My Life as a Cartoonist

Last updated Friday, August 5, 2016

Author: Janet Tashjian
Illustrator: Jake Tashjian
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 0805096094
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2016

Synopsis: There's a new kid in Derek Fallon's class. His name is Umberto and he uses a wheelchair. Derek's family is still fostering Frank the monkey, and Derek thinks it would be great to train Frank to assist Umberto. But Derek quickly realizes that Umberto is definitely not looking for any help. Derek soon becomes the butt of Umberto's jokes. On top of that, Umberto starts stealing Derek's cartoon ideas and claiming them as his own. How did Derek get himself into this mess, and how can he find a way out before he is the laughingstock of school? The answer may very well be his cartoon strip―SUPER FRANK!

Note to readers:
•  You may want to do some advance prep - bring some cartoon panels or strips with you and talk about different kinds or cartoons (single panel, multi-panel, etc.)
•  The protagonist/narrator is named Derek Fallon.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What does cartoonist mean?
•  What is a cartoon? (A simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way, especially a satirical one in a newspaper or magazine. Also, a motion picture using animation techniques to photograph a sequence of drawings rather than real people or objects.)
•  Do you read any cartoons in the newspaper or in comic books?


•  See illustrations in the margins for vocab words.
•  reverie (p. 13) - a state of being pleasantly lost in ones thoughts a daydream
•  lacrosse (p. 19) - a team game, originally played by North American Indians, in which the ball is thrown, caught, and carried with a long-handled stick having a curved L-shaped or triangular frame at one end with a piece of shallow netting in the angle.
•  anecdote (p. 25) - a short story about a real incident or person
•  raucous - making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How could a monkey help someone in a wheelchair?
•  Why do you think Umberto was rude to Derek?
•  Why does Umberto's behavior bother Derek so much?
•  How do cartoons help Derek? Umberto?

Craft ideas:
•  Make your own comic strip or flip-book cartoon about your school or other favorite topic.
•  Make a hieroglyphic drawings. See examples on Pinterest:

Special activities:
•  Pose like an Egyptian in a hieroglyph.

*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!