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Brave Irene is Irene Bobbin, the dressmaker's daughter. Her mother, Mrs. Bobbin, isn't feeling so well and can't possibly deliver the beautiful ball gown she's made for the duchess to wear that very evening. So plucky Irene volunteers to get the gown to the palace on time, in spite of the fierce snowstorm that's brewing quite an errand for a little girl.
But where there's a will, there's a way, as Irene proves in the danger-fraught adventure that follows. She must defy the wiles of the wicked wind, her most formidable opponent, and overcome many obstacles before she completes her mission. Surely, this winning heroine will inspire every child to cheer her on.
Brave Irene is a 1986 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year.
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About the Author
William Steig (1907-2003) was a cartoonist, illustrator and author of award-winning books for children, including Shrek!, on which the DreamWorks movies are based. Steig was born in New York City. Every member of his family was involved in the arts, and so it was no surprise when he decided to become an artist. He attended City College and the National Academy of Design. In 1930, Steig's work began appearing in The New Yorker, where his drawings have been a popular fixture ever since. He published his first children's book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968.
In 1970, Steig received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. His books for children also include Dominic; The Real Thief; The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book; Amos & Boris, a National Book Award finalist; and Abel's Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books. Steig's books have also received the Christopher Award, the Irma Simonton Black Award, the William Allen White Children's Book Award, and the American Book Award. His European awards include the Premio di Letteratura per l'infanzia (Italy), the Silver Pencil Award (the Netherlands), and the Prix de la Fondation de France. On the basis of his entire body of work, Steig was selected as the 1982 U.S. candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration and subsequently as the 1988 U.S. candidate for Writing.
Stieg also published thirteen collections of drawings for adults, beginning with About People in 1939, and including The Lonely Ones, Male/Female, The Agony in the Kindergarten, and Our Miserable Life.
He died in Boston at the age of 95.
Reading Group Guide
Irene braves the elements on a stormy winter night. Have students create a list of the different types of weather that occur during each season. Then design a class weather journal and have students take turns recording the daily weather and its impact on the students' activities (e.g., "Today it is sleeting. It is too wet, cold, and slippery for us to play outside at recess").
Irene's mother is a talented dressmaker. Give students their own opportunity to "sew" clothing by providing them with two pieces of felt, a large plastic needle, yarn, and a hole-puncher. With a felt-tip pen, students should outline the design of the garment on a single piece of felt. Then they should align the two pieces of felt, cut out the garment, punch holes around the perimeter, and use yarn to sew the garment together. They can then decorate it by gluing on ribbon, buttons, small fabric scraps, or sequins. (Note: A glue gun is most effective, but its use requires adult supervision.) A variation of this activity is to create stuffed animals from two pieces of felt, filling the middle with cotton.
I Did It!
Ask students to recall an experience during which they were confronted with overwhelming circumstances but, like Irene, managed to persevere. What motivated them? How did they feel during the incident? How did they feel after it had ended? Discuss the traits that helped Irene succeed, including bravery, persistence, resourcefulness, and commitment. Students can then create badges or "medals of courage" for their classmates.
Irene's mother has endearing pet names for her "dumpling," "cupcake," and "pudding." Have students write about what pet names are used in their family, and by whom. Provide an opportunity for sharing, as students will enjoy learning about their classmates' family terms of endearment.