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Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: The Little Red Flower

written by: S.S. Caine • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Paul Tripp’s “The Little Red Flower,” though first published in 1968, illustrates simply and charmingly the complex dynamics K-1 students experience every day in contemporary society. Thus it offers them a connection to the past while preparing them for social challenges they'll face in the future.

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    Often, the analysis that goes into a book review can lend itself to a dissection of a book’s story structure. This book review provides a recommendation of a rich teaching tool in addition to an outline for discussing with your K-1 students the structure of the story in question.

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    I. Synopsis - "The Little Red Flower" by Paul Tripp

    In this vintage book, Mr. Greenthumb moves into a town with no plants and puts a little red flower in his window. Everyone in the town is fascinated, and they begin coming every morning to look at and smell the flower as he waters it. During this time they notice he has a green thumb.

    One morning, when he doesn’t come to the window, the townspeople learn that Mr. Greenthumb is sick and thus can’t water his flower. A little boy offers to save the little red flower, but the townspeople scoff because he doesn’t have a green thumb. They stop coming by due to Mr. Greenthumb’s absence, but the boy sits by the flower day and night, watering it regularly.

    One day, Mr. Greenthumb comes out of his house fully healed alongside the boy with the flower—in full bloom. The townspeople notice Mr. Greenthumb’s thumb is no longer green, and he explains that he had paint on it before that was washed off. He gives seeds to all the little boys and girls, and soon a little red flower sat in every window in the town.

    II. Structural Breakdown

    • Protagonist Want - The little boy wants to save the little red flower
    • Obstacle or Conflict - The townspeople have scoffed at the idea because he hasn’t a green thumb like Mr. Greenthumb
    • Resolution - The little boy nurtures the flower and saves it, subsequently inspiring all the other children in the town to plant and nurture their own flowers.

    III. Timeless Morals, Relationship/Relevance to Modern Times

    • Everyone has a special touch.
    • Belief in yourself, desire to learn, and failure to give up will get you far.
    • Nurturing a thing (or a person) can save it and allow it to blossom.
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    IV. Other Lessons/Skills Taught

    • Figurative language
    • Idioms

    V. Any Challenges the Stories May Present

    • It’s quite possible that children today are less fascinated by flowers than they once were

    VI. Other Notable Attributes

    • Charming illustrations of diversely drawn characters
    • Planting flowers is a relatable, familiar exercise
    • “Green” message; celebrates the beauty of nature (a timeless moral in its own right)
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    • Although sentences are relatively--and appropriately--simple, this vintage book features a variety of good transitional expressions

    Image © Robertas Pezas

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Vintage Tales, Timeless Values: Early Reader Book Reviews

These book reviews are of vintage (or somewhat older and obscure) tales that offer timeless moral lessons and may help educators teach early readers that “old stories” are not so boring. Nor are they so different from the “new” stories of their young lives.
  1. Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: The Little Red Flower
  2. Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo
  3. Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: Belinda’s New Spring Hat
  4. Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: All the Lassies
  5. Vintage Book Review for K-1 English Teachers: Not This Bear!