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Anne W. Anderson and Rebecca L. Powell
Professor Jenifer J. Schneider
LAE 7747 Literary Theory
14 March 2013
The World is Flat, Stanley: Globalization and Absurdity in an Early-Reader Chapter Book
Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,
claims ten events or forces occurred during the latter half of the twentieth century that
contributed toward leveling the world’s economic playing field at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, moving it from an era of nationalism into one of globalization. None of Friedman’s
ten forces, however, includes a globe-trotting paper figure first introduced in a 1964 early-reader
chapter book, Flat Stanley. While critics argue over Friedman’s theories and conclusions, few
people dispute the increasing interaction among peoples, cultures, nations, and economies.
Still, few scholars have considered the influence of children’s literature, a segment of
both the literary and the education worlds, has had on this trend towards globalization. For
instance, the original Flat Stanley writing project was conceived by a third-grade Canadian
teacher, and Flat Stanley eventually connected children around the world with each other. Given
that countless parents, grandparents, and other adult relatives and friends facilitated the mailing
of Flat Stanley, that early, snail-mail-powered social network involved and included more than
just children.
In this paper, we discuss Jeff Brown’s original Flat Stanley book and sequels, Flat
Stanley’s subsequent transformation thirty years later into a classroom pen-pal-with-a- twist
writing project, the 21st century Flat Stanley books that take readers around the world with
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Stanley and friends, and the Flat Stanley Project’s Web site and iPhone software application.
How do they present the world and other cultures? And how is that presentation mitigated by the
discourse of absurdity found throughout the series?
Methods
We approached Flat Stanley from two perspectives, as one of us is a former elementary
school teacher currently working as a liaison between a school district and a university college of
education while the other is a journalist and author of children’s stories. Both of us came to this
project as student scholars with an interest in theorizing early-reader chapter books. To begin our
research, we read each of the books in the Flat Stanley series for a sense of the whole. After
reading, we met and discussed the original Flat Stanley paratext, illustrations, and text. We
created a chart to further explore each book’s cover illustration, setting, plot, depiction of the
main character in a new culture, and facts about the various places visited (Appendix A).
Specifically, we studied characters’ responses to various cultures, preconceptions related
to society other than their own, and the use of absurdity throughout the text. Our search also
included a visit to the titular character’s digital life at www.flatstanley.com. After studying the
books, we reviewed the literature related to discourses in the text, the notion of ethnocentricity
that is characteristic within the text, and the literary device of absurdity, which permeates the
series.
Theoretical Literature Review
An Understanding of Discourse
John Stephens, in his 1992 work, Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction, quotes
Guy Cook’s definition of discourse as “stretches of language perceived to be meaningful,
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unified, and purposive” (11) then distinguishes Cook’s linguistic discourse from his own
definition of narratological discourse as “the means by which a story and it significance are
communicated” (11). Language, of course, can be communicated verbally through speech;
visually by text, pictures, gestures, and physical positioning (body language); and through
symbolic sounds other than words (some forms of drumming, for instance). Specifically,
Stephens notes, “[P]ictures, like verbal texts, can be discussed in terms of their discourse, story
and significance since they, too, have a ‘what’ and a ‘how’ made up of represented objects and a
mode or style of representation” (162).
In explaining the narratological understanding of discourse, Stephens suggests “narrative
consists of three interlocked components, a discourse [presumably the discourse of the language
in which the text is written], a ‘story’ ...and a significance....” (12). The story is what the reader
ingests through the physical act of taking in text and is what the reader can regurgitate if
prompted to do so by the question, “What was that story about?” The significance, Stephens
writes, requires a “secondary reading level” made up of “emotional space which the reader can
inhabit largely on his or her own terms, matching the emotion from personal experience” and
containing the “thematic purposes and functions, whether deliberately...or implicitly” (14).
Stephens calls the “move to the level of significance...mandatory” based on cultural expectations
(drilled into us, perhaps, by generations of English teachers?) and, more importantly, by the
“impact...of such top-down discoursal elements as social practice, generic relationships and
inscribed point of view” (14).
Early-reader chapter books such as the Flat Stanley series contain discourses of text and
pictures and are told in narrative, or story, form. In terms of significance, we found two
discursive elements of significance in the Flat Stanley series, the elements of ethnocentricity and
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of absurdity. Each of these elements, what Stephens would call “macro-discourses” is conveyed
through language, illustrations, and the interaction between the two, what Stephens would call
“micro-discourses” (12-14). In order to understand both types of discourse, readers must be, as
Stephens terms it, “capable of bottom-up interpretation...be able to decode language in both
small and large units, and be sensitive to how...micro-discourses and macro-discourses interact”
(14). Two of those macro-discourses include ethnocentricity and absurdity, which we discuss
next.
The Discourse of Ethnocentricity
As we considered how educators have used Flat Stanley to teach everything from how to
address an envelope to global geography, we examined ethnocentricity through the discourses of
the Flat Stanley series. Weil, writing in a 1993 Roeper Review article titled “Towards a Critical
Multicultural Literacy: Advancing an Education for Liberation,” calls ethnocentricity “cultural
encapsulation” and defines it as “the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own group or
culture” (n.p.). Such ethnocentricity may come from assumptions about a culture or from
uncritical thinking about the culture.
To pretend that we have no assumptions about a culture is wishful thinking. Donald
Macedo, in his introduction to Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, writes, ”[T]he
Assumption of a View from Nowhere is the projection of local values as neutrally universal
ones, the globalizing of ethnocentric values, as Stam and Shohat put it” (24). In other words, in
thinking that we are being culturally neutral, we are denying our own culture and its
presumptions.
Equally self-deceptive is the belief that one can passively accept media representations of
other cultures. Weil terms such beliefs “borrowed thinking that is not rigorously or critically
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examined, [which] often poses as our own thinking.... As [borrowed] thinking substitutes for
critical reflective thinking, the uncritical mind looks for stereotypes and simplistic categories in
which to conveniently place people, things, and places” (n.p.).
Derrida addresses both types of ethnocentric thinking when he discusses the origins of
ethnology, a branch of social science developed in the late nineteenth century. Derrida notes:
“…ethnology could have been born as a science only at the moment when a decentering had
come about: at the moment when European culture—and, in consequence, the history of
metaphysics and its concepts—had been dislocated, driven from its locus, and forced to stop
considering itself as the culture of reference. … Consequently, the ethnologist accepts into his
discourse the premises of ethnocentrism at the very moment when he denounces them” (199).
Derrida’s ideas bring to the forefront the question of decentering. Can readers, especially
children, decenter-dislocate from their own culture-to examine the politics of difference and
otherness? Does writing a letter and imagining oneself to be a caretaker for Flat Stanley allow
the reader to create significance based on, as Stephens put it, personal experience and an
understanding of literary theme and embedded ideology about other cultures?
Essentially, as Derrida pointed out, any writing about a culture other than one’s own
presumes a viewpoint of other as different. Even when writers discuss similarities, such
discussions are within the context of implied differences. Some scholars feel such literature, even
if not intentionally so, is condescending. Laubscher and Powell (2003), for instance, writing in
the Harvard Educational Review, say of such constructions, “The visibly different are thus to be
forever grateful that they have been let in [into the literary space], but know that they never truly
belong....” (221). However, Laubscher and Powell also would not have us construct otherness as
a false-positive. “We believe,” they write, “that richer learning is possible through attention to
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such politics of difference, as opposed to add-on multiculturalism that “celebrates” exotic
otherness as diversity” (221). But is it, possible, as Laubscher & Powell say, attend to politics of
difference without first examining “otherness,” even exotic otherness?
In the Flat Stanley series, Stanley visits other cultures and views them from his white,
middle-class perspective, seeing them often as both exotic and as worthy of being celebrated.
