Great Joy is a picture book, gorgeously illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (who also illustrated Edward Tulane), and the girls and I snuggled on the couch last week to read it together. This is one of those rich and layered stories best enjoyed by older children and adults. This is not to say a young child wouldn't love it; but the themes of homelessness and compassion, so delicately interwoven in the fabric of the narrative, are certain to spark thoughtful discussions between you and your children.
Here are some questions that came to us:
- What prompts Frances's concern for the organ grinder and his monkey?
- Why might Frances be especially attuned to their situation?
- What might be an explanation for Frances's mother's response?
- Why do you think the organ grinder responded to Frances's invitation as he did?
- Are all the problems solved at the end of the story? How is this realistic?
- How would you continue the story?
This simple yet powerful story will stay with me for a very long time.