Episode 161: Using Picture Books to Teach Irony in Literature

In this episode we talk about the types of irony and some great picture books to help make them clear. Even if you’re not teaching irony, we share some fun books you’ll want to check out!

Show Notes with Links:

(00:00): Introduction and Welcome

Types of Irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic

(01:37): Verbal irony

Don’t Close Your Eyes: A Silly Bedtime Story

(02:19): Situational Irony

Knight Owl
Enemy Pie

(03:18): Dramatic Irony

My Best Friend

(04:35): Other irony and some satire

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

(05:23): The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

(06:11): It’s Not Hansel and Gretel

It’s Not Jack and The Beanstalk

It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood

It’s Not The Three Little Pigs

(07:41): Closing

(08:10): Announcement

(10:13): Feel free to ask questions

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. This week I want to continue the series on using picture books to teach literary devices to our children and to our students. And I know that’s not true discipleship where we’re talking about spiritual things, but I think this is a fun way to use picture books and maybe would be helpful to those who are homeschoolers, and I just love to use picture books with my students. So we’re going to talk about today: irony. There are three types of irony that we all know and love in our stories and in case you haven’t been teaching for a while and need a refresher on what they are, there are three types of irony. One is verbal irony. That’s where we say tongue in cheek, satire, sarcasm. It’s saying the opposite of what you mean, that is verbal irony. Then we have situational irony, which is where the situation is just not what we expected. The character does something totally unexpected, we have a serious plot twist, a surprise ending, that’s situational irony, and a good author for situational irony would be O. Henry and how his stories always have a plot twist at the end, that’s a surprise ending. Dramatic irony is where the audience knows what’s going on, but the main character does not and he’s pretty clueless. So you’re telling the character, “No, look out, this isn’t what you think.” So when we come to picture books and board books, I have some examples that will fall into these categories.

The first one is verbal irony, and there aren’t too many books that are sarcastic out there. There are some out there nowadays, there didn’t used to be, but there are some. But one I just love is called Don’t Close Your Eyes: A Silly Bedtime Story by Bob Hostetler and Illustrated by Mark Chambers. This is a board book and it’s a bedtime story, and of course it’s ironic that he’s saying don’t close your eyes all the time because that’s exactly what we want them to do as they’re getting ready for bed, to get sleepy and close their eyes and go to sleep. So it’s really a cute book, but for your older children, it’s a very simple, easy way to show them what is meant by verbal irony and to help them grasp that and to illustrate that with them.

Then the second one is situational irony, and last time when I was talking about conflict, I talked about Knight Owl by Christopher Denise. This book also works for situational irony because we don’t expect an owl to be a brave and successful knight, and yet he is and he actually does a lot of wonderful things in the kingdom. It’s situational irony, unexpected, a plot twist at the end a little bit, and it’s just really cute. Another one that falls into this category with situational irony would be Enemy Pie, which I’ve talked about on numerous occasions because it is such a fabulous book. If you haven’t read it before, definitely I recommend you getting it. It is such a great book. I feature it also in my devotional book because it is such a good book with so many good lessons. But, total surprise ending plot twist, unexpected situations happening, so this one is perfect for situational irony, dramatic irony.

Dramatic irony where something’s going on in the story that the main character doesn’t understand, but we understand as an audience, and that is My Best Friend by Rob Hodgson. This is a story about a mouse and a giant owl. The mouse is like, this is my very best friend, the owl, and you can tell the pictures that the owl is just annoyed through most of the story and he’s going to eat the mouse, and the mouse does not understand that. He just thinks that the owl is providing for him and feeding him and taking care of him, and he’s just the wonderful best friend that he’s never had before, and it’s so funny, and of course it does have a little bit of a situational irony at the end, but it is a really cute book, so that one is a wonderful one for talking about dramatic irony. Then what we can do after we clearly explain what the different types of irony are and then show this example through a simple picture book and a great story that will captivate your children no matter what age they are. Then you can talk about what they see in some other literature or maybe they can think of another picture book that shows the same type of irony and help them to really grasp what we mean by these different types of irony.