Exotic and worthy of being celebrated, however, does not always mean the cultures are
accurately portrayed, as will be discussed in a later section of this paper.
Debates continue over whether writers can write about cultures other than their own.
Taken to one extreme, and allowing for freedom of the press and within the legal considerations
of libel and slander, anyone could write about any other culture regardless of whether or not the
depiction was accurate. Taken to another extreme, no one could ever write about anything other
than his or her own personal experiences and could not even include depictions of other people
in those experiences because to do so would be to portray them only from the author’s
perspective.
Yet one form of discourse routinely deflects and deflates other more caustic discourses:
humor in all its various forms. What mitigates what might otherwise be construed as
condescending ethnocentrism is the element of the absurd which permeates the Flat Stanley
series and to which we now turn.
A Discourse of Absurdity
Humor as a discourse within literature--even children’s literature--seems to be seldom
discussed. A review of indexes and tables of contents of several books [I will footnote this]
found almost no mentions of either “humor” or “play.” Where play is listed, it often is discussed
in terms of word play and refers to play’s definition as unimpeded movement. In this sense,
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Derrida describes the field of play as “a field of infinite substitutions” (205). In other words,
when we play with words we substitute one word with another to achieve a particular effect-alliteration, assonance, etc. Joseph Campbell, in his epic work The Hero with a Thousand Faces,
devotes three pages (out of 400+ page book) to a discussion of humor within one Hindu myth.
More recently, Brian Boyd’s 2009 book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and
Fiction, lists one reference for “humor” in the index--a reference which takes the reader to a page
discussing the “pleasure” readers derive from reading Dr. Seuss’s books...but which never
actually uses the word “humor” (333). Perry Nodelman, in The Pleasures of Children’s
Literature, lists the ability of a text to make the reader laugh as one of many “literary pleasures”
(25) but does not discuss the discourse of humor itself.
British psychologist Michael Apter, writing about his reversal theory of humor, suggests
“all types of humor, while retaining certain essential features in common, fall into two
basic...types,” which he calls “disclosure and distortion humor” (417). Whereas disclosure
humor, according to Apter, relies on words and images often having double meanings, distortion
humor takes a distinct identity with “certain real characteristics” which then “are varied
imaginatively, or exaggerated, to the point that the identity is diminished through absurdity”
(424). However, Apter cautions, “the term ‘distortion’ should not be taken to imply anything
pejorative” (424) as “the original characteristics must continue alongside the new ones and both
be clearly related to the same identity in a plausible way, thus creating a synergy” (424). As an
example, Apter suggests nonsense rhymes derive their humor from “the nonsense [ words being]
embedded in something sensible,” such as “rhyming lines, and a narrative that makes a certain
kind of sense” (425). Reversal theory suggests that “there is indeed a fusion of opposites in all
humor” (431). Apter gives the example of a Dilbert cartoon where “someone is told off for
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wasting electricity by using bold print on his computer screen” (431). In some forms of
humorous discourse, therefore, what is literally said is exaggerated to the point of absurdity and
the meaning becomes reversed--it becomes the opposite of what was stated.
Barbara Stern, writing in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, notes, “Both
literature and advertising share similar goals of getting inside audiences’ heads and inspiring
them to experience things in fresh, new ways. They also employ similar creative techniques to
say things in ways other than by direct statements of fact....” (72). Stern analyzed a number of
“literary tactics” (72) employed by advertisers, including the use of absurdity, which she says
“disrupts conventional notions about meaning by questioning its very existence” (75). In
particular, Stern writes, “Absurdist fiction rebels agains the beliefs and values of traditional
western culture....” (76). Because the author of the text is not conveying information in a
straightforward manner, but is instead presenting a story “in which characters behave
irrationally, where causal sequences of events are illogical, and where incongruous
juxtapositions of people and things occur” (76), the reader must, as Stephens put it, decode this
macro-discourse in order to understand the intended meaning of the author and to be able to
determine its significance in terms of literary theme and social implications. As Stern writes,
“The burden of interpretation is on the interpreter....” (76).1
In reading Flat Stanley, then, we must bring to the series an understanding of the
discourse of ethnocentrism, which postulates an inescapable absurdity in itself, and of the
discourse of absurdity.
1
Interestingly, a 2000 study of the effects of absurdity in advertising suggests that “positive cognitive
responses” produced by ads featuring absurdity were associated with increased brand recognition and increased
positive response toward the brand (Arias-Bolzmann, Chakraborty, and Mowen, 2000, 44). Does this mean we
respond positively to that which stimulates us intellectually?
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Discussion of Process and Findings
In this section, we apply the macro-discourses of ethnocentricity and absurdity to the Flat
Stanley phenomenon. In order to better understand Flat Stanley’s influence over the past almost
fifty years, we provide a brief history of the evolution of Flat Stanley.
A Brief History of Flat Stanley
The author of the original Flat Stanley, Jeff Brown, (1926-2003), wrote the first Flat
Stanley book after his sons asked him one evening what would happen if a bulletin board fell on
them during the night. He replied that they would not wake up because it would fall slowly, but
when they did, they would probably be flat. From that witticism, he created stories at bedtime for
his children about what life would be like if you were flat. Later, a friend of Brown’s suggested
he publish the adventures. Brown wrote five other books between 1983 and 2003, which were
illustrated by various artists, and which starred a no longer flat Stanley and his family. In the
final book, Stanley, Flat Again, Stanley reverts to his flat state.
Subsequently, in 1995, Dale Hubert, a third grade teacher in Ontario, Canada, began the
Flat Stanley Project, which involved students creating their own Flat Stanley cut-out character,
keeping a journal of Stanley’s adventures, and then mailing him to family and friends who were
asked to continue Stanley’s odyssey before returning him to the original sender. FlatStanley.com,
the Web site for the current Flat Stanley Project, describes the goal as being for students to
engage in an “authentic literacy project,” to encourage letter writing, either through
conventional mail or digitally, and to follow the characters on journeys around the world.
Hubert’s idea caught on and Flat Stanley experienced a new generation of readers. In 2001,
Hubert received the Prime Minister’s award for the Flat Stanley Project.
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In 2010, Darren Haas created an application for Flat Stanley on the i-Phone. Through this
application, students can create their own Flat Stanley characters, insert the characters into their
photos, and share them with others through their phones. In addition, students may also track the
travels of their characters. The Flatter World network consists of more than 4,500 schools in
more than 88 countries, and includes a Facebook page.
Ethnocentricity in the Original Story
Ethnically, Flat Stanley and his family have always been portrayed as white, middle-class
(Mr. Lambchop works in an office and wears a long-sleeved white shirt, suit pants, and tie; Mrs.
Lambchop wears pearls, a sweater top, and a skirt), suburbians (they go downtown to the
museum). However, while the text of the original Flat Stanley story has remained the same over
the past forty years, the overall illustrations have changed at least three times, changes in which
implies the locus of the ethnocentric perspective has shifted. Nowhere in the text is the
Lambchop family explicitly described as being white or middle-class; in this sense, the
illustrations convey more information than does the text. In this section, we first examine the
1964 illustrations by Tomi Ungerer and then the updated 2003 series’ illustrations by Scott Nash.
Finally, we examine the illustrations by Macky Pamintuan, who provided visual continuity by
reworking the illustrations for Jeff Brown’s books and did the original illustrations for the new
2009 Worldwide series.
In the original 1964 Flat Stanley, illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, all the characters in these
pen-and-ink drawings (colored?) all appear to be of Caucasian/European descent. The two
Lambchop boys, Arthur and Stanley, appear to have light complexions and medium brown hair.
