Snowed Under and Other Christmas Confusions, by Serge Bloch (2011)
Metaphors and idioms and Christmas, oh my! This tenth review features samples of grammar inside.
This book tells the story of one family’s Christmas Eve preparations. A young boy and his dog spend the day misinterpreting everyone’s idioms and metaphors, like his mother saying they are going to be feeding an army and his grandma asking him to help trim the tree. It goes from first thing in the morning (and the author missed an opportunity to showcase “rise and shine”!) when his mother tells him that they’re very busy (“have to work our tails off”) all through the day and night until first thing Christmas morning when the boy sees that Santa has come and he “[lights] up like a Christmas tree!” (using a simile of his own). Every page features a different figure of speech (in colored font to distinguish it from the rest of the text) and a pen and ink drawing depicting a literal translation of the phrase. Realistic collage accents, like the photographed hats and scarf (complete with shadow) on the cover, provide color (usually red and green) to an otherwise plain page. The author has written several other punny gems including You Are What You Eat and Other Mealtime Hazards and Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards. While it’s not the most engaging storyline ever written, the pictures are clever, and the whole purpose of the book is to showcase the phrases anyway. Although the publisher recommends the book for preschool to middle elementary, I would actually recommend it as a teaching tool and for sharing with the grammar-lovers in your elementary school classroom.
GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: I read this aloud to BoyChild with some reservations; I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get across to him the meaning of all these unfamiliar phrases, and I was afraid he would get bored of it. Turns out that it didn’t matter. Not only did the strange phrases not throw him at all (I suppose the fact that I pepper my conversation with antiquated phrases and bizarre idioms helps him deal with ambiguity in meaning (I seriously said, “I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail!” when I sent him off to nap!)…), but he thought that all the pictures of the dog were funny (“Dat funny dog! He wearing a hat! Hahahaha!”), so he stayed put the whole time I was reading it. GirlChild read this on her own first, but when I asked her what she liked about it, she couldn’t be any more specific than just that she liked the story. (She *was* able to summarize it, oddly enough, despite not catching on to what was going on between the pictures and words at all.) When I pressed to find out what was funny about it and she still couldn’t answer, I figured I’d better read it to her. Now, although she seems incapable of applying reading comprehension strategies independently, she was full of questions when I read it to her (and BoyChild again)! I had to explain every single phrase to her (which didn’t seem to lessen her enjoyment of the story any), and BoyChild kept turning to Daddy and saying, “Daddy, you gotta see dis!” about all the funny pictures. I definitely think this is a book that can be enjoyed best with a discussion element, either one-on-one or in a group where figures of speech are being introduced with the opportunity for kids to volunteer what they believe the phrase means (and could be a springboard for simile/metaphor/idiom art projects). For older kids who are familiar with some of the phrases (and can figure out what the unfamiliar ones mean) and find grammar humor funny, independent reading would be good as well.