Maya Makes a Mess

Maya Makes a MessMaya Makes a Mess
By: Rutu Modan
Publisher: Toon Books
Format: Hardcover, 6 x 9, 32 pages, Full Color, $12.95
ISBN: 978-1-93517-917-7

As children my brother and I loved to make messes. We made a mess with our toys, our snacks, our meals, our backyard, most certainly in the sandbox, and even more certainly with any sort of art supplies. In fond hindsight, we were pretty lucky that our mother and father encouraged our so-called "creativity." Despite our parental encouragement, however, not everyone shared such a unique outlook on our efforts. Three doors down lived another little girl about my age. Around age 8 we decided to be friends. After all, we could just walk to each other's houses. It was convenient. But our friendship was short-lived. The convenient distance didn't matter. After only one playdate I realized I had nothing in common with my potential friend; later, I also realized that I was never invited back over. While I wanted to play "creatively," she and her mother were absolutely sure that I was doing nothing but making a mess.  

Today, as a thirty-something adult, I treasure my ability to make messes, even if others don't value my clearly brilliant artistic talent. And, for that reason, I am extremely excited to introduce early readers, teachers, parents, and librarians to Toon Books' latest early reader comic, Maya Makes a Mess. A child after my own heart, Maya challenges the stats quo of what making a mess is really all about. Invited to eat dinner with the Queen of England will Maya be able to impress the most prestigious of audiences? Or will she just end up making a mess?  

For all of the creative mess-making and clearly genius kids (and some of us adults) out there, I think you'll find Maya a delightful new friend.  

Elements of Story
Plot: Maya's parents are concerned about her table etiquette and manners. When she gets an invitation from the Queen, however, Maya sends young readers a unique message about being true to themselves.

Major Characters: Maya, Maya's mom and dad, the Queen's messenger, the Queen, the stewardess, the dinner guests (especially the Duchess, the Princess, the Countess, the Duke)

Settings: Maya's house, plane trip, Queen's palace, car escort home

Themes: Identity, Self-awareness, Manners, and Etiquette

Suggested Literary Pairings: The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein, The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, Just a Mess by Mercer Mayer, Monter Mess by Lewis Trondheim, It's Ok to be Different by Todd Parr

NCTE/IRA Standards
1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Sample Lesson Plan for Early Readers
This is the first time I am posting a link for a lesson plan, and I hesitate to do so. HOWEVER, Toon Books not only publishes high quality early reader comics, but also provides comprehension-based lesson ideas. In this case, I greatly appreciate the connection that Toon Books is trying to create between reading at home and reading at school.  

Since it probably wouldn't be the best idea to make a mess at school let's hand over that fun-filled opportunity to the parents. First, send a brief summary of the book home to parents or show them the link for their own consultation: http://toon-books.com/mayamakesamess. Next, advise parents to enter their children in the Toon Books Maya Makes a Mess contest. Note: be sure to mention that parents are encouraged to place whatever limits they feel comfortable with on this fun-filled comprehension lesson plan, for if students can explain Maya and her mess to their parents and then participate in their own supervised mess making we will know they understood the story. After all [smirking], if they don't make their own mess how else will we know they truly grasped the idea?  

Parents can go to the following link to enjoy and document their fun-filled at home lesson with Maya Makes a Mess: http://toon-books.com/mayamakesamess/messy-eater-contestants. Parents and students should also be encouraged to share their photos on a future class day.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.