Mrs. Lambchop is given a pinkish complexion while Mr. Lambchop and the boys have lighter
complexions. Arthur and Stanley have rounded eyes and small rounded noses. The adults are
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portrayed with longer, thinner noses. The doctor has a dark, walrus style mustache. The doctor is
portrayed as an older male, with glasses, and round in stature. His nurse, on the other hand,
appears younger and curvaceous, with long eyelashes, pursed lips, wearing a form-fitting
uniform and a nurses cap. The police officers in this version were portrayed in caricature, with
one having pudgy cheeks and the other a long, thin face.
In constructing a middle-class, suburban lifestyle, Ungerer depicts Stanley’s bedroom as
including a shelf full of toys typical of boys in the 1960’s (tools, a ball, a weapon, and a car).
There is an airplane suspended from the ceiling. Stanley wears pajamas in his bed, which is
depicted as having sheets, blanket, and pillow. Mr. Lambchop wears glasses and suspenders
early in the morning, otherwise he and the others are dressed formally. When Mrs. Lambchop
and Stanley go out for a walk, Mrs. Lambchop wears a fur-trimmed coat, gloves, and high heels.
Stanley is dressed in a shirt and tie.
In 2003, the illustrations in the Lambchop family books were updated by illustrator Scott
Nash. Whereas Ungerer’s 1964 sketches were more complex in terms of details, such as the
number of fingers on the characters’ hands and in terms of background details, Nash’s
illustrations appear flatter and more cartoonish. Flat Stanley still is depicted as light-skinned, but
now he has freckles and reddish hair. Mrs. Lambchop, Arthur, and Stanley are depicted with
round faces, but Mr. Lambchop’s face is long and his hair is thin. Mr. Lambchop’s nose appears
exaggerated in length and comes to a ski-slope point. Stanley, Arthur, and Mrs. Lambchop have
noses that appear as small triangles. Perhaps because her face is round and her nose is the same
as Stanley’s and Arthur’s, Mrs. Lambchop appears almost juvenile, with no cheeks and flat
features. She appears heavier than in the original 1964 edition, especially in comparison to the
adult men in the book. Scott Nash maintains the middle class suburban construction of the
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Lambchop family, particularly through the clothing choices for Mr. Lambchop and Mrs.
Lambchop. Mr. Lambchop is clothed, even on a trip to the park, in suit pants, a white, collared
shirt, tie, and a sweater top. Mrs. Lambchop, while taking a walk, wears pearls. However,
Stanley has changed from wearing a shirt and tie to a more casual v-neck, long sleeved sweater
and pants. Arthur emulates his father by wearing a shirt and tie. The doctor, in Nash’s version,
has changed from rounder to more slender, has more hair, and has a more well-trimmed
mustache. The nurse is not seen, except for her well-manicured, pointy, and highly-polished
fingernails. The policemen, though they appear somewhat amused by the activity of Mrs.
Lambchop, are less caricatured and more life-like. The thieves, in the museum scene, appear
elfish. Nash depicts the police chief as Black, broad, wearing glasses, a mustache, a toothy smile,
and with tight curly, dark hair.
When the Worldwide series began in 2009, Macky Pamintuan re-illustrated the original
books. His depiction of the first Flat Stanley story reimagines the Lambchop family. The
Lambchop’s faces all appear to be more angular and their bodies are thinner, perhaps reflecting a
more recent emphasis on health consciousness and exercise. Stanley has gone from Nash’s lightskinned, round-faced, freckled, and red-headed boy to a darker skinned, brown-haired boy with
an oval-shaped face, a pointed chin, and a more defined nose. Arthur’s face also is more defined
and his hair is black. Mr. Lambchop has become broad-shouldered, lantern-jawed, and has more
hair. Mrs. Lambchop is thinner, and has blonde hair. Dr. Dan, on the other hand, has aged. He
now is balding, with a white fringe of hair, bushy white eyebrows and a bushy white mustache.
His nurse still wears a skirt, but she is less curvaceous. Her hair appears to be pulled back and
she wears sensible clogs. The policemen are not depicted, except for their shoes. The thieves are
still caricatures, but are no longer elfish. The police chief is not depicted. It does not appear that
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there are any other ethnicities represented. Mr.Lambchop’s and Arthur’s attire has become more
casual when they are at home. Mrs. Lambchop wears a more form fitting dark skirt, with a white
square or round neck shirt.
In each of the three versions of the original Flat Stanley story, the overall visual depiction
of the Lambchops as a white, middle-class, suburban family is maintained, despite obvious shifts
in how ethnicity, masculinity, femininity, and age are portrayed and in what is considered
appropriate dress for various occasions. The text emphasizes their cultural understanding of
manners, particularly polite and grammatically correct speech and their cultural understanding of
what constitutes healthy behavior. This then is the ethnocentric lens through which Stanley and
his family view the rest of the world in their travels, a lens which would seem to predispose them
to seeing the rest of the world in stereotypical fashion.
However, just as Derrida noted, “…ethnology could have been born as a science only at
the moment when a decentering had come about: at the moment when European culture—and, in
consequence, the history of metaphysics and its concepts—had been dislocated, driven from its
locus” (199) Stanley’s flatness has dislocated the Lambchop family’s center. People begin to
make fun of Stanley and Mrs. Lambchop says, “It is wrong to dislike people for their shapes. Or
their religion, for that matter, or the color of their skin” (56). Considering this was written in
1964, Jeff Brown’s text could be perceived as an explicitly inserted political ideology. Given
Derrida’s idea that one can only perceive ethnocentricity through an ethnocentric lens, Stanley’s
response to his mother, “only maybe it’s impossible for everybody to like everybody” (57), is
more true than we are willing to admit. Yet, there is a difference between respecting others and
liking others. So the question becomes, to what extent does the worldwide series promote a
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respect for other cultures? Before we examine that question, we turn to the discourse of absurdity
as found in the original Flat Stanley story.
Absurdity in the Original Story
Shklosky (1917) suggests our daily lives become so habitual that we no longer perceive
the reality of what we are experiencing (in Rice and Waugh, 2010). Habitual tasks and words
lose their conscious immediacy through “overautomatization” (49) and become, as it were,
indistinct parts of the formula of life. Unless something comes along to help us “recover the
sensation of life,” as Shklosky says is the role of art (50), we become “devour[ed]” (49) by
habitualization—we lose something of ourselves. Art accomplishes this by “defamiliariz[ing]”
(p. 50) the familiar; and Shklosky gives as an example Tolstoy’s helping the reader see
something as if for the first time by describing it without naming it (50). Trauma also can jolt us
from our familiar routines and perceptions. But what happens when art explicitly names,
describes, and takes trauma to ridiculous lengths? In Flat Stanley: His original Adventure!, Jeff
Brown invites readers to explore the familiar world from the unfamiliar perspective of a child,
Stanley Lambchop, flattened by a fallen bulletin board to a thickness of half an inch. Life goes
on as usual, more or less, but Brown helps readers imagine what it would be like to live in a notquite two-dimensional world: Stanley slips under locked doors, mails himself to a cousin in
California to avoid paying airfare, and becomes a kite flying in the air.
Recalling Stern’s depiction of absurdity as a story “in which characters behave
irrationally, where causal sequences of events are illogical, and where incongruous
juxtapositions of people and things occur,” therefore, a reader able to decode the macrodiscourse might conclude the original premise of Flat Stanley is absurd in the sense that it
presents an illogical occurrence as being logical. Additionally, the characters react irrationally.
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When Arthur tries to alert his parents to Stanley’s predicament, the parents are more concerned
with “politeness and careful speech” than with what Arthur is trying to say (2). Stanley is
portrayed as unharmed by the fallen bulletin board, described as “enormous” (3), which takes
both Mr. and Mrs. Lambchop to lift it and was heavy enough to flatten him but which did so
without awakening him. However, instead of rushing off to seek medical attention for Stanley,
Mr. Lambchop suggests the family have breakfast first.
