by Peggy Rathman
Change, Identity, Uniqueness
Before Reading Questions
- What does the term "copycat" mean?
- Is it considered good or bad to be a copycat? When might copying someone be a good thing? (Some students may notice the step-by-step drawing of the cat on the back cover, which is a good example of how copycatting might be a good thing).
- Look at the front cover. Which character do you think is Ruby? How do you know? (Note that Ruby's flowers are really pinned on, and she is copying Angela's answer, oblivious to the fact that she is solving an entirely different math problem).
Class newcomer Ruby admires Angela's bow. After skipping home to lunch, Ruby returns to class wearing a similar bow in her hair.
Another day Ruby admires Angela's handpainted T-shirt and sneakers. Coincidentally enough, Ruby returns after lunch with a hand-painted T-shirt and sneakers. "Don't touch," she warns, "I'm a little bit wet."
This continues until Angela, who had been flattered at first, grows tired of Ruby's replications, which are stealing the thunder from Angela.
Finally Miss Hart, the girls' teacher, asks Ruby to stay after school for a talk. I what seems like the final scene, Miss Hart encourages Ruby to be herself, to be the best Ruby she can be. Miss Hart smiles at Ruby. Ruby smiles at Miss Hart's long, painted fingernails. (A great scene to revisit for a discussion of foreshadowing).
When Ruby returns after the weekend with long, painted (fake) fingernails, and continues to copy what her classmates say, an exasperated Miss Hart asks, "And what else did you do this weekend?" Ruby responds, "I hopped." She then demonstrates her unique hopping skills for the class, and the teacher, seizing upon the moment, turns on some music and has everyone copy Rudy.
Thus dignified for her own unique gifts, Ruby hops home with Angela in a satisfying happy ending.
After Reading Questions
- Why do you think Ruby felt it was necessary to copy Angela?
- Why did Angela enjoy it at first and then become upset?
- What clues gave Ruby away? For example, how did the teacher know that Ruby hadn't been a flower girl?
- What advice do you think Ruby would give another child who came into this class as a brand new student?
- When might there be times that it's hard to be ourselves?
- Extending patterns is an excellent math concept that connects the idea of pattern and repetition with copying. Many books offer examples of both numerical and graphic patterns.
- Create a class poem titled "Sometimes." The lead-in phrase would be "Sometimes I wish I could..." and each student offers a talent which they feel is uniquely their own. So the poem might read: "Sometimes I wish I could /Swim like Ronald/ Cook like Margaret/ Build with Legos like Anthony/ etc." The final line of the poem might be "But most of the time I'm happy just to be me."
- Play the drama game called "Mirror." One student is the actor, and she slowly changes her hands, body, or face. Her partner must mirror, or copy, the movements. Let students practice this for some time, and you'll find that it becomes difficult to tell who is the actor and who is the mirror.