Retro Review: The Full Belly Bowl
I eat the same thing for lunch every day. Granola bar, string cheese, banana, crackers, pretzels with peanut butter. I like those things and they’re easy to pack, so that’s what I stick with. I’m not saying this to highlight how boring I am (although… mission accomplished); I’m saying this to make the point that when you find something good, you tend to stick with it. “The Full Belly Bowl” has been one of my standbys for years. It’s read aloud gold. If it’s not in your collection, you’re missing out on a story that truly engages kids.
A folktale, well told, can really draw youngsters in. “The Full Belly Bowl” begins with our unnamed protagonist (known only as “the very old man”) rescuing a “wee small man” from the clutches of a fox. In return, the small man gives his savior a gift – the Full Belly Bowl. He also leaves directions:
Use it wisely or it will be a burden. To empty, pour it out. When not in use, store it upside down and out of reach of children.
Having nothing else to go on, the old man experiments with the bowl and discovers that it duplicates anything that is put into it. His hunger is soon a thing of the past. But when he discovers that the bowl can duplicate things besides food, the story starts getting interesting.
It made him wonder what would happen if he put a coin in the bowl, and though the only coin he had was a copper penny, he decided to give it a try.
But the very old man’s excitement about his discovery leads to a hasty mistake. Tension builds until the man’s dreams of a wealthy future are dashed, putting him right back where he started. To the very old man, however, this is not a bad thing.
The colored pencil illustrations are detailed and inventive. When an unfortunate accident with the Full Belly Bowl leaves the very old man’s house rodent infested, the page is literally covered with mice. The borders of each illustration also add to the story. When the man discovers he can eat all he wants with the help of the bowl, food is incorporated in the border. Overall, the effect is that of an illustrator who was really seeking to compliment the story.
Add this one to your read aloud menu and it may well become a staple.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
Filed under: Reviews
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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