Throughout the story, incongruities also occur. When Mrs. Lambchop loses her ring
down a storm grate, Stanley removes his shoe laces, ties them together and ties one end to the
back of his belt. Then he has his mother lower him between the bars to search the shaft. In a
scene reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy sketch, two police officers come along as she is
standing over the grate, shoelace in hand, and with Stanley not visible. The officers, of course,
see an absurd scene; when she tells them her son is at the other end of the shoelace, they react
logically by saying she is “cuckoo” (14). However, when Stanley reappears, the officers do not
see anything out of the ordinary with Stanley’s flatness or with his being used to retrieve the ring
in such a manner. Instead, they apologize for their rudeness.
The premise of the original story is absurd, and both the visual and the textual elements
of the story continue to convey absurdity. How does this absurdity mitigate the ethnocentric lens
through which the Lambchop family views the world in the Worldwide Adventure series?
Ethnocentricity and the Worldwide Adventure Series
Beginning in 2009, Flat Stanley began traveling the world, not just by being mailed as a
cutout character but through the pages of a new series of books called Flat Stanley’s Worldwide
Adventures. Written by, to date, two different authors, these new books retain as characters the
original Lambchop family, as well as Dr. Dan and Mr. O. Jay Dart, the director of the Famous
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Museum of Art. Each book continues signature text begun in the original story--at some point
either Arthur or Stanley will say, “Hey!” and will be reminded that “Hay is for horses, not
people”--and each book reiterates the importance of polite behavior, proper grammar, and
appropriate hygiene--each defined by white, middle-class values and each exaggerated to the
point of absurdity.
Sometimes, as in The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery, the second book in the series,
Stanley travels alone (usually via mailer envelope); other times, the family travels together, as in
the first book in the series, The Mount Rushmore Calamity. In each book, Arthur still struggles
with jealousy, Mr. Lambchop still is the epitome of practicality, Mrs. Lambchop is still the
guardian of the family’s grammatical and physical health, and Stanley still sometimes wishes he
wasn’t flat. Stanley’s parents are not portrayed as prominently in these books. Even when the
family travels together, Stanley sometimes becomes separated from his parents and/or Arthur. In
these stories, the parent’s presence is conveyed through Stanley’s remembering. For instance, in
The US Capital Commotion, the 9th book in the series, Stanley says “Everyone must be worried
sick (43),” and then smiles as he thinks of how his mother would correct his grammar, saying
“You mean that everyone is sick with worry” (44).
Thus far, the nine books in the Worldwide series have taken Stanley to two points within
the United States (South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore and to Washington D.C.), as well as to
Egypt, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Africa, China, and Australia. All but one of the books (The
Flying Chinese Wonders, book 7) includes an appendix containing an assortment of facts, mostly
historical and/or geographical, about the places Stanley has visited. Each cover features Stanley
surrounded by cultural icons or symbols of the culture visited in the book--or, at least, what
white, middle-class, suburban Americans perceive as symbols of particular cultures. The cover
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of The Japanese Ninja Surprise, for instance, features a large, red, circle against an orange,
clouded sky, intended to recall the Japanese “Rising Sun” flag. Superimposed over the sun is
Stanley, wearing a ninja mask and uniform, hands stiff in a martial arts defensive pose and legs
and feet positioned as though delivering a flying kick. Across the bottom, from left to right, are
smaller iconic symbols: a bonsai-styled tree, a torii or Japanese gate usually seen at the entrance
to a Shinto shrine, a conical mountain reminiscent of Mt. Fuji, and another bonsai-style tree.
Each of the books introduces Stanley, and sometimes his family, to what are portrayed, as
Laubscher and Powell termed it, as “exotic otherness” (221)--usually involving traditional foods,
iconic ethnic or historical symbols, and well-known locations--which are “celebrated” by Stanley
and/or his family. When Stanley travels to Canada, for instance, he eats caribou stew, and “a
satisfying meal of dried fish and boiled walrus” (46); in Egypt, Stanley “marvels” at the treasures
from ancient Egyptian tombs (18); in Mexico, Stanley accidentally becomes the matador’s cape
in a bullring.
Even people and locations within the United States are treated as exotic and as other. The
first book in the series takes the suburban Lambchop family to the more rural South Dakota’s
Mount Rushmore National Monument where they meet an all-but rootin’, tootin’ cowgirl named
Calamity Jasper who speaks cowboy-ese (“”thar’s gold in them thar hills” [23]). She also teaches
the boys to do rope tricks with a lasso, and needs to be saved from a gold-mine cave-in.
Portraying people and locations as exotic and other is one thing; portraying them inaccurately is
another. While Calamity Jasper is portrayed as a cowgirl and gold miner, she also identifies
herself as being part Lakota Sioux. However, as Debbie Reese, former assistant professor at the
University of Illinois and founding member of the university’s Native American House and
American Indian Studies program, points out, Lakota Sioux people in South Dakota probably
Anderson and Powell 18
would not be involved in gold mining, as the Black Hills area was and is considered sacred to the
Sioux. Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman, finds other aspects of Calamity Jasper’s portrayal
as problematic. Reese writes, “In addition to knowing "useful things" about plants and hunting
(can you say STEREOTYPE?), she knows how to send smoke signals (come on, say it again:
STEREOTYPE). Course, because Stanley is FLAT, they use him as the blanket to send those
smoke signals” (Web).
In addition to portraying the people and cultures visited as exotic and as other, the series
portrays them—and the Lambchops as “us”—with a sense of absurdity. Recalling Stern’s
description of absurdity as presenting a story “in which characters behave irrationally, where
causal sequences of events are illogical, and where incongruous juxtapositions of people and
things occur,” we turn now to a discussion of the absurdities in the Worldwide Adventure Series
of Flat Stanley stories.
Absurdity and the Worldwide Adventure Series
Just as the Worldwide Adventure Series maintains the ethnocentric perspective of the
Lambchop family, so it also continues to insert elements of the absurd into each story. Each book
begins by recalling the premise of the original story: Stanley was flattened when a bulletin board
fell on him, and he now is half-an-inch thick. Each book recalls his parents’ often misplaced
concern for (culturally constructed) proper manners, grammatically-correct speech, and
appropriate hygienic habits. But the cultures Stanley visits and the people he meets are also often
exaggerated; and we suggest the exaggerations are taken beyond the point of stereotype and
reach the point of absurdity.
In The Amazing Mexican Secret, book five of the WWAS, for instance, Stanley’s and
Arthur’s next-door neighbor, Carlos plays matador, using Stanley as the cape and featuring
Anderson and Powell 19
Arthur as the bull. Carlos interjects Spanish words into the conversation, and says he has a
cousin who is a famous matador in Mexico, so bullfighting is “in my blood” (7). For breakfast,
the Lambchops eat huevos rancheros with tortillas seasoned with some special seasoning given
to Mrs. Lambchop by Carlos’ mother, the recipe for which Carlos says came from his 103-yearold grandmother in Mexico. The recipe is sought after by “spies” (9), and the grandmother will
not trust it to the mail system; so Mrs. Lambchop exhibits irrational behavior by deciding to mail
Stanley to Mexico to retrieve the recipe before it dies with the grandmother. Not only does Mrs.
