I felt the need to read something for young readers, something that was not quite a picture book and not quite a middle grades book. So I picked up Abby Hanlon‘s Dory Fantasmagory (Puffin Books, 2014) at Avid Bookshop when I was up in Athens a few weeks ago. Part chapter book, part graphic novel, and part out of this world, Dory Fantasmagory is the perfect book for the imaginative, off-the-wall, utterly creative kid in your life! With its fast-paced chapters and ridiculous antics, Dory Fantasmagory is a great read-aloud or independent read for elementary school students. The book’s many illustrations will appeal to all readers.
Here’s a quick summary. The younger sister of Violet and Luke, Dory, who is the baby, is not often included in their fun. And what she does to make up for it is absolutely entertaining. Let’s just say an imaginative monster friend named Mary and concocting a special poisoned soup with her fairy godmother Mr. Nuggy are just the beginning….
Hanlon’s writing is sharp and so very imaginative. Capturing the power of a child’s imagination, Hanlon draws readers into Dory’s fantastical world. But Dory’s parents, busied and haggard like so many parents, seem more annoyed than amused at her. And her siblings, Violet and Luke, are absolutely completed frustrated her. They finally turn around when Dory does something neither of them could imagine doing.
The literary merit of this text comes from its utterly amazing and insane imaginatively creative details. Hanlon’s commitment to sharing the inner workings of Dory’s extremely fantastical inventiveness is praiseworthy. Younger readers with wild imaginations will be validated by Dory’s stories. And adults will enjoy returning to their childhood. I so enjoyed how this book allowed me to return to my childhood memories like making forts out of our sectional couch’s cushions and making my younger brother do ridiculous things (can’t really mention all that I made him do here!).
Here are a few idea for using Dory Fantasmagory in your classroom:
(1) Ask students to focus on Hanlon’s writing and illustration style and Dory as a character before asking students to write or illustrate an additional chapter that details Dory’s antics.
(2) Have students imagine themselves as either Violet or Luke ten years later. Ask students to write letters to Dory from the perspective of Violet or Luke.
(3) Students can create discussion questions about the book. Here are some questions to get your students started in a discussion or Socratic seminar: (a) What qualities would Dory bring to our classroom? (b) What does Dory Fantasmagory teach us about sibling relationships? (c) How would you react if you were Dory’s mom or dad? (d) How are you alike or unlike Dory?
Tell me what you think of Dory Fantasmagory in the comments below!