The Wing on a Flea: A Book about Shapes, by Ed Emberley (AMMO Books, 2015)

What the book’s about

How many things can a triangle be? The beak on a bird? The wing on a flea?

This Ed Emberley classic, originally published as his 1961 debut, teaches kids about shapes and explores how shapes are found throughout our world. The whimsical, black-line drawings and bold, colored shapes are engaging and fun, and the rhythmic, rhyming text makes The Wing on a Flea a great read-aloud that leads kids to discover a new way to look at the world around them, whether indoors or outside.

Two Activities for ages 4 and up, by Jessica Young

Extension for English language learners, by Francisca Goldsmith

Activity 1: A Triangle Is . . .

Supplies

  • Lined or plain paper for brainstorming notes
  • Pencils
  • Large white drawing paper or roll paper
  • Crayons/markers and/or paints.

Activity

After reading The Wing on a Flea, ask kids to make a list of all of the things a triangle can be. Encourage them to “zoom in” and think about small things (like the wing on a flea) and “zoom out” and think about big things (like a mountain), and to think of their own ideas that aren’t in the book. This can be done individually, or kids can be divided into groups and challenged to see how many ideas they can imagine.

Based on their brainstormed lists, kids make a mural together, incorporating as many of their ideas as possible into one image.

When the mural is completed, hang it up and ask viewers to find as many triangles as they can.

This activity can be done focusing on any shape, or kids in different groups could each create a mural based on a different shape.

Extension

To excite more consideration of zooming the mind’s eye in and out, pair this with Istvan Banyai’s wordless books, Zoom and Re-zoom (both 1998).

Extension appropriate for English language learners

As an extension activity, kids read the rhyming stanzas in the book, and then compose some of their own about the different places they found specific shapes.

Activity 2: Shape Collage

 Supplies

  • White drawing paper, cardstock, or construction paper for background
  • Old magazines (especially those with buildings, vehicles, furniture, and animals)
  • Brightly-colored solid origami paper (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Permanent marker (to write names on bags).

Activity

Each child picks a shape as his or her focus and looks through magazines, hunting for that shape in the images or text. Ask them to rip out the pages where they find their chosen shape and then cut out the images with the shape in them.

Kids arrange their images on white drawing paper before gluing them down to get a composition that pleases them. After the composition is placed, the young artists glue down the big images first and then work up to the smallest as they complete their collage. To emphasize the shapes as they are in the book, kids can use origami paper to cut out the right size shape to go with each image, gluing the shapes where they belong on the images. (See the book for an example of how that looks).

Art tip

Cut shapes from the first step in this activity can be stored in a small plastic sandwich bag with the child’s name written on it if the full activity takes more than one session.

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