Lambchop decide to send Stanley, she does so with such expediency that she doesn’t even
suggest he change his clothes. Even Stanley comments that she “usually seemed more concerned
about his health and safety” (12). In short order, Stanley arrives in Mexico where he is centerring at a real (albeit, bloodless) bullfight, is hung in a tree as a pinata at a fiesta, and is led by a
group of children (!) on a three-day journey by foot to a Mayan temple where he cliff-dives into
a pool of water, discovers an underground tunnel which leads to the home of Carlos’
grandmother. French-speaking, French-named chefs--another stereotype--follow him and try to
get the secret seasoning, as well. There’s more, but this over-the-top series of irrational
characters, illogical events, and “incongruous juxtaposition[ing] of people and things,” as Stern
describes it, suggests the text may actually be making fun of the idea that so-called multicultural
literature can be written in a way that both causes the reader to glimpse another culture and
offends no one.
As noted previously, Stern calls the use of absurdity a “literary tactic,” one of several
which, she says, “disrupts conventional notions about meaning by questioning its very existence”
(75). In particular, Stern writes, “Absurdist fiction rebels against the beliefs and values of
traditional western culture....” (76). In our traditional Western culture, we have come to believe--
Anderson and Powell 20
rightly or wrongly--that we have an obligation to produce and promote children’s literature that
reflects a world seen through a lens that is other than white, middle-class, suburban Americans.
The problem is most children’s authors are white, middle-class, suburban Americans, and
Derrida’s paradoxical conundrum says that, at the moment we realize we are viewing the world
from an ethnocentric lens, it is ethnocentric thinking that enables us to realize our own
ethnocentricity. But so is every depiction of every culture. Jeff Brown’s depiction of white,
middle-class suburban Americans cannot possibly speak for all people who fall into that
particular category, which means not all people in that category necessarily view the world
through the exact same lens. Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry cannot speak for all
Black people living in the 1930s, not even for all Black people living in rural Mississippi in the
1930s. All any one story can do is to present one perspective, to help the reader see through one
other person’s lens, a lens that is different from that of the reader.
Again, because the author of the text is not conveying information in a straightforward
manner, but is instead presenting a story “in which characters behave irrationally, where causal
sequences of events are illogical, and where incongruous juxtapositions of people and things
occur” (76), the reader must, as Stephens put it, decode this macro-discourse in order to
understand the intended meaning of the author and to be able to determine its significance in
terms of literary theme and social implications. As Stern writes, “The burden of interpretation is
on the interpreter....” (76). Absurdity takes things to ridiculous extremes and, in so doing,
stretches our thinking until we see the joke for what it is. In the process it recalibrates the oncefamiliar into a more expanded version of reality.
Anderson and Powell 21
Conclusion
Brooks (1947) cites I.A. Richards’ thoughts about metaphor being the only way to
express the “subtler states of emotion” (in Rice and Waugh, 2010, 56); and Flat Stanley can be
seen metaphorically, as well, in the sense that, while Stanley is physically flat, the stories
themselves reveal his own flat thinking, the flat thinking of those around him, and, by extension,
the human tendency toward flat thinking, as well. For example, in WWAS number eight, The
Australian Boomerang Bonanza, Arthur and Stanley meet Mr. Billabong, who is butler to
another character. He is “an unshaven man wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and hiking boots” (20).
Stanley says, “You don’t look like a butler.” Mr. Billabong grinned. “Yeah, well you don’t look
like a person, but you are, aren’t ya?” (21). Stanley’s ethnocentric lens is revealed for what it is.
It is no longer enough to celebrate the exotic otherness of other cultures; the reader is challenged
to see beyond culture and see people as people.
Discourse, as Stephens writes, consists of both language and narrative, the micro- and
macro-discourses which, combined, must be decoded by the reader in order to derive meaning
from and attach significance to a text. This examination of the macro discourses of
ethnocentrism and absurdity, through the micro discourses of text and illustration, within the Flat
Stanley series, suggest the notion of multicultural literature is in itself an absurdity.
Academicians who challenge the complexity of this reasoning might consider Donald Macedo’s
thoughts.
Echoing Derrida, Donald Macedo wrote, in his introduction to Pedagogy of the
Oppressed, “ I am often amazed to hear academics complain about the complexity of a particular
discourse because of its alleged lack of clarity. It is as if they have assumed that there is a monodiscourse that is characterized by its clarity and is also equally available to all. If one begins to
Anderson and Powell 22
probe the issue of clarity, we soon realize that it is class specific, thus favoring those of that class
in the meaning- making process” (22). Recognizing the impossibility of writing through a
culturally neutral and undistorted lens may be the first step toward an honest discussion of
multicultural literature.
Anderson and Powell 23
Works Cited
Apter, Michael J., and Mitzi Desseles. “Disclosure Humor and Distortion Humor: A Reversal
Theory Analysis.” International Journal of Humor Research 25.4 (2012): 417-435. De
Gruyter Mouton. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Arias-Bolzmann, Leopoldo, Goutam Chakraborty, and John C. Mowen. “Effects of Absurdity in
Advertising: The Moderating Role of Product Category Attitude and the Mediating Role
of Cognitive Responses. Journal of Advertising 29.1 (2000): 35-49. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Boyd, Brian. On the origin of stories: Evolution, cognition, and fiction. Cambridge, MA:
Belknap Press, 2009. Print.
Campbell, Joseph. The hero with a thousand faces, 3rd ed. Novato, CA: New World Library,
1949/2008. Print.
Derrida, Jacques. “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” Trans. in
Alan Bass Writing and Difference (1966): 278-95. Rpt. in Modern Literary Theory: A
Reader 4th ed. Ed. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh. London: Bloomsbury Academic,
2010. 195-210. Print.
Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Print.
Laubscher, Leswin, and Susan Powell. “Skinning the Drum: Teaching about Diversity as
“Other”. Harvard Educational Review 73.2 (2003): 203-224. Harvard Education
Publishing Group. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Macedo, Donald. Introduction. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition. By Paulo
Freire. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: The Continuum International
Anderson and Powell 24
Publishing Group, Inc., 1970/2000. Print.
Nodelman, Perry, and Mavis Reimer. The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, 3rd ed. Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 2003. Print.
Reese, Debbie. “Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures: The Mount Rushmore Calamity.”
American Indians in Children’s Literature,
americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2013/01/flat-stanleys-worldwideadventures.html, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.
Shklosky, Victor. Excerpt from “Art as Technique.” Trans. and Ed. in T. Lemon and M. J. Reis,
Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays (1917), pp. 11-15, 18. Rpt. in Modern Literary
Theory: A Reader 4th ed. Ed. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh. London: Bloomsbury
Academic, 2010. 49-52. Print.
Stephens, John. Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction. New York: Longman, 1992. Print.
Stern, Barbara B. “‘Crafty Advertisers’: Literary Versus Literal Deceptiveness.” Journal of
Public Policy & Marketing 11.1 (1992): 72-81. American Marketing Association. Web.
12 Mar. 2013.
Weil, Danny. "Towards A Critical Multicultural Literacy: Advancing An Education For
Liberation." Roeper Review 15.4 (1993): 211. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Mar.
2013.
Children’s Literature Referenced
Books by Jeff Brown.
Flat Stanley. Illus. Tomi Ungerer. New York: HarperCollins, 1964.
www.browseinside.harpercollinschildrens.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780060206819. Web.
Anderson and Powell 25
Flat Stanley, 40th Anniversary Edition. Illus. Scott Nash. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.
Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure. Illus. Macky Pamintuan. New York: Harper, 2009. Print.
Stanley and the Magic Lamp (1983)
Stanley In Space (1985)
Stanley's Christmas Adventure (1993)
Invisible Stanley (1995)
Stanley, Flat Again! (2003)
Flat Stanley Worldwide Adventure Series. All illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.
