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Something Beautiful_

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Author: Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Illustrator: Chris K. Soentpiet

Gr K-3/Ages 5+
32 pages/picture book
IBSN# 0-385-32239-9
$16.95 US

$23.95 CAN

IBSN# 0-440-41210-2

paperback by Dragonfly Books
$6.99 US

Doubleday Dell Books imprint of:
Random House
1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
(800) 726-0600

  • A Parents Magazine Best Children's Book of the Year 1998
  • A National Parenting Publication Award Honor Book, Selectors' Choice

  • Parents Magazine Best Children's Book of the Year 1998

  • NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in Field of Social Studies 1998
  • IRA Notable Book for a Global Society 1998


Everyday a young girl is disheartened by the things in her neighborhood: the trash on the streets, the graffiti on the walls, and the homeless woman that sleeps in a box. When she learns the word "beautiful" at school, she sets out to find "something beautiful" in her surroundings. In her search, this little girl learns to see beyond the barren ugliness of her environment to find beauty in her friendships, her family, and herself.

This heartwarming story reminds me of my old neighborhood in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. My friend's daughter Latisha is an aspiring actress. She loved modeling while I sketched and took pictures of her.   "Something Beautiful" is an inspirational story with a powerful message. A must read for every age. -Chris Soentpiet

"When I was eight years old, I asked my mother, whose name is Evon, for "something beautiful." She gave me one of her wedding gifts: a small white china pitcher with a golden handle and a golden rose embossed on it. I put the pitcher on my windowsill so I wouldn't have to look at the alley outside. I called the pitcher my something beautiful. When Mommy gave me the gift, she cautioned me not to forget that I already had something even more beautiful-the something beautiful I had inside. I still have the little pitcher. I keep it next to my bed. It helps keep alive the memory of childhood and my mother's love." -SHARON DENNIS WYETH


This is a book that touches on adult themes such as poverty, homelessness and community responsibility with a tender hand and a poet's voice, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet. The story stands out as much for its important storyline as it does for its beautiful artistry."
-EBONY! Magazine

(this guide was adapted by the North Carolina Children's Book Award Committee)

Theme: SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL can be used to introduce your students to urban neighborhoods.

Pre-reading: Show the students the cover of the book, read the title, author and illustrators name. Ask them what they think the book will be about. Next show the illustrations without reading the story -- now what do they think the book will be about. Everyone will have a different definition of the word "beautiful". Make a list with your class of things that are beautiful and ask to explain why each item belongs on the list.

Reading: As you read and show the illustrations have the students look closely at the drawings. What details can they find in the pictures? Have them look closely at the expressions of the little girl -- how do they change during the story.

Language Arts/Communication Skills/Writing:

  • Interview 5 people. Record what they think is the most beautiful thing to them.
  • Go on a treasure hunt or organize a scavenger hunt with clues that find things of beauty.
  • Using the alphabet, find something of beauty for each letter of the alphabet.
  • List 20 items that are the most beautiful in your world and would be missed if taken away.
  • Have children compare their own neighborhoods/schools with the book.
  • Write a poem about your neighborhood.

Social Studies:

  • Discuss neighborhoods, apartment buildings, types of homes, cities and rural towns. Use webs or a computer database to record discussion and common characteristics.
  • Investigate the art of cave drawings, hieroglyphics, the origins of graffiti.
  • Discuss recycling. Arrange a field trip to a recycling plant.


  • Organize a cleaning campaign. Pick up litter at school or at home. Discuss how this effort helps the environment and maintains beauty.
  • Learn the difference between annual and perennial flowers. Plant a small variety of colorful flowers in the schoolyard or at a local nursing home.


  • Listen to the words in Louis Armstrong's song "What a Wonderful World". Make a list of the beautiful things in his song and discuss ideas.
  • Sing "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land", The Green Grass Grew All Around".


  • Take pictures of a neighborhood or downtown and make a collage. Use a digital camera and prepare a Powerpoint presentation.
  • Make a giant classroom or hallway Rebus collage by outlining four large symbols: U, a soda can, the recycle symbol (three arrows in a circle), and a 2 (says: "you can recycle too") Decorate inside each symbol pasting recycled materials i.e., foil, plastic, newspaper.

Post-reading: Have the students walk around their school. The students can do this in small groups or altogether. What is something beautiful in their school? Make a list of ideas that could make their community more beautiful. Talk about it and make a plan to complete one of those ideas from the list.

Geography: Have the students plan a trip to their nearest city. Ask them to estimate the miles, how long will it take, what would they need to bring -- food, clothes, entertainment items, books etc. What do they think they will see along the way -- fire hydrants, dog walkers, bicycles, stores, etc...

Social Studies/Literature: Spend more time reading about city and town life. Read AROUND TOWN by Chris Soentpiet, DEAR SANTA PLEASE COME TO THE 19TH FLOOR. If you really enjoyed SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL write a review and post it on-line at or so others can enjoy your reading experience.

Related books:

Granddaddy's Gift by Larry Johnson
Braids Girl Chicken Soup For the Little Souls by Lisa McCourt
Momma, Where are you From? by Marie Bradby
Talking Walls by Margy Burns Knight (for older students)
Maple Tree by Nan Hayden Agle
City Green by DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan
My Town by William Wegman
New Neighbors for Nora by Johanna Hurwitz

Bulletin Board - headline on your bulletin board, MY SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IS..and have each student list what they think is beautiful in their lives. List them on the board.

students of school recycling inspired by chris's book something beautiful

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