I know when I read certain picture books that I have a powerful read aloud in my hands. Actually sharing the story with a classroom full of children can sometimes be so touching and illuminating, that I realize that I have underestimated the impact the story will have on listeners. Such was the case with this title:
The Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton is a story that needs to be shared and discussed. In my class, the comments, questions and insights brought tears to my eyes. Children need to talk about this book! Adults need to listen.
Before I even began reading this book, I asked children to predict from the cover and title. Here is what was said:
- “Maybe people don’t treat him well so he doesn’t show himself.”
- “Maybe people treat him like he’s invisible.”
- “He might be ignored.”
- “Maybe they don’t pay attention to him.”
- “He might be lonely because people don’t be his friend.”
The story begins with Brian who isn’t noticed in a class full of big personalities that demand a lot of attention. Brian, we learn, doesn’t take up much space. He isn’t included in recess games. He isn’t invited to parties. He isn’t able to contribute to lunchtime conversation. Brian loves his art and escapes into his drawings.
At this point n our read aloud, we stopped to talk about what we had observed.
- “He’s a really good drawer.”
- “He looks sad when he doesn’t get to play. He’s always on his own.”
- “Does drawing calm him down?”
- “What if he told how he felt, would he get to play?”
- “That teacher didn’t see him right beside her because the other kids are loud and noisy.”
- “Maybe a new kid will come and they might have something in common?
- “Yeah and then he could have a friend!”
Students were delighted that on the very next page, a new boy, Justin, arrives in Brian’s classroom. Some of the kids wondered should they be Justin’s friend. Was he cool enough? When kids laugh at Justin’s food in the lunchroom, Brian notices. He wonders “which is worse – being laughed at or feeling invisible.” Brian makes Justin an encouraging note about his lunch. We stopped again to talk and share our thinking:
- “Maybe if the new boy fits in, Brian will have to draw a friend. He’ll still be alone.”
- “Do you think he will ask Justin to be his friend?”
- “They only want to play with cool kids?! That’s not fair!”
- “Will Justin fit in? Will he still be nice?”
- “Justin and Brian do have something in common because they are both teased.”
At this point, the question was posed: “What does it mean to be cool?”
- “In this book it seems to mean all popular and kinda mean to people. But a cool person should be nice and kind and sharing to everyone.”
- “Why do we need to be cool to be friends? Kids who show off don’t seem cool.”
- “Cool means people are being mean and making fun.”
When it seems like Justin is beginning to be included and Brian continued to be excluded, Justin steps up and insists Brian be part of a classroom trio to work on a project. The illustrator has begun to add colour to the drawings of Brian. Children noticed this immediately: “He has colour now because he is noticed.” Brian’s smile as he begins to be part of a friendship group lights up the final page. We asked the students the very important question suggested in the back of the book.
“How many kids did it take in this story to help Brian begin to feel less invisible?”
It was completely quiet and then little fingers went up showing one (Justin) or two (Justin & Emilio). Nobody talked as the children looked at each other. Some started to nod. Some shook their heads. One little voice spoke for all of us:
“Oh. I get it.”
Some written responses that need to be shared:
Joeli: Why does the teacher ignore him – even when the teacher can see where he is? Why did the popular kids tease Justin? They don’t know what he is even like. When that teacher was looking for Brian, why she did not look beside her or in front of her? I think she needs glasses.
Soleen: This book is interesting because it suggested that we can help others like ____________ because she is lonely.
Andrew: There was a boy named Brian who was invisible. Justin made Brian not invisible anymore.
Grace: This book inspired me to help kids in our school that feel the same way. Me and my friends are going to play with ________. I think she feels lonely. Even the tracher doesn’t notice Brian. My teacher would never do that. I noticed that when he was invisible, he was black and white. Then when Justin came along and they became friends, he had colour.
Sara: The kids think they are cool but why don’t they think they are all cool? He was invisible but when Justin came, they played together and he wasn’t invisible anymore, Maybe this book is trying to teach us treat others how you want to be treated.
Hyo Min: Brian was sad because no one can see him in his class. Justin and Emilio made friends with Brian. Why other kids need cool friends? I felt a little sad for Brian. Brian wanted to make friends. At the end of the story, he was happy with his new friends. I love the story.
Ibtihal: I learned that kids can make you feel better. When Justin and Emilio made friends with Brian, he turned into colours. The teacher didn’t see him because kids were being loud and noisy. The kids only played with the cool kids. The kids made fun of Justin’s food so Brian made a beautiful picture of his food and wrote “Yum!”
Pheonix: Brian, the invisible boy was gray at first. Then a different boy touched him and he got colour and he was not invisible anymore.
Brian: Justin had something in common with Brian because kids were teasing both of them. When Emilio started being their friends, Brian started to not be lonely anymore.
Heman: I noticed that Brian was feeling lonely. I noticed that Brian and Justin were both being teased at. The kids in Brian’s class only wants to be friends with cool people. Brian felt sad because he was left out. Justin made Brian feel better. Brian was a good drawer. Brian, Justin and Emilio made a story based on a picture and Brian drew the pictures.
Because there are children that don’t seem to take up space but actually have much to offer . . .
Because each child is important . . .
Because no one should feel alone in the middle of a classroom community . . .
Because each of us can make things different for someone else . . .
Share this book with your students.