The Most Magnificent Thing

Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
32 pages  •  Published 2013 (Kids Can Press)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschoolers might enjoy and relate to parts of this story, but Kindergarten through 2nd grade is probably best.
Publisher's Summary: “One day, a little girl has a wonderful idea. With the help of her canine assistant, she is going to make THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING! …But making the most magnificent thing turns out to be harder than she thinks. She measures, hammers, fastens and adjusts again and again, but the thing just keeps turning out wrong. If only the thing WOULD JUST WORK! A clever, honest and funny portrayal of an experience we can all relate to, Ashley Spires’s latest tale will give kids (and their grown-ups) the most magnificent thing–perspective!”
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book is a great read for a child who is quick to get angry and/or to give up when something doesn’t turn out how they wanted. It’s especially relevant to kids who are makers/ crafters/ builders! The overall message of the story is that something doesn’t have to be perfect in order for a child to be happy with their work.
Would a child like it? Yes. The different Things the girl makes are fun to look at, the dog is charming (with a tiny bit of toilet humor–he pees on one of the rejected Things), and the girl is one of those magical children’s book characters who seems to have run of a city on her own. Children often like to see kids in books have tantrums–it reduces shame about these feelings and behaviors that all kids experience when not having their “finest moment.”
Evidence-Based Practices: Cognitive Restructuring
Tone: Funny, emotionally vibrant
Story Quality: This story is short and engaging. The girl is captivatingly independent and capable, and she is relatably imperfect (she makes mistakes, has a tantrum). Her dog assistant is funny and charming (maybe I’m biased, but I love a good doggie sidekick). There’s no patronizing lecture here; it empathizes with the frustrations of something not turning out how one imagines and presents a path forward when a project just isn’t turning out right.
Illustrations: A mix of simple black-and-white line drawn backgrounds and colored-in subjects (e.g., the people, animals, the girl’s Magnificent Thing). The drawings look modern and a bit stylish in a fun way.
Representation: The main character is referred to as “the girl.” She is White with brown pigtails, and she lives in a city–the story is set on the sidewalk of a block of connecting three-story buildings. The people walking by on the sidewalk are diverse and include adults and children with different ethnicities and skin colors, as well as people of different ages.
Psychological Practices: This story articulates a child’s feeling of anger and negative self-talk (“I’m no good at this. I QUIT”) related to frustration about something not turning out as planned. It models two strategies for managing these feelings–going for a walk in order to feel better, and then noticing what’s going right, even if it isn’t perfect. It ends with the girl making something that isn’t perfect but “it’s just what she wanted,” which models satisfaction based on functionality rather than perfection. These strategies are simple and psychologically sound. This book leads well into a really fun project of making a Magnificent Thing at home or in a therapy office in order to help a child practice tolerating mistakes and frustration.
Concerns: Nope

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