Now, some other books that are a lot of fun to use to teach irony and satire where you have parody or you have tongue in cheek, the verbal irony or the situational irony are some of the books that retell fairytales or common stories and they become hysterical to us because they are so opposite of what is expected. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is an old one by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. This is an old classic, it’s been out now for a long time and it is a great book that is just goofy. The Stinky Cheese Man is a play on The Gingerbread Man, and they have Chicken Little, Jack and the Beanstalk, and several other stories in this book.

Then there’s The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenberg. This story is a total flip of the traditional three pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, it’s really well done. You have the other one, that’s the truth about the wolf, the truth of the story from the Wolf’s perspective, which is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and you’ve probably read this one, it’s been out since ’96, it’s Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. This one, it tells his side of the story and it’s really funny. So a lot of these, fractured fairytales we usually call them, are really good for talking about irony as well because you’ve got the unexpected ending or you’ve got tongue in cheek, you’ve got the verbal irony.

There’s this one author, Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator on these books. He has, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel (It’s Not a Fairy Tale). He has four of these out, so he’s got It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and there’s a lot of sarcasm in this story. This would not be appropriate for very young children just because I think if the sarcasm is harder for them to understand and appreciate, your older kids will love it and it’s pretty irreverent, so you know, take that with a grain of salt. You can also, at least some of these, you can read on Kindle Unlimited, so you can preview them before you ever get them or go to the library and preview them so you can decide if you think they’re appropriate or not. I think they’re funny. It’s Not Jack and The Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, and It’s Not The Three Little Pigs are the four books he’s written in this genre of fractured fairytales, which plays into the whole concept of irony, like I said. For situational irony and also for verbal irony and I guess sometimes dramatic irony can come in there, but usually not. Usually it’s situational and verbal when you’re talking about parody and satire. So these are some of the books that are available that can help you to really nail down the ideas of irony with your kids when you’re trying to teach them that and then go into the heavier literature that has more going on with it and help them to be able to really pull out those concepts of irony.

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media, we really appreciate it when you do, it’s the way things work, it’s how people know we’re here. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment at TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you. We respond to every comment and question.

Before we close today, I wanted to talk about the upcoming plan for this podcast. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are switching to shorter seasons. Instead of doing a season for the whole year, we are going to do short seasons of about 9-10 weeks each and then we’ll have a break and then we’ll come back. So we’ll have four seasons a year, one for each quarter of the year with a few week break in between, and we went to that because I’ve had several friends who are podcasters who’ve gone to this plan and it helps them to be able to keep up better with their podcast to enjoy it more and also their listeners to enjoy it more because then in between they have reruns and an opportunity to catch up on any episodes you may have missed, so the listeners seem to appreciate it as well. In the four years we’ve been doing this podcast, we have had very few weeks off, very few breaks, so we’re very excited to go to this new plan. Actually, we’ve been going for three years, this is our fourth year. So next week begins our break. You will have some posts that will be older reruns of some podcasts you may have missed before you even knew we existed, so we will post those for you. You can still ask questions, you can still make comments on the blog. We will look for those and we will respond. We’re not disappearing, we’re just working on more episodes, so then we will be back. The first thing I want to say is be sure to subscribe so that when we come back you will be notified that we have a new episode. You can do that easily by joining my mailing list as well because then you always get a notification when we post a new podcast episode, so that will help you there. We would appreciate it if you do that so that you don’t miss out. We will be back on October 10th, the first week of October, so we will be gone for the month of September from doing new episodes and we will start with our new episodes again in October, so we hope you have a wonderful beginning of the school year.

If you have any questions about what books to start the school year with or to prepare your children for the new school year, you can certainly ask about those or look in my blog. I will probably have a list there you can look at or some links to some other blogs that share some lists for good books to prepare your kids to go back to school, and then we have several episodes that we will be reposting that deal with each subject, so if you would like to know some different picture books that are out there that will help supplement what you’re teaching your children or what they’re learning in school in the different subject areas, we will post those links so you have access to those easily. So, just know that we haven’t disappeared, we’re still here, we’re working hard, preparing great material for you, and we hope that you will enjoy it and we appreciate you so much. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to empower children and adults to embrace everyday discipleship every day. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children everyday.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 35+ years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 35 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *