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The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: Birthday of the Infanta

Last updated Sunday, June 5, 2005

Author: Oscar Wilde and P. Craig Russell
Illustrator: P. Craig Russell
Date of Publication: 1998
ISBN: 1561632139
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2005

Synopsis: The Infanta, on her twelfth birthday, is a spoiled princess who resembles the famous Velazquez painting "Las Meninas." Her father, the king, still broods over her mother's death, but for the birthday celebration, dancing bears and Gypsies and jousts are brought out for her entertainment. So also is a little dwarf (who looks like the cartoon version of Quasimodo as a boy), whose dancing amuses the princess and the crowd, for he is misshapen and ugly. The princess gives him the white rose from her hair, and he searches the palace when she departs, looking for her. But the sight of himself in a mirror breaks his heart, and he dies. "For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts," proclaims the princess when she learns that he died of a broken heart.

Note to readers:
•  If you feel you may not be able to read through the entire book in time, skip pages 3-6 and go right into what happens at the princess's birthday party.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What does it mean to say "don't judge a book by its cover"? What are some examples?
•  Do you read comic books? How is the format different from a standard novel?
•  What do you think it would be like to be a princess and have everyone do what you want? Would you still be able to be nice to people?
•  What would you think you looked like if you had never seen a mirror? How would you know?
•  Vocabulary: infanta, aureole, embalmed, malady, aggravate, bereft, camerera, precedent, unconsciousness, uncouth, defect, incurable, ostentatious, disdain...

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How did the princess celebrate her birthday?
•  What happened to the Princess's mother? What is the king like?
•  How is the princess similar to her mother?
•  Out of all of the entertainment, which did the princess enjoy most?
•  Where did the dwarf come from?
•  Do you think he knows what he looks like? Why is he so unself-conscious?
•  Who "hated" the dwarf, and who "liked" him? Why?
•  What did giving the rose mean to the princess? What did it mean to the dwarf?
•  Why did the dwarf return to the palace?
•  What did the dwarf do when he realized that the image in the mirror was him?
•  Why do you think he was happier and less self-conscious before he saw his reflection?
•  What did the princess say when she was told what had happened to the dwarf? What does this reveal about her personality? How would you have reacted?
•  If you could change the ending, how would it be?
•  Who would make a better friend - the princess or the dwarf, and why? Did the princess act like a friend? Explain.
•  What other fairy tales does this story remind you of? How is it different from others? (Compare Hunchback of Notre Dame, Cinderella, Shrek,

Craft ideas:
•  What would you give the dwarf? How would you end the story differently. Draw/write.
•  Draw your favorite, dream birthday party in comic book form.
•  Make a paper rose (bring ahead option - tissue paper and twist ties)

Special activities:
•  Bring ahead option for prize books - bring birthday wrapping paper and have the children wrap the prize books to be given out later.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!