Author/illustrator: David Wiesner
Publisher: Andersen Press
Synopsis: Mr Wuffles ignores all the toys people buy for him. He's not lazy, he's just very picky. Now Mr Wuffles has the perfect toy and he's ready to play. But it's not really a toy at all. It's something much more interesting.
Reasons for selection: David Wiesner's books challenge the reader to look beneath the surface. Things are often not what they seem. Whether it's a dissonance between the name and character, the depiction of worlds within worlds, or the different viewpoints of pet and owner, there is always more to the story than meets the eye.
These prompts offer some different ways of looking at the text but they are not intended to be a script. Ask open ended questions to elicit response and use these supplementary prompts to encourage deeper thinking, where appropriate.
What's in a name? Introduce the title Mr Wuffles. What do you think this book will be about? What images do you get in your head when you hear the name? Pupils could draw their versions of Mr Wuffles.
Take a look at the front cover. Read the title and consider who Mr Wuffles is? Is it an unusual name for a cat? Briefly discuss the names children have given to their pets. Do the names suit the pets?
From the front cover, can you tell what Mr Wuffles is thinking? You might prompt the pupils to look at body language, eyes, the objects that surround Mr Wuffles.
Who or what is Mr Wuffles looking at? What effect does this create?
First encounters - allow time for pupils to read the story at their own pace. Then in small groups ask them to narrate the story, taking it in turns as they turn the pages. Once they have told the story ask them to record anything they found strange or puzzling. Harvest thoughts and discuss them with the class.
Looking deeper - depending on what has arisen from the initial discussions, you may want to look more closely at some of the following:
- Picking up on visual clues. when did you first realise that the spaceship was not one of Mr Wuffle's toys? ( there is a shadow of a flying spaceship on the back cover. All the other toys still have their price tags, so the spaceship is marked out as being different)
- Aliens. In what ways are the aliens similar to or different from what you imagine aliens would be like? In what ways are Aliens different from or similar to humans?
- Why do you think the Aliens have come? Are there any clues to their purpose? (flag and camera suggest an expedition. You could look at images of human exploration such as Edmund Hilary And Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) why do explorers like to plant a flag (represents achievement? states ownership? claims new territory?)
- When we first see the aliens, what do their expressions tell us about how they are feeling?
- The aliens have different coloured uniforms. What do the different colours mean? Does this tell us anything about their society? Are their similarities with our own society?
- What technologies do the aliens possess?
- Where do you think the aliens have come from?
- What does the word 'alien' mean? Find out about the UK Aliens Act 1905
- Language and communication: David Wiesner uses geometric symbols to represent the aliens' speech? Can you work out or guess what they are saying? what clues do you use to help with your interpretation?
- Have you ever been on holiday to a country where you didn't speak the language? How did you try and communicate with local people?
- Are there any symbols that are easy to translate? (e.g. look at the picture showing the aliens having their photograph taken with the ants. Also the photo where the aliens and ants make a dash for it. what do the triangles mean)
- Are any of the symbols used also used to represent our language (exclamation marks and there's a mark that looks similar to the question mark). Make the point that we can often use analogy to work out some meanings of words in unfamiliar languages)
- How do the aliens communicate with the ants?
- How do you think we would try and communicate with aliens? (you might want to make connections with other examples in literature such or show the Pioneer Plaque as a real example from the Pioneer space explorer.
- Art as communication: the ants use pictures to tell their history? Do these pictures remind you of anything you have seen before? (you may want to share pictures of the cave painting at Lescaux)
- Point of View: Wiesner uses a device that is familiar from children's cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. You only see the legs and feet of Mr Wuffles' owner. What effect does this create? Tell the story from different points of view: the human, Mr Wuffles, an alien, an ant. What are the differences in their points of view? Which characters seem able to understand the point of view of others and which seem impervious?
Read and compare Mr Wuffles with David Wiesner's Tuesday and Flotsam
- Small worlds: small things can be easy to dismiss, but David Wiesner seems to suggest that because things may be small in comparison to the size of a human being, it doesn't mean they are insignificant or unsophisticated. Explore this theme in relation to Mr Wuffles and Flotsam.
- Seeing and not seeing: Can you find any evidence to suggest that looking and seeing are themes in David Wiesner's books? Is there a difference between looking and seeing? What do different characters see that the other characters fail to see?
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