The Mount Rushmore Calamity (2009) - author Sara Pennypacker
The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery (2009) - author Sara Pennypacker
The Japanese Ninja Surprise (2009) - author Sara Pennypacker
The Intrepid Canadian Expedition (2010) - author Sara Pennypacker
The Amazing Mexican Secret (2010) - author Josh Greenhut
The African Safari Discovery (2011) - author Josh Greenhut.
The Flying Chinese Wonders (2011) - author Josh Greenhut
The Australian Boomerang Bonanza (2010) - author Josh Greenhut
The US Capitol Commotion (2011) - author Josh Greenhut
Anderson and Powell 26
Appendix A.
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Setting:
Stanley’s home,
city park, and
Famous Museum
of Art downtown
Note: Adults are
drawn with four
fingers & thumb;
Arthur & Stanley
are drawn with
three fingers &
thumb
Arthur: Black
hair, usually
tousled; dark
eyes; pointy chin;
often wears tshirt, jeans,
sneakers
Mr. Lambchop:
tall, broadshouldered;
strong jaw; dark
hair; wears
sweater w/
collared shirt
under, sometimes
a tie; works in an
office (17)
Mrs.
Lambchop:
shorter, slim,
exercises (Ninja,
72), light hair
Doctor Dan:
Older man,
balding, bushy
white eyebrows
and bushy white
mustache
Female nurse:
youngish; wears
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
Flat
Stanley
(Original)
/ 1964
Author:
Jeff Brown
Illustrator:
Scott Nash
Flat
Stanley:
His
Original
Adventure
(Redrawn)
/
1964/1992
text c. Jeff
Brown /
2009
illustrations
c. Macky
Pamintuan
Author: Jeff
Brown
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Stanley from
waist up,
emerging from
mailer envelope;
wearing green tshirt shirt
trimmed in blue
with white long
sleeves; neat
brown hair, dark
blue eyes; light
skin; squared
forehead &
pointy chin;
envelope is on
brownish rug on
wooden floor;
white baseboard,
blue walls;
legged piece of
furniture behind
Plot: Bulletin
board falls on
Stanley during
night and flattens
him; takes trip to
California by
being mailed in
envelope (no
scene set in
California); is
flown as a kite by
Arthur; foils
museum robbery
and catches two
thieves; is reinflated by
Arthur, who uses
a bicycle pump
None
Anderson and Powell 27
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
Stanley agreed
to be rolled up
like blanket on
back of “Gold
Rush”,
Calamity’s
horse. “I am
very limber”
(27).
Caused a
collapse in gold
mine. Used self
as lever to free
Calamity Jasper.
“What You
Need to Know
to be a Black
Hills Gold
Miner”
cap; measures
Stanley
Ralph Jones:
Mr. Lambchop’s
friend from
college; blond
hair; wears
sweater and
collared shirt
Mr. Dart:
Museum director;
tall, dark hair,
pencil mustache,
wears suit and
tie; wants Stanley
to dress as a girl
shepherdess
Thieves: Luther
is fat and
“dopey”; Max is
thin w/hook nose
and dastardly
grin
Police: No police
pictured
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #1
The
Mount
Rushmore
Calamity
Author:
Sara
Pennypack
er
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Jennifer
Heuer
Mount
Rushmore;
Stanley
(smiling) flying
over monument
while attached
to “lasso”
Arthur tossed to
him.
1-Mount
Rushmore State
Park, S. Dakota
2-Idea of Amc.
west
Plot:
Family
vacationing at
Mt. Rushmore;
Arthur falls and
Stanley positions
himself as bridge
to save him;
becomes hero for
saving face on
Mt. Rushmore;
boys meet
Calamity Jasper;
collapse in gold
mine; Stanley
resues her; they
are lost; Stanley
used to send
smoke signals;
reunited
Calamity
Jasper: tour
guides daughter;
speaks in
“cowboy-ese”;
wears a leather
vest, chaps, and
dusty boots
w/silver spurs
(20,21) part
Lakota Sioux
(48);; female
“heroine” ; only
female character
other than
Mrs.Lambchop
Ranger Bob:
called Stanley,
“Flat boy”
(17).Mr. and
Mrs. Lambchop
were “indignant”
because he “has a
name”(17).
He was used to
send smoke
signals.
“Stanley very
bravely held his
breath and
didn’t cough
once” (51).
Native
Americans lived
in Black Hills
for more than
9,000 years.
Gold Rush
began in 1874;
gold first
discovered few
miles from
where Mt.
Rushmore built.
Calamity Janeone of most
famous
cowgirls.
Friends w/Wild
Anderson and Powell 28
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
w/family.
Fantastic
FactsBill Hillcock.
Info on fools
gold.
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #2: The
Great
Egyptian
Grave
Robbers
Nine
chapters /
81 pages
(plus facts
pages)
Author:
Sara
Pennypack
er
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Jennifer
Heuer
Typical Egyptian
tomb art; Stanley
positioned
between two
standing
hieroglyphic
figures, arms
bent at the
elbow—one up,
one down—and
knees positioned
as if running. His
eyes look to the
left as he runs or
points to the
right.
Setting:
Unnamed city in
Egypt, but with
National
Historical
Museum (ironic
because there
isn’t one:
http://www.egypt
independent.com/
news/wantednatural-historymuseum-egypt);
bazaars; near
Nile River; eats
falafel, kebobs,
dates (no
explanation);
bazaar vendors
mixed—one
bare-headed, one
with a fez; ride
camel to tombs
Stanley has
himself wrapped
as a mummy to
surprise Arthur
Plot: Stanley
mailed to Egypt;
Catches (native)
tomb robbers
Amisi: daughter
of curator of
National History
Museum; wears
t-shirt, short
pants,
sandals/sneakers;
“very pretty”
(69); only female
character other
than Mrs.
Lambchop
Amisi’s father:
Says, “Holy
sarcophagus!”
Wears turban,
suit-&-tie,
trimmed beard &
mustache
Uniformed
Guard: Wears
fez, dark pants &
short jacket, light
top, sandals;
mustache, long
face, ominous
eyes
Sir Abu Shenti
Hawara IV: sits
cross-legged on
“goldembroidered
cushion” in tent
w/oil lamps &
incense; wears
jeweled turban,
robe, jacket, top,
pants, barefoot
(or sandals with
toes than curl up
to point); longer
beard &
mustache;
smokes pipe;
claps hands to
summon guards;
“Stanley found it
[food] all very
tasty” (15).
“Stanley admired
the black images
on the wall” (17);
he learns they are
hieroglyphs, the
ancient Egyptian
writing system.
“Stanley saw
many amazing
things” [ancient
Egyptian
treasures in the
museum] and
“marveled” at
them (18).
“Stanley knew it
was important to
be polite, even
when faced with
rudeness” (29),
referring to Sir
Hawara’s
measuring him.
Thinks Sir
Hawara’s handclapping is rude
(56).
Thinks Mom
would say, “Hay
is for camels”
instead of “Hay
is for horses” as
she “was also
always one to
appreciate her
surroundings
(71).
“What You
Need to Know to
be an
Egyptologist”
Location of
Egypt and Cairo.
Nile may be
longest river in
world.
Great Pyramid of
Giza only one of
Seven Wonders
of the Ancient
World still
standing &
structural info.
Info on ancient
Egyptian
hieroglyphic
writing.
Info on ancient
Egyptian process
of mmufication.
Sahara desert
largest sandy
desert on earth.
Anderson and Powell 29
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
tomb-robber
Police officers:
Wear berets,
uniforms
w/jacket,
diagonal belt,
baggy pants
tucked into boots.
No beard/
mustache
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #3: The
Japanese
Ninja
Surprise
Nine
chapters /
96 pages
(plus facts
pages)
Author:
Sara
Pennypack
er
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
The center of the
cover features the
Japanese rising
sun against
orange, clouded
sky, with Stanley,
wearing a ninja
mask and
garments,
superimposed
over it. Across
the bottom, from
left to right, is a
bonsai-styled
tree, a torii or
Japanese gate
(Shinto shrine),
conical mountain
reminiscent of
Mt. Fuji, and
another bonsaistyle tree.
