Ralph Flies the Coop is a children’s picture book aimed at teaching children about broadening their horizons through travel, intercultural experience, and foreign-language learning. Written and illustrated by Brattleboro residents, Jaimie Scanlon and Ellen Tumavicus, uses the character of Ralph, a rooster who leaves the farm and travels the world learning to say “cock-a-doodle-doo” in different languages, to introduce children to the concept that stepping outside our comfort zone and being open to different types of people and experiences can change our lives—and ourselves—for the better.
A TAIL OF TRANSFORMATION . . .
It’s life as usual on the farm until the pivotal moment when Ralph Rooster overhears the other animals complaining about his early morning racket and lazy habits.
… Ralph would soon learn that big trouble was brewing.
The ducks were all quacking. The cows were all mooing,
and the pigs were disgruntled about the same thing,
snorting, “That Ralph Rooster acts like he’s fit to be king!”
With feathers ruffled and pride tarnished, Ralph decides to leave the only home he has ever known. Flying the coop by the light of dawn, he embarks on a horizon-expanding global adventure.
“…He was gone by sunrise on the back of a goose.
Feeling fancy and free and a little footloose.”
With plucky travel companion Goose by his side, Ralph visits colorful, far-flung destinations, making friends and learning to say “Cock a doodle doo!” in the local language. In each new location, he embraces the opportunity to engage in enriching cultural experiences–-samba dancing in Rio, visiting the Great Pyramid on camelback, learning tai chi in Beijing—which begin to transform his character both inside and out. Ralph returns to the farm a humbler, wiser global citizen with a new appreciation for home and community, and a desire to share all the wonders the world has in store.
Ralph’s journey reminds us all that great things can happen when we put aside fear and embrace what is new and different.
The book’s message of “openness to otherness” became particularly timely, say its creators, given the current themes of anti-immigration and xenophobia dominating the political climate around the globe. “The project took on deeper meaning as we continued to collaborate over the past year,” said illustrator Tumavicus.
Scanlon and Tumavicus, both veteran educators, drew upon their own experiences living and teaching abroad to create the story and imagery. Scanlon was inspired to write the story over a decade ago while teaching English to children in Japan. “I was teaching a group of kindergartners the sounds that farm animals make in English–the cow says ‘moo;’ the pig says ‘oink, and so on. The kids thought it was hysterical and wanted to teach me the sounds in Japanese. I wanted to write a children’ book that would capture that playfulness and the fun of language-learning and international travel, especially for kids, like many in Vermont, who may not have a lot of exposure to multiculturalism.” When she and Tumavicus began working together, Scanlon says, they agreed that the final product needed to address the broader, related themes of acceptance of diversity and the meaning of global citizenship.
Tumavicus, a public school art teacher who has taught at international schools in Trinidad and Spain, cites current events, including terror attacks around the globe and Donald Trump’s anti-immigration platform, which sparked a sense of urgency about including the message of acceptance and a desire to encourage parents and educators to start conversations with children about cultural diversity. “Watching the news, we realized the timeliness of Ralph’s message.” she said. “The future will depend on the ability of today’s children to move past the fear and break down these perceived barriers. We hope this story will lay that groundwork in a fun, age-appropriate way.”
Educators have praised Ralph Flies the Coop as “an excellent resource for studying culture and community.” Deb Pierotti, a veteran teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School field tested the book in her second-grade class, noting, “It stimulates discussion of how journeys can expand awareness of ourselves and others, leading us to serve as more valuable members of our own community. My hope as a teacher is to offer my students stories that lead them to view differences with curiosity and respect. This book does that with humor and a very positive message.”
REVIEWS ARE FLYING IN . . .
“In ‘Ralph Flies the Coop,’ a Brattleboro duo hatches a different kind of children’s book . . .[that] provides exposure to other cultures to children who have no opportunity to travel.”
—The Commons, Brattleboro
Ralph Flies the Coop by Jaimie Scanlon and Ellen Tumavicus
Casebound Hardcover with Jacket
36 pages; 10 x 11.5 with full-color illustrations
Ages 5-7; $19.95
Pub Date: September 6, 2016
Distributed by Midpoint Trade. Orders@midpointtrade.com
Available wherever books are sold.
firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dede Cummings: 802-380-1121
Scanlon and Tumavicus are available for readings and speaking engagements, including integrated language arts/art workshops for elementary school children. To schedule a school or library visit, contact Jaimie Scanlon at email@example.com or call 802-579-8545.
Jaimie Scanlon and Ellen Tumavicus celebrate the launch of “Ralph Flies the Coop,” their new children’s book, with a party on Sept. 6 at The Restless Rooster at 134 Elliot St. in Brattleboro. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
“Ralph Flies the Coop” will be available locally at Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro.
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