Thank God it’s (Perfect Picture Book) Friday!
Here’s to another reason to celebrate the fun of and our love for reading!
Story and Pictures by: Kevin Henkes
Suitable For: Ages 3-7
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (1989)
Themes: Imagination, creativity, friendship, imaginary friend, make-believe, coping (with lonesomeness), making new friends, life as an only child
Opening Lines: “Ruthie Simms didn’t have a dog. She didn’t have a cat, or a brother, or a sister. But Jessica was the next best thing.”
Synopsis: Ruthie’s parents are convinced that Jessica does not exist. But of course she does. Jessica ate with Ruthie, played with Ruthie, and was sorry when Ruthie was bad. Nobody could see Jessica – except Ruthie. When it was time for Ruthie to go to school, Jessica went with her. What started out as a hopeful thought for Ruthie to find a friend at school who would replace Jessica turned out to be a (happy) surprise Ruthie’s mom and dad!
Why I Like This Book: While the cover of Jessica was plain-looking, the picture of the little girl blowing a trumpet while walking on the grass was absolutely irresistible. Kevin Henkes’s Jessica was the last book I picked up when I visited the newly-opened library in the Otay Ranch Mall in Chula Vista, CA. It was yet another accidental discovery. Leafing through its pages, I thought that the book would be perfect for Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill, and for our bimonthly theme, Girl Power and Women’s Wiles. (Yes, we’re still on it! We loved this theme so much that we decided to give it a week-long stretch! Hurrah!)
I own a couple of books by Kevin Henkes, (Words of Stone, Sun & Spoon), but this is the first time I’ve read a picture book that he wrote and illustrated. Jessica is such a delightful read. The book has minimal artwork and only a few sentences per page. I’m sure young readers will enjoy this book as well. I admire Ruthie for her persistence, and how she stood for what she believed in. Being the only child in the family, without even a single pet, life can be lonely for little Ruthie. Hence, Jessica was ‘born.’ It’s quite charming to see how a little girl refuses to be discouraged; not even her own parents could make her believe that there was no Jessica.
Ruthie’s story made me think of other children – solo child or otherwise – who have their own imaginary friends. Of course the psych major in me could not help but take delight in the role of imaginary friends to a child’s psychosocial development. Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child, or know someone who has? What is your take on imaginary friends? How do you think imaginary friends affect children? These are just some of the questions that went through my mind while I was reading Jessica, and I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
Links to Resources: In this website Jennifer Berthelot shares a few suggested activities that relate to the book. These activities include making an imaginary friend, individual story theater, dictating stories, and re-telling the story. She provides a short description on how to go about each of these activities. You may also click on this link that offers a variety of activities and worksheets on friendship and imaginary friends. In her blog, Callie from Sit a Whileshares a personal story about reading Jessica to her adorable children and doing some fun activities with them – a cute read! For a simple engaging activity, ask children to share the things that they enjoy doing with their friends.
Hope you enjoy today’s treat!