A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is an amusing tale about a girl who finds a strange beast in the woods and brings him home to take care of him. It is also the tale of a beast who is minding his own business when he is accosted by a terrible beast that kidnaps him and subjects him to all sorts of torture. It is the same story, but told from two different perspectives! What a perfect book for discussing a narrator’s perspective, and of course to learn to compare and contrast characters.
Discussing A Tale of Two Beasts
A Tale of Two Beasts is amusing. It’s funny to see the different perspectives in the two versions of the story. The girl thought she was being so nice; the beast thought she was kidnapping him and torturing him with squirrel food and boredom. Because it’s essentially the same story, it helps the kids see a few important concepts of reading response.
Narrator. The narrator made a huge difference on the feeling of the actions that happened. Was it a kidnapping or a rescue? In many books, the narrator changes the feel of the story. The entire question of “is the narrator reliable?” is one that will recur throughout the lives of the readers in various literature classes. Understanding who the narrator is is imperative to understand literature.
Perspective. Why did the two narrators share different stories? The two characters had a different perspective. To a girl who lives in a home, a strange animal hanging on a branch and making a feeble sound may be in need of rescue (although, where is the mother that lets a daughter bring wild beasts into the home?). To the animal who lives in the wild, this is removing him from his home. Even in books with an omniscient narrator, the reader must consider the plot through the perspective of the the characters. The entire “walk a mile in my shoes” saying is true for understanding literature as well.
Character development. The ending is similar in both books (running through the woods without pajamas on), so it is possible to compare the two characters. How is the girl acting differently than she would have in the beginning of the book? How is the beast acting differently? What prompted the change?
Comparing Characters in A Tale of Two Beasts
I often feel the best way to begin a discussion about comparing and contrasting is to brainstorm in a Venn Diagram. This way the student can better place just what is similar and what is different.
Some items may be difficult to place. Was the feeling the beast had while alone in the woods similar to that which the girl felt while she was alone at home? I thought that the two both felt lonely without the other. My son thought that although both the girl and the animal changed their minds about each other, he did not necessarily think they were both lonely. He thought the beast felt she was not a beast and the girl decided that the beast was a friend not a pet to trap at home.
Just as I said yesterday, there is not a right and a wrong answer. As long as we can find our “evidence’ in the picture and text, then it works!
Writing a Compare and Contrast Composition
We use the Venn diagram to sketch and outline for an “essay.” For a compare/contrast essay, it works really well to have a paragraph each for unique characteristics and then a paragraph for the similarities. In my printable, I gave some suggestions on what students can ask themselves as they work on this outline.
Once the ideas are outlined, then the student can write their paragraph or essay about the characters in the book.
Comparing and contrasting is an important tool for gaining a strong understanding of the stories we read. Throughout an educational career and throughout life we are always comparing book characters to our own life, to the other books we’ve read, to the people we’ve met. Further, to have empathy we need to recognize and understand different perspectives. Comparing and contrasting in literature is a great step.
Download the Lesson Idea
I’ve put together some simple worksheets to go along with the process I describe above. If you’d like it, download it from my shop!
Note that this book is available from my Usborne Books & More shop. I’m an independent consultant. Here’s a bonus! If you buy this book through my link, I’ll reimburse your shipping cost. Contact me and let me know you’ve ordered and I’ll paypal you the shipping cost!
This is the second in a 5-day series of Picture Book Writing Prompts for Elementary Students. See my landing page for links to more posts and ideas like this one and check back tomorrow morning for more.