Frederick, the award-winning picture book by Leo Lionni, is about the power of imagination. Frederick is a mouse who collects things in his mind – the sun’s rays, colors, and words – instead of working to put away food for the winter like the rest of his family. After the food is gone, it is Frederick’s unusual collection that helps the mice get through the cold, dark winter, as they remember the warmth of the sun and the bright colors of summer. Frederick cures their boredom with his poetry.
This is a great book for circle time this fall and to teach children how animals prepare for the winter. The author, Leo Lionni, a native of Holland (May 5, 1910-October 11, 1999) illustrated this book with collages. Sharing the pictures in Frederick is a wonderful way to introduce children to this new art technique. Use the activities in this article to complement the book and help children to understand the story.
Children Can Paint Pictures in their Minds
Talk about how Frederick helped his friends recall the beautiful colors of flowers growing in the meadow. Invite the preschoolers to close their eyes and think of beautiful things. Now ask them to open their eyes and pick up a crayon. Make sure they choose a color they think is beautiful. Let them make marks onto paper. Do this activity two more times, each time with a new beautiful color. After the third time, ask each child to talk about the three beautiful things he remembered. Encourage the children to draw a picture of something beautiful that they would like to remember on a dreary, winter day.
Frederick’s Color Game
This is a musical game that teaches colors too. Clear an open space where the children can move freely. Tape large squares of colored construction paper on the floor, using a variety of colors. There must be one square per child. Explain to your group that they will be dancing around the squares while the music plays. When the music stops, each child must find the closest square and stand on it. You can even have them name the color. Challenge your group to move around the squares in other ways, such as hopping, skipping, jumping, and crawling.
Make a Collage Like Leo Lionni
This is a good activity to teach the art technique of collage. Invite the children to tear or cut squares from tissue paper in a variety of colors. Show them how to dip a paintbrush into liquid starch and spread it on a piece of waxed paper. Encourage your group to place the squares onto this sticky surface. Repeat this process until the entire surface is covered. When pieces overlap, children will discover new colors appearing. Talk about primary and secondary colors and how you can achieve this using the technique of collage. After the paper is completely dry, you can cut the waxed paper into shapes if you wish. Punch a hole at the top, thread it with yarn, and hang this in a sunny window.
Wee Mice Finger Puppets
The children will enjoy making mice finger puppets to act out rhymes and dramatize mouse songs. You can make one puppet or one for each finger. Cut out circles of paper about the size of a quarter. Make the finger mouse by forming it into a cone with the pointed end as the head. Tape the cone shut. Invite the children to draw facial features with a marker. Little ears can be cut from construction paper and a small piece of yarn can become the tail.
Think of ways to use these puppets. Recite the following traditional verse that has been adapted to mice.
This little mouse went to market.
This little mouse stayed home.
This little mouse ate Swiss cheese.
This little mouse had none.
And this little mouse went squeak, squeak, squeak all the way home!
As you enjoy reading the story of Frederick during preschool storytime, think of other ways you can incorporate a mouse theme into your curriculum. You may also want to do an author study on Leo Lionni.