Setting: Tokyo,
Japan (32); Oda
Nobu’s home
made of “delicate
rice paper
stretched across
wooden frames,”
no furniture
except a mat on a
low platform
(bed); wears a
kimono; tearoom
in home and tea
ceremony;
garden w/bonsai
trees; history of
ninjas and
ninjutsu (‘the art
of stealth’ p. 27);
wears a black silk
ninja uniform
(30); visits
restaurant and
eats sushi, then
karaoke bar—
chef bows
/people applaud
“wildly”; travels
via Shinkansen
(bullet train) to
southwest Japan
near East China
Sea to see cherry
blossoms and
volcanic hot
springs; pagoda
on an island;
Imperial Palace,
zoo, sumo match,
Master Oda
Nobu: Movie
star of Japanese
martial arts films;
long face, flat
nose, thick lips,
eyes more round
than slanted;
performs tea
ceremony; his
garden has bonsai
trees; turns out
not to be warrior,
but becomes a
student;; tosses
Stanley into air
like kite (he
falls), then uses
him as sun shield,
then turns him
into origami star
at a reception
(wears Westernstyle jacket and
tie); apologizes to
Stanley for
“disrespectful
behavior” (4142); call each
other Oda-san
and Stanley-san (
Ninja Guards:
black uniforms
w/full face-hoods
tied behind head;
only eyes show
”wide-eyed” so
rounded; do not
look Asian at all;
non-descript; turn
Stanley & Arthur
play ninja
warriors & say,
“Hiii-yaah!” (2)
“Stanley could
tell that the
careful motions
[of the tea
ceremony] had
taken a lot of
practice to learn”
(23) The tea
tasted”interesting
” (24)
“The food was
delicious, even
the seaweed and
the smoked eel”
(and,
presumably, the
raw fish) (32-3);
At karaoke bar,
Stanley sings and
“drank three
sodas that tasted
exactly like bubble gum. He
loved Japan!”
(33).
Arthur
“”beaming with
happiness” at
being surrounded
by four girls
“who were
folding little
origami animals
and giving them
“What You
Need to Know to
be a Japanese
Ninja”
Geographical
features of
Japan’s islands
History of first
ninjas (700 years
ago)
Considered polite
to slurp noodles
in Japan
Geological
features of Japan
and earthquakes
Etiquette of
bowing in Japan
Art of origami
and legend of the
thousand origami
cranes
Anderson and Powell 30
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Plot: Arthur
mails Stanley to
Japan so they can
get Master Oda
Nobu’s
autograph; he
ends up being
Nobu’s personal
ninja; Nobu is
kidnapped by real
ninjas and
Stanley saves the
day
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #4: The
Intrepid
Canadian
Expedition
Eight
chapters /
87 pages
(plus facts
pages)
Author:
Sara
Pennypack
er
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Flat Stanly is a
snowboard
soaring above
powdery drift,
with snowy
mountain topped
with a few fir
trees and blue
sky in the
background;
Stanley wears a
red sweatshirt
with Canada’s
MapleLeaf on the
front, blue pants,
no hat, scarf,
jacket, mittens, or
goggles. Another
boy, wearing
those items,
“rides” Stanley.
Setting & Plot:
Begins in British
Columbia (identified only on
back cover)
where Lambchop
family is skiing;
Stanley & a
friend carried by
wind to Northwest Territories
and visit Inuit
people; see
Northern lights
(aurora borealis);
ride dog sled to
Calgary w/
cowboy; ride to
Quebec with
Mountie in
cruiser; stop in
Ottowa for
hockey game; fly
in plane to
Niagra Falls;
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
out to be just
bodyguards, not
ninjas
Tailor: Wears
Western-style
suit and tie;
glasses; only
character to not
have rounded
eyes (31)
Real Ninjas:
Scream “Aiiieee!” when they
kidnap Oda
Nobu; turn out to
be four girls
“craziest fans
ever” (80) and
“very disrespectful girls” -eyes closed or
rounded; only
female characters
other than Mrs.
Lambchop
to him” (81).
Nick: Doctor
Dave’s son
(Doctor Dave
was Doctor
Dan’s roommate
in medical
school); tried to
outdo Stanley in
every- thing
Tulugaq: Inuit
man (not
Eskimo) who
wears fur
trimmed parka
and has sled dog,
but lives in
wooden house
(“There is a lot
you don’t know
about my
culture.” 38) with
roaring fire and
eats caribou stew;
use phone to call
parents (fire for
Fantastic
Facts-
“What You
Need to Know to
be a Royal
Canadian
Mountie”
Native origin of
word ‘Canada’
Official
languages
Canada/U.S.
border info
Niagra Falls &
barrel riders
Canada’s
coastline longest
in world & on
three oceans
Ice hockey &
Stanley Cup
Anderson and Powell 31
Title
Cover
Illustration
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #5: The
Amazing
Mexican
Secret
Eight
Chapters /
89 pages
(plus facts
pages)
Author:
Josh
Greenhut
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Stanley, holding
a sombrero,
stands in a
market set during
a fiesta (pinata,
colorful banner,
confetti); market
features oranges,
water- melon,
corn, yellow bell
peppers, white
and red roses,
and what might
be limes, tamarinds, cactus
paddles, etc.
Stanley wears a
green t-shirt
trimmed with red
and with white
long sleeves
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley becomes
barrel and they
go over the falls,
attend a wedding
(all cliches!)
heat but a
phone?)
Shaman: Lives
in Tulugaq’s
village & is
“wise”; “small,
ancient hut” with
“walls lined with
animals furs and
weavings and
ancient artifacts”
(42); wears a
“monstrous
mask” has
Tulugaq play a
skin drum while
he chants and
dances “almost as
if he was in a
trance” (44);
“smiled broadly,
without a tooth in
his head” (44);
prophesied over
boys and took
from his pouch
worn around his
neck a postcard
of Niagra Falls
Setting: Stanley
travels by mail
to Mexico City,
where he visits
the Plaza de
Toros México;
travels to a
Mayan temple,
and
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
More Stanley
Cup
Wood Buffalo
National Park
“More Amazing
Mexican
Secrets!”
Mexico 3rd
largest country in
Latin Am & has
most Spanish
speakers in world
Each color in flag
“deeply”
symbolic
Mexico’s
volcanoes &
Pacific “Ring of
Fire”
60+ Indigenous
languages
Anderson and Powell 32
Title
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
(colors of
Mexican flag)
and dark blue
pants. Shoes/ feet
not visible.
Fantastic
Facts-
“Day of the
Dead”
Chocolate
U.S./Mexican
border length
Mexico City 2nd
largest in world
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #6: The
African
Safari
Discovery
Author:
Josh
Greenhut
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
Stanely, with a
concerned look
on his face,
soaring over
safari animals giraffe,
elephant,
gazelles-
Nairobi, Kenya;
Africa
Family sees Mt.
Kilimanjaro &
Lake Victoria
from airplane;
on a safari; on
the river; at
archaelogical
site
Plot:Stanley,
Arthur and Mr.
Lambchop
travel to Africa
to see the “flat
skull”
discovery; Mr.
Lambchop &
Arthur
parachute out
of plane;
Stanley jumps
w/out chute.
Find “flat
skull”; Arthur
identifies it as a
fish, not a
human skull.
Odinga:
African boy at
airport wearing
t-shirt w/picture
of Stanley in
Japan; doesn’t
speak English.
Introduces
Lambchops to
his sister.
