A 5-Star Book Review of the Jeff Brown Classic "Flat Stanley"
Introduce Your Students to Flat Stanley
There is an awkward age for books in which a child is old enough to begin reading but too young for most of the books written for youth. Flat Stanley is a classic book that can fill in that gap allowing a child to be challenged by language and yet not be challenged by the ideas or even the length as it has a number of independent short stories that are just about a perfect length for a bedtime story or for the child who is learning to read to make it through a story comfortably in one sitting.
The Story of Flat Stanley
Flat Stanley is a fun, simple idea. Stanley Lambchop is a young boy that has a bulletin board fall on him one night. He isn’t hurt by the board--instead, he is flattened. The story tells of his family and adventures. There are five stories is the book.
- The first of these is simply the story of him becoming flat and his trip to the doctor who ensures him that everything is fine.
- The second simply plays with the idea as he slides under doorways, slips into the storm drain to save his mother’s ring and is even mailed to California for vacation.
- In the third story Stanley tries to help his younger brother with his jealousy by allowing him to fly him like a kite.
- The fourth has Stanley help catch two art thieves by pretending to be a painting.
- Finally, in the fifth story, his brother uses a bicycle pump to return him to normal. There is a short afterward that makes it clear that Stanley will become flat again.
Simple and fun adventure stories these each play with the basic idea of being flat as well as telling fun and simple adventure stories filled with both action and humor so that any child should enjoy this book.
Flat Stanley was written in 1964, and with any story that old there is a question of how it has aged. In general, Flat Stanley has aged very well.
There is nothing in this story that would upset any modern reader except perhaps the last bit of the last story in which Stanley tries to become normal again because he is being made fun of. This is a minor point, especially since he returns to being flat, but that desire to be the same as others, while it still exists, is not generally encouraged. Few, however, would actually be bothered by this rather than simply finding it a bit different from what you might expect.
On the other hand, there are a few words that might be a bit confusing to the young reader. The most entertaining of these is in the museum. The thieves in the story are referred to as sneak thieves, and children will not know that term. This, along with the words, like whilst and gosh may require a bit of effort for a young reader to understand, but a bit of a challenge is a good thing.
Jeff Brown wrote five other Flat Stanley books. The next book in the series was not written until 1983 and is considerably longer than the first book in the series. This makes it a little more of a challenge, but like any other children's series this helps the books to grow up with the children, so to speak. In addition, there have been a number of Flat Stanley books written by other authors since Jeff Brown’s death. These include the worldwide adventure books that take Flat Stanley to a different part of the world and include a number of different tools for teachers including games, activities and lesson plans. This makes the books a good choice for teachers of elementary school children.
The Flat Stanley Project
Flat Stanley has gained considerable attention in the last years due to its use in schools. This is based on one of the most interesting parts of the first Flat Stanley book in which he is mailed across the country for vacation. The Flat Stanley project started in 1994 and is a pen pal program in which children in one classroom create a Flat Stanley and a journal of where Flat Stanley has gone. The students in that classroom then mail that to another class in the project which will do the same.
This is designed to encourage literacy as children first read the book and then share in creating new adventures for the character. It also helps to encourage children from different areas to share their local history and culture. This is a project created by a teacher that has gained considerable popularity and shows the value and quality of this book.
The writing in this story does at times feel a bit dated, but only in small ways. More important is that this is a fun story that you can give to virtually any young reader and know that while there may be a few words to challenge them they should not only be able to read and enjoy this story but do so without any worry about finding ideas or themes that will make a parent uncomfortable. So, if you’re looking for a good bridge between the fifteen-page golden books and the young adult novels--which can not only be intimidating but also contain more adult ideas--then Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is a great choice.