Terrific by Jon Agee is a funny and entertaining book about the main character Eugene and his new friend, Lenny. This book opens up the topic of what sarcasm is and how an unlikely friendship gets established. It’s also a wonderful book about treating others with respect, whether they are a human or an animal. The book begins with the sarcastic and pessimistic character Eugene who wins a free trip to Bermuda. What does he say? He says Terrific! He doesn’t mean the word Terrific though because he is being sarcastic. How do we know this? We know this by his facial expression and what he says after, “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.”

Eugene goes on the cruise but there is a storm and Eugene gets stranded on an island where he meet a parrot named Lenny. He says grumpily, “What good is a parrot?” Lenny the parrot turns out to be a wise and smart parrot who helps Eugene build a boat and save themselves. After they set shore in their new boat, they get rescued by another boat who knows Lenny and claims to have lost him. However, they think Lenny is useless and dumb. Eugene tells the fisherman how smart Lenny is but they don’t believe him and thinks he is crazy. When Eugene finally gets to Bermuda, he can’t find Lenny again. What happened to him? As he watches the fisherman leave the pier, he spots Lenny again. He asks him, “Your boat is leaving. What are you waiting for?”. He says “You!”.  This time Eugene has a happy face and says “Terrific!” and means it!

Language and Learning Tips: Terrific is an excellent book for language and learning because it contains many different higher level language concepts including pragmatic language. As you reading the story, ask your child, “Is Eugene happy about going to Bermuda?” “How do you know?” Eugene’s facial expressions change throughout the story which should be discussed and pointed out by the reader. This book is an excellent example on how important nonverbal communication is, especially facial expressions and intonation. As you are reading the book, use intonation and expression to show the sarcasm of Eugene’s voice. To learn more about reading with expression, click here. Terrific is also a story about believing in others and developing friendships. When the fisherman labeled Lenny as “dumb bird”, this caused him to feel isolated and dis-empowered. In Terrific, this ridicule is about a bird. However, this happens in real life. How does it feel to be labeled “dumb”? Explain the feelings that Lenny feels and how this affects his relationship with Eugene. Eugene defends Lenny and this is part of being a good friend.

Carryover Activity! Say a word and have your child guess your feeling based on your facial expression. For example, say the word “happy” but make a sad face.

Check out the book, Life on Mars, another favorite children’s book of mine by Jon Agee.



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