Bisa: African
girl who speaks
broken English;
takes
Lambchops to
meet her dad, a
pilot for the
police.
Captain Tony:
Bisa’s father;
pilot for police
force;
Masai tribes
man: “tall man
w/enormous
holes in his
earlobes” (55).
Body draped in
red cloth; staff
taller than
Stanley; spoke
English &
French;
graduate of the
Sorbonne in
Paris
Masai woman:
clothed in red;
After learning
of discovery of
flat skull from
Mr. Dart
(director of
Famous
Museum &
neighbor),
Stanley declares
“I want to get
mailed to
Africa” (9).
Stanley wants to
see if the skull
is “the same as
me” (10). Bisa
asked why they
wanted to go to
Tanzania.
Stanley said
“I’m looking for
answerrs” (22).
When face to
face w/a lion,
Stanley
camouflaged
himself to show
only his side so
he’d look like
another blade of
grass. He told
his dad, “I’m
okay. A lion
almost ate me,
but I tricked
him” (45).
When Masai
tribesman came
close to look at
“What You
Need to Know
to Go On Your
Own African
Safari”
4 of 5 fast land
animals in
Africa:
cheetahs,
wildebeest,
lions &
Thomson’s
gazelle
Africa-2nd
largest
continent;
11,699,000 sq.
miles; about
22% of earth’s
land area. Over
50 countriesmore than any
other continent
Giraffes
Zebras never
domesticated
like horses.
Elephants-6/7
tons; no natural
enemies; not
predators
Namib desert
Anderson and Powell 33
Title
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #7: The
Flying
Chinese
Wonders
Author:
Josh
Greenhut
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Cover
Illustration
Stanley, with a
smile, in a
backflip over
the Great Wall
of China
Setting / Plot
Setting: school
auditorium;
Beijing, China;
the Great Wall
of China
Plot: Stanley
accidentally
drops a heavy
light on Yang’s
foot and broke
it. He tries to
make up for it
by traveling to
China to help
out in the New
Years’s show.
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
“held baby
wrapped in
patterned cloth
close to her
body” (56).
Dr. Livingston
Fallows: wore
high boots,
khaki pants,
brown shirt; had
British accent;
identified
himself as
“world’s
greatest ologist”
(72).
“Anthropologist
, paleontologist,
archaeologist, et
cetera” (73).
Stanley, he
“flinched as the
man leaned
close and peered
behind
Stanley’s head”
(57). Stanley
used as paddle
when they drop
theirs in the
river. When
they found out
skull was w/Dr.
Fallows,
Stanley’s “voice
was shaking”
“May I see the
skull?”
(74).Stanley ran
from scene
when they
discovered it
wasn’t a human
skull. Cried and
said “”We came
all this way,
and...I didn’t
find out
anything about
….about why
I’m flat” (79).
Africa-almost
an island-only
connection to
other land is
Sinai Peninsula
in Egypt
Yin: Chinese
girl
Yang: Chinese
girl’s twin
brother;
together they
are the Flying
Chinese
Wonders
Great Uncle
Yang: a
squinting old
man, w/3 long
white
hairssprouting
from his chin; a
contortionist
Stanley tries
Chinese food;
rice with meat
cooked in a leaf;
spicy pork and
vegetables;
turnip cake;
biang, biang
noodles-”which
were almost as
flat and wide as
he was” (29)
none-there was
a recap of his
adventures thus
far
Anderson and Powell 34
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Facts-
Stanley, in the
shape of a
boomerang,
over the desert.
Arms are folded
over his chest;
kangaroo
looking at him.
Setting: family
living room;
Great Barrier
Reef;
outback/buh;
UluruAboriginal
name for Ayers
Rock
Mr. Wallaby: a
barrel chested
man w/a leather
wide brimmed
hat; cereal
magnate
When Stanley
saw Bongo, he
said “You don’t
look like a
butler” (20) to
which Mr.
Billabong
replied, “You
don’t look like a
person, but you
are, aren’t ya?”
(21).
What you need
to know before
your own
adventure
down under
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventure
s #8: The
Australian
Boomeran
g Bonanza
Author:
Josh
Greenhut
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
Plot: Stanley
and Arthur win
a trip to
Australia. They
fly, without
their parents.
The first
adventure is
surfing, with
Stanley as the
board. The boys
snorkeled on the
Great Barrier
Reef.Arthur
send Stanley
into the air, in
the shape of a
boomerang, and
Stanley is
carried by the
wind into a
storm. Stanley
landed in the
Australian
outback where
he learned he
could hop like a
kangaroo. He
met a bush
tracker, who
captured a wild
horse and began
to take him to
the reef. On the
way, they met
the others in a
jeep, looking for
Bongo: Mr.
Wallaby’s
butler; an
unshaven man
wearing shorts,
a t-shirt, and
hiking boots.
Sheila: Mr.
Wallaby’s chef
Assistant asks
“Should I throw
some more
prawns on the
barbie?” (30)
Arthur says to
Stanley,
“Maybe this is
that rhyming
slang Mom told
us about”. (30)
Stanley
The name
Australia comes
from Latin
Terra Australis
Incognitomeans
Unknown
Southern Land.
Average of 3
people per sq.
kilometer. One
of lowest
population
densities in
world.
Sheep
outnumber
people by
almost 8 to 1;
150 million
sheep; only 20
million people.
Only continent
occupied by
only 1 nation.
Lowest &
flattest
continent.
Great Barrier
Reef more than
2,000 km long;
it’s only living
thing astronauts
in International
Space Station
can see from
space w/out a
Anderson and Powell 35
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
them.
FS’s
Worldwide
Adventures
#9: The US
Capital
Commotion
Author:
Josh
Greenhut
Illustrator:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover Art:
Macky
Pamintuan
Cover
Design:
Alison
Klapthor
Capital in the
background;
Stanley’s shirt
has stars on it;
pants are stripes.
Looks like a flag;
mouth open
smile. fireworks
in the air
Setting:
Washington,
D.C.
Plot: Stanley and
his family travel
to Washington
DC so he can
receive a Medal
of Honor. When
they arrive,
Stanley is
separated from
his family and
being tracked by
two unknown
men.
Fantastic
Factstelescope.
female president
secret service
men
Stanley
remembers what
Japanese movie
star said, “Your
flatness is what
makes you
special” (45). It is
what you are but
not who you are
What you need
to know before
your own
adventure in the
capital!
President says
she decided to
award him the
medal. He asks
why. She says,
“Because you use
what’s different
about you to
make people all
over the world
realize what we
have in
common”...
:”You’ve
traveled the
globe, showing
people that when
they have the
freedom to be
different, they
can achieve
amazing things”
(57)
Official flag of
D.C. has 3 red
stars & 2 red
strips on white
backgroundbased on shield
from George
Washington’s
family coat of
arms.
Washington, DC
named after C.
Columbus
DC residents pay
taxes, but don’t
have
representative in
Congress. Have
license plates that
say “No taxation
w/out
representation”
National Air &
Space Museum in
D.C.-most
popular museum
in world-more
than million visit
every year.
Lincoln was
6’4”; status of
him inside
Lincoln
Memorial nearly
19 feet.
Official motto of
DC is Justitia
Omnibus; Latin
Anderson and Powell 36
Title
Cover
Illustration
Setting / Plot
Depiction of
main character
in culture
Stanley’s
response
Fantastic
Factsfor “justice to
all”
White Houseoriginally called
“Executive
Mansion” or
“President’s
Palace”. Reporter
called it white
house in
newspaper article
& Theodore
Roosevelt made
it official name in
1901.
T. Roosevelt kept
animals in White
House for his
family.
National Press
Club, in DC, is
only building in
US to have its
own zip code.
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