On The Giant Jam Sandwich

Class parties, award ceremonies, and the hunt for teacher gifts all mean that the end of the school year is upon us. Summer is approaching and along with the swimming, travel and general good-time-having of the season, comes the dreaded California Central Valley heat. And along with the constant sweating comes something that for me is the worst part of the heat, and even more dreaded than the usual 20 consecutive days over 100 degrees…the BUGS…crawling, flying, twitching, skittering, buzzing, biting, and worst of all, trying to escape the heat by finding their way into my home. It takes only a single sighting of one of these stray creatures to send me into ultra-panic-bug-hunter mode. What are they? Where are they coming from? How many are there? Batten down the hatches! Seal the doors! Back away from the spray bottle, I’m going in! (side note: tea tree oil mixed with water has proved to be an effective natural bug repellent)

So I can relate to the poor community of Itching Down in this week’s Perfect Picture Book. They are invaded not just by bugs, but by ones of the stinging variety. WASPS! And their most clever solution to a giant pest problem makes this one of my favorite picture books of all time.

The Giant Jam Sandwich

  • Written By: John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway (the story behind how they ended up writing this together is fascinating and a must-read for picture book writers!)
  • Illustrated By: John Vernon Lord
  • Published By: Houghton Mifflin, 1972
  • Suitable for: Ages 4-8
  • Topics/Themes: Insects, Wasps, Problem-solving, Humor, Rhyme
  • Opening: “One hot summer in Itching Down,
    Four million wasps flew into town.
    They drove the picnickers away,
    They chased the farmers from their hay,
    They stung Lord Swell on his fat bald pate,
    They dived and hummed and buzzed and ate,
    And the noisy, nasty nuisance grew
    Till the villagers cried ‘What can we do?’
    So they called a meeting in the village hall,
    And Mayor Muddlenut asked them all,
    ‘What can we do?’ And they said, ‘Good question!’
    But nobody had a good suggestion.”
  • Synopsis: When four million wasps invade the town of Itching Down, the villagers don’t know what to do. That is, until the town baker comes up with the perfect trap…a giant sandwich filled with jam!
  • Links to Resources: This book has been around for 40 years, so there are a lot of resources out there. Homeschoolshare.com has a very thorough lesson plan that includes a unit study on wasps as well as a homemade bread recipe! There is also a lesson plan on Teachers.net that covers pre-reading and discussion questions, as well as activities, including something called “The Super Silly Sandwich Song!” My favorite thing I found though was a website called, “Fictional Food,” where they attempted to make a Giant Jam Sandwich!
  • Why I Like this Book:  This book is a slice of my childhood.  And I would guess some other babies of the 70s remember this one too, yes?  I giggled at the sight of the villagers trying (and failing!) to rid the town of the wasps. I loved the part where they baked the loaf of bread as tall as a building, and then had to build scaffolding to get high enough to cut it. I watched in wonder as they used tractors to push butter and jam all over the enormous bread. And then I cheered with them as they trapped those nasty wasps inside the sandwich. It is funny and fascinating, and shows how a town can pull together to solve a GIANT problem. The rhyme in this book makes it a super-fun read aloud, and the illustrations are the type where you see different things each time you look.  This perfect picture book is most definitely one of my favorites!

Please remember to head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s website to check out more Perfect Picture Book selections this week!

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  • http://www.bethstilborn.com/ Beth Stilborn

    This book sounds like fun (gotta love a book that has a character called Mayor Muddlenut!) — I’ve never encountered it before. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Dixon

      Yes, the names are fun. There is also Bap the Baker :-)

  • http://stacysjensen.blogspot.com/ Stacy S. Jensen

    The rhyme is amazing. 

    • Amy Dixon

      I stink at rhyme so I am always blown away by talented rhymers!

  • Kirsten Larson

    Amy, I can relate. A couple of years ago, the boys found a “wormy” in Finley’s room, a giant centipede. I was horrified.

    • Amy Dixon

      A centipede…yikes! We are dealing with roaches this year for the first time and I am sooooo grossed out by them! Our pest control guy swears that they are everywhere right now and we shouldn’t be worried about it. Thank goodness they haven’t found their way inside yet, but it still kills me to see them lurking outside!

  • Heather

    I remember this one! The illustrations were my favorite part of the book when I was wee. Thank you for sharing this one book.

    • Amy Dixon

       I always seem to find something new in the art. Fun!

  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!  It was my son’s favorite for ages and we read it over and over, keeping our library copy long past it’s due date and finally getting a copy of our own.  SUCH a great book!  I can’t believe I haven’t put it up yet, and I’m so glad you’re adding it today :)

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      Thanks, Susanna! I can’t believe it, but I actually don’t own a copy of this one yet. But it just went to the top of my “to buy” list. Now, to come up with the money for my picture book wish list!

  • http://twitter.com/CatherinePoet Catherine Johnson

    It’s sounds super!

    • Amy Dixon

      I think you will like it, Catherine!

  • http://www.writeupmylife.com/ Julie Hedlund

    I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this book! We’ve done something similar by setting out a little cup of soda to attract the bees, but a giant jam sandwich is much more inspired! :-)

    • Amy Dixon

      It really is a clever one, Julie! I’m sure you will love it.

  • Joanna Marple

    Amy thanks for sharing this one. The story, silliness, rhyme, solution… it’s a great book! And thanks so much for the link to the story behind the story!

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      I LOVE that story behind the story. It is sort of long and drawn out, but I found it fascinating! And it goes to show you that having a good idea is not enough…you have to have someone who can execute the idea!

  • Brenda

    I love this book. I read it to my kids until the book fell apart ( I bought it used). To this day my kids will mention the story. They can even quote parts of it. Five stars in my book.

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      5 stars from me, too! Thanks for stopping by, Brenda!

  • http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com/ Julie Rowan-Zoch

    I bet Frances (Hoban’s) would love this book!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Yes! Thanks for stopping by, Julie!

  • http://twitter.com/ThisKid_Erik This Kid Reviews Bks

    This book sounds cool! I would LOVE to read it! :)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Well this one was way before your time, Erik, but I know you would love it!

  • Laura Renauld

    Sounds like a fun read.  My sons would love it!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Yes, I do think this one would appeal to boys!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566478008 Kimberley Gorelik Moran

    This looks awesome. I love homeschoolshare too! Thanks.

    First in Maine

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      homeschoolshare has great resources. Thanks for stopping by, Kimberley!

  • Barbara

    I’d forgotten about this book! Thanks for the reminder.



    Ruby Slippers
    Blog Designs

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      No problem, Barbara!

  • http://www.viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/ Vivian Kirkfield

    Oh my goodness, Amy…you’ve found an oldie but goodie that I have NEVER heard of!  I absolutely LOVE the rhyme…and the entire story concept…I am also not a fan of BUGS, especially the stinging kind…that’s why I love living in Colorado…almost no bugs. :)
    Great review of a must-get book…and wonderful activity and resource list as well!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      You should definitely check it out, Vivan. I think you will like it!