An ordinary man becomes a legend thanks to Phil Bildner and illustrator John Parra with the release of Marvelous Cornelius this week. The use of clever rhymes and alliteration make a mere trash man a man of contagious energy and spirit for his beloved town of New Orleans. I was allowed to revisit the city of jazz through Bildner’s ability to recreate New Orleans on the page and through Parra’s incredible illustrations of the city. While walking through the pages of this book, I was able to smell the sweetness of beignets, peel off the wrapper of a praline in anticipation of a bite, walk through the French Quarter and see the river that meanders through the town. It is true talent to be able to recreate a city through all five senses and this is ‘marvelously’ done in this book of New Orleans.
It is hard to believe it has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina pulverized this beautiful city, but through the help of citizens across our nation, it has been rebuilt. Volunteers poured in offering their man power, love and support. Relief Concerts were attended, races for NOLA were run and people like Cornelius helped a fallen city stand proudly once again. This is a modern day folktale of an ordinary man who helped us become better people through his example.
In the classroom:
Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and Casey Jones are all known folktales of men who were essential men who helped shape our nation. They were simple men who did what they were needed and their notoriety helped them become larger than they were in life. In this book, Cornelius is similar. Shortly after Katrina, Cornelius passed away, but his spirit and passion for his job lives on. Folktales give us hope for a greater good, a greater person and the ability to aspire to be more than life. In the classroom you can offer this gift to your students by reading folktales, fairytales and fables. This book should be added to your collection as a modern day folktale. In both 2nd and 3rd grade it is a CCSS to recount stories, including folktales and fables, and to determine their lesson (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.2 and 3.2.) This book provides a lead in to modern day folklore. Are there people in your students life who are making changes in their own life? After reading this story, have your students select a person and create their own folktale. Make sure your students include a moral or a lesson within their story such as Bildner has done in this tale.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Parra (Chronicle Books | 9781452125787 | August 4, 2015)