chapter  13
14 Pages

“It Doesn’t Say How?”: Third Graders’ Collaborative Sense- Making from Postmodern Picturebooks


A plague has struck a small town in the Old West. A team of horses staggered back to the town of Riverbend, covered in a mysterious greasy slime. The sheriff rode out in search of their driver, only to fi nd him similarly affl icted. Viewing an image of this man, covered in erratic streaks of color, third grader Oumar wondered, “Um, why did it only got greasy things on him and not the other people? It doesn’t say how?” Oumar’s fi rst question points to the central indeterminacy of Bad Day at Riverbend (Van Allsburg): the source of the Technicolor slime. His second question, in which he seeks confi rmation that the story does not explain how the slime appeared, underscores the signifi cant interpretive challenge posed by texts that do not supply ready answers and instead inspire and sustain children’s wonderment.