know that you’d enjoy them. 🙂 We only have a few more days left with our bimonthly theme so we’d really have to be very selective as to which ones we could still feature in the remaining days. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  6. David Small is absoultely awesome. The art is lovely, the text is fun, what’s not to love? Great addition. I’ll add this to my list. Super choice! *waving*


    • Hi Robyn, I have to agree, he IS awesome. I’m surprised I only knew of him now. I’m glad that you’re adding this to your list. *waves back* 🙂


  7. What a great message for a book! Thanks for telling us about it 🙂


  8. This book sounds terrific, Myra! Thanks so much for sharing it. You know I have a bias toward girl power books 🙂


  9. What a great book, Myra! I love the illustrations…and the story sounds delightful…children need all the encouragement they can get to realize that we are each unique…and our special gifts and talents are to be celebrated, not scorned. 🙂 Wonderful resources also!


    • Hi Vivian, thanks for dropping by. Yes, the story is indeed delightful. I always like stories where the nature of childhood in its most pristine form is shown to be filled with more infinite wisdom than the adult’s jaded and oft-cynical mind. Reminds me to look at the world with youthful eyes. 🙂


  10. Stacy S. Jensen

    This looks like a fun one. The illustrtions would amuse my toddler. I like “older” age books that we can read together.


  11. My children loved this book when they were small. Definitely a favorite!


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