The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

“She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!”

But making ‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ is actually harder than it first appeared and the girl struggles. She gets cross and angry and eventually she is so mad that she gives up entirely. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and, it is during her walk, that she begins to see the good bits in all of her earlier failures. She comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.

Ashley Spires’ book is a perfect example of having a growth mindset. For a moment there it looks like the girl has a fixed mindset – believing that she can’t do it, that she only makes mistakes and that she’s reached the limit of who she is and what she can achieve. Her anger and emotions are portrayed well through the illustrations and this convinces the reader that these feelings are okay. We are able to learn from the girl that it is okay to make mistakes and it’s fine if we have lost sight of where we are going with a project.

When the girl goes on her walk she reflects on her efforts so far and is able to see beyond her mistakes. This is when we begin to find out that her mindset is changing. She is no longer frustrated and angry by her limitations but can see beyond them. Through identifying the errors, tweaking and making adjustments, the girl is able to create her ‘Magnificent Thing’.

As this is a picture book, you could be deceived into thinking it’s only useful for very young children but I used this as inspiration for a whole school assembly with KS2. We read the story, discussed her frustrations, reflected on our own challenges and the barriers we see that are in the way. We talked about how these barriers can be overcome and looked at the girl’s example of growth mindset and decided that perseverance and resilience in learning are absolutely crucial. This then became the focus for the week and gave pupils another ‘hook’, another way of understanding that learning can be tough, understanding new things can be difficult. Life isn’t meant to be easy all of the time but, with the right support and attitude, we (adults included!) can overcome barriers and difficulties and achieve our own ‘Most Magnificent Thing.’!

Of course, if all of that isn’t a good enough reason for reading this book with your children, then check out the verbs used in the text. The girl doesn’t just “make” her magnificent thing … she “tinkers and hammers and measures,” she “smoothes and wrenches and fiddles,” she “twists and tweaks and fastens.” Action words like these will enthuse pupils’  vocabularies and should set sparks alight in pupils’ imaginations; not just in english, but in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects too.

Vicky Windross

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