Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Phileas’s Fortune: A Story About Self-Expression

Docampo, Valeria (Illustrator)
Magination Press 2010. 40 pages
First published: 2010
ISBN: 9781433807923 (paperback)
9781433807909 (hardcover)
Original language: French
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, figurative language

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

In Phileas’ world, words cost money. For families with limited means, much of life is conducted in silence. Sometimes Phileas and his friends catch used words floating in the air. When Phileas catches three good words in his net, he decides to give them to the lovely Cybele.

The language plays with its whimsical yet disturbing theme in understated tones: “Words sometimes go on sale, but usually these are old-fashioned and pretty useless words like carriage or crank.” Young readers may be encouraged to discuss the idea that words have value, and how we might appreciate the sounds and meanings of some words over others.

Delicate, muted illustrations are both adorable and haunting. All words are churned out in a surreal factory, manned by robots. Fancy shoppers carry bags full of words, while simpler folk are dressed in what looks like blank ruled paper.

Phileas finds Cybele, but another suitor is already there—full of proper sentences. The book’s theme of freedom of expression ends with a bid for poetic meaning: Phileas’ three lone words are imbued with love: “cherry! ruby! chimes!” With no words of her own, Cybele gives him a kiss.

  •  

    Study the cover page and predict what the story might be about. Discuss the meaning(s) of the word fortune. Read the story. Were your predictions correct?

  •  

    The illustrations convey Phileas’ emotions. Brainstorm other ways people can communicate without words.

  •  

    If you had enough money to buy five words which ones would they be and why? Share your words with a friend. 

  •  

    Discuss the meaning of values. Give examples of what Phileas’ society values. What do you value? Explain how your behaviour demonstrates your values.

  •  

    Create a word cloud using software on the computer. Choose words which reflect the values of your class or school. 

  •  

    As a group, take a picture walk and tell the story through the pictures only. Then read the story and compare the two versions.

  •  

    The book mentions beautiful words, hideous phrases, baby talk, etc. What other categories would you add? Which words are most important?

  •  

    Discover “word shops” such as dictionaries, pictionaries and thesauruses. Learn how to find beautiful words in them. Keep a class word list or word wall of wonderful words you encounter as you read.

  •  

    Phileas kept certain words as a present for his friend. Which words do you consider precious enough to give to your friends? Hold a word celebration. In a card or on a bookmark, give some of your special words to your classmates.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use creativity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship