School's out, and Gregory doesn't know what he's going to do with his summer vacation. During the school year he created a beautiful garden with his giant chalk drawings, and he'd like to draw something even better. Gregory spends his days at his friend Uncle Pancho's house, listening to him tell stories about his childhood. But Uncle Pancho is about to lose his house. Gregory comes up with the idea of painting scenes from Uncle Pancho's childhood onto his house in order to make it so beautiful — no one will want to tear it down. And even though Gregory's idea doesn't work out the way he has planned, he ends up saving the day for his friend Uncle Pancho.
The Paint Brush Kid is about Gregory's special friendship with his elderly neighbor, Uncle Pancho. Uncle Pancho always does nice things for Gregory and his friends Ivy and Richard, and when Uncle Pancho is in trouble, Gregory and his friends try to help him. Discuss with your class some ways in which friends help each other out and do nice things for each other. They'll probably have plenty of examples to share.
Part of what makes Gregory's friendship with Uncle Pancho so special is their big age difference. Maybe some of your students have special friendships with someone much older, like a family member, babysitter, or neighbor, that they would like to share with the class.
Uncle Pancho is a special elderly neighbor who lives in Gregory and Ivy's neighborhood. He has wonderful stories to share about his childhood in Mexico, and he is loved by many, many friends.
Encourage your students to each interview an elderly person, like a neighbor, family member, or friend. You may want to provide student with sample interview questions: Where did you grow up? What were you like when you were my age? What sorts of things did you do for fun when you were younger? How have things changed since you were a child? Other questions may relate to their family, their friends, their careers, and their hobbies.
Afterwards, ask your students to share their experiences. Ask them if they learned anything interesting or surprising about their elderly friend. You may also ask them to write a paragraph based on their interview.
If it is possible, you can also take your class to a retirement community or nursing home to visit with some of the residents. The residents will certainly appreciate the young company, and your students may make some new friends.
Art That Transforms
Gregory uses his art to make Uncle Pancho's house beautiful. Art can transform something ugly into something wonderful. Look around your school and community for examples of art projects that are being used to make an area more beautiful. There may be statues, sculptures, art displays, even giant murals on buildings.
Your class can also use art to make the world more beautiful. Create a giant mural for your classroom. Choose a wall (or two!) and coat it from top to bottom with long sheets of giant roll paper. Ask your students to think of some nearby places that are important to the community, like statues, a park or playground, your school, or a candy store. Assign different places to different groups of students to draw or paint as the background. Then trace each student on large paper, and ask them to cut out their outlines and draw the details of themselves. Your paper students can be taped on top of the community background you have already created.
The Chalk Box Kid
The Paint Brush Kid is a sequel to The Chalk Box Kid. You may wish to read The Chalk Box Kid with your class prior to reading The Paint Brush Kid, or else you may wish to recommend it to advanced or interested readers in your class.
If you have read The Chalk Box Kid, discuss the similarities and differences between the two books. Some questions to consider are:
- How does Gregory change in the course of The Chalk Box Kid and The Paint Brush Kid?
- In the beginning of The Chalk Box Kid, Gregory is at a new school where he has no friends. What friends does he make in that book and in The Paint Brush Kid?
- Describe Gregory's relationship with his Uncle Max in The Chalk Box Kid and The Paint Brush Kid. How does it improve?
- How does Gregory's art help him in The Chalk Box Kid? How does it help Uncle Pancho in The Paint Brush Kid?
- What common themes do you see in both books?
A Long, Long Time Ago
"Uncle Pancho told about a bridge high over a river. It was a swinging bridge made of rope and vines. 'We played on that bridge,' he said in a dreamy voice."
Uncle Pancho tells stories to Gregory , Ivy, and Richard about his wonderful childhood in Mexico. He had five other brothers and sisters, a pet rooster, a famous singer next door, and a swinging bridge to cross. But we never get to hear him really tell any stories! So ask your students to write a story about Uncle Pancho's childhood. Ask them to begin their stories with the quote listed above about the swinging bridge, and to make it up from there. Tell your students to be as adventurous and imaginative as they want; after all, it could have happened that way!
When Gregory first asks Uncle Pancho if he can paint pictures on his house, Uncle Pancho gets angry at him. Gregory is hurt and confused, until Mr. Hiller helps him to realize that Uncle Pancho thought that Gregory was making fun of him. This is how misunderstandings take place.
Ask your students for examples of when someone misunderstood them and got angry or upset. How did it make them feel? Are there any ways that misunderstandings like these can be avoided? Work together to come up with some tips for clear communication, like expressing yourself in complete sentences rather than fragments and speaking calmly, even if you are talking about something that you feel passionately about. Tips like these will help your students to learn how to avoid future misunderstandings.