FANCY THAT by Esther Hershenhorn

Before reading the story to students, share the following Author's Note:

      Before the camera was invented in the late 1840's, artists traveled about America capturing people's lives and likenesses on canvas.  Known as limners - or fancy painters when they painted signs and surfaces, these portrait painters moved about the countryside, setting up their studios in inns, shops, homes and farmhouses.  Many limners were self-taught.  Often, they posed their subjects against prepared backgrounds, as if by formula.  Then they rendered their subjects in a simple flat style, using oils, water colors or pen and ink.  Some limners specialized in subject matter, painting only animals or sailing vessels, buildings or landscapes.  Today, people consider the discovered works of America's limners and fancy painters folk art and treasure the paintings accordingly.  Many of these paintings, often unsigned, hang in museums around the world.

    Megan Lloyd painted the illustrations in FANCY THAT in much the same way the character Pippin Biddle would have painted - using pen, ink and egg tempera.
(Note: see Illustrator's Note)

After reading the stories, ask students to consider:

How might the opening page marked "Berks County, Pennsylvania Almshouse, 1841" be different were the illustrator to set the scene today?

How might the story be different, were the story set in today's world?

What was America like in 1841? Who served as President?  What were some of the newspaper headlines that Pip might have read as he traveled about that year?  How were Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrated in America in 1841?

Paint a portrait in words, then use the words to outline the subject's head and face.

Create a portrait using images and items that are meaningful to the subject and his life.

What are the ways a person can create or recreate another person's image or likeness today?  Think creatively! 

Draw a map tracing Pip's journey through Pennsylvania.

Recommended titles:
American Folk Art for Kids, William C. Ketchum Jr., Chicago Review Press
American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, Jean Lipman, Whitman Museum, 1980
What Presidents Are Made Of, Hanoch Piven, Atheneum
The Girl in the Red Dress, Nicki Ncholson, Viking
Photo Odyssey, Arlene Hirschfelder
The Ox-Cart Man, Donald Hall, Viking
Written by Esther Hershenhorn
Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger
Simon & Schuster ISBN:  0-689-82665-6
Written by Esther Hershenhorn
Holiday House ISBN:  0-8234-1642-9  
Written by Esther Hershenhorn
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
Holiday House ISBN: 0-8234-1603-4