May 27, 2011
Argus by Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated by Andrea Wesson
Sally's class is working on their new science project. When the teacher, Mrs. Henshaw, hands them each an egg, Sally complains that hers looks different. "Don't be difficult. Some eggs just look different," says Mrs. Henshaw to Sally. Different is an understatement. While all the other eggs hatch and cute little chicks start running around the classroom, Sally's egg hatches to reveal a green dragon. She names him Argus. Not quite sure yet if she likes her "chick", Sally goes along with all the different parts of her science project: measuring weight and size and graphing the results, taking Argus out to eat in the school's yard, creating a growth chart...but Argus keeps causing all sorts of trouble -like trying to eat all the other chicks and the children - and Sally now must sit by herself during recess keeping Argus away from the other children and chicks. She's not enjoying standing out and being different all the time. One day, after recess, Sally turns around to look for Argus to bring him back inside and he's gone. Sally expected to feel relieved and "waited to feel happy," but instead she felt sad and worried. Sally, Mrs. Henshaw and her classmates search around the neighborhood until they find Argus. Back in the classroom, Sally looks at the new pie graph she created about Argus; it looks totally different from the other kids' graphs and that's just fine with Sally.
Argus is a very special book. I'm glad to see that Argus didn't become something he was not to gain Sally's acceptance, and instead it was Sally who learned the value of being different. As much as I like Argus as a character, I've got to say that my favorite was Mrs. Henshaw. I loved how she seemed to ignore the obvious fact that Argus was not a chick, and would tell Sally to relax and just deal. I especially loved the scene when, after finding Argus at a neighbor's yard -where he has destroyed the lawn- as the homeowner begins to complain about the damage done to her property, Mrs. Henshaw simply hands her an orange emergency cone and says, "Don't be difficult." And walks away. Brilliant! Some adults should be treated just like children...