Lima Beans? Yuck!

You probably have a copy of A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. In this story, Camilla Cream wants so desperately to fit in that she is willing to deny herself what she craves - lima beans - in order to conform. Her attempt to be popular and to please others backfires when she breaks out in a bad case of Stripes, Stars, and Purple Polka Dots. Baffling doctors and sending the media into a frenzy, Camilla's weird disease becomes so extreme that she finally blends into the walls of her room. Will lima beans save her? Here are some ideas I wrote when it first came out.

There is so much depth in this colorful little story about Camilla Cream. Before you read it, brainstorm types of foods that students like and graph the variety of likes among the class. Process with them how different each of our tastes are. Does everyone like all of the food on the list? Find out if they like lima beans, then ask if they would be willing to try them. You might even want to have lima beans as a visual that you could have each child plant after the lesson.

The story may need to be read aloud two or three times in order to completely grasp its genius. Following the reading(s), discuss it together using probes like these:

1. What might make someone worry about what other people thought of him/her?
2. Why did Camilla try on 42 outfits on the first day of school? Tell about a time when you just couldn't decide what to wear. What were you thinking and feeling?
3. What does saying the Pledge of Allegiance have to do with respect?
4. What would you do if you saw Camilla Cream come to school in Stripes?
5. If you were the principal, would you ask Camilla to stay home? What would you do instead?
6. If you were the teacher, what could you do to help Camilla? What could you do to help the other students understand and accept?
7. Were the students bullying Camilla? Explain your answer.
8. Why won't Camilla just ask her dad for some lima beans?
9. Why couldn't the Experts and Specialists help Camilla?
10. Why did Camilla lie to the Old Lady about not liking lima beans at first? Is it ever okay to lie?
11. What did Camilla learn after she found her real self?
12. What do you think the author is trying to say to the reader in this story?

Use these three suggestions for follow-up and enrichment:

1. Let's Define Popular
Ask students in a large group to define the word popular. Write their definitions on the chalkboard. Have a student check a dictionary and see what it has to say. Then make a list of the characteristics or traits that they think makes someone popular. The teacher can ask for volunteers to share ways in which they personally may or may not fit into this list. Discuss the pros and cons - or benefits and burdens - of being popular. Ask students if someone needs to be popular to fit in at your school. Ask them if popular people always make good leaders.

2. A Character Quilt
You will need:
Crayons, markers, gel pens, or paints
A sheet of paper or card stock
Camilla's stripes set her apart despite her desperate need to fit in. How are your students unique? Have you students illustrate a picture that shows an aspect of them - a gift, a talent, an activity - that sets them apart from the masses and makes them unique. As they are drawing, remind students of their right (and duty) to stand up for what they believe regardless of the price. Allow students to share their work aloud before displaying them to reinforce the concept of respect for autonomy. Put them all together like patchwork on the wall to make a Character Quilt to represent your class.

3. Rappin' Review
Let's review the story with a rap. Have the students set the beat with a pat on the left leg, a pat on the right leg, and a clap to get a boom, boom, ching rhythm going. Students could be given a copy of the rap and can repeat after the teacher line by line once through, then everyone can perform the rap in unison.

The Respect Yourself Rap by Barbara Gruener

Camilla Cream loved lima beans,
but no one else did, if ya know what I mean.
She wanted to be popular in class and so
Camilla Cream chose to just say no.

She looked at herself on that first day of school,
'cause she really, really wanted to be cool.
She screamed at what she saw - Oh, YIKES!
Her body was covered with colorful stripes.

The kids at school got quite a laugh,
then the Stripes became Stars on their behalf.
The Experts could not figure it out
and a media frenzy came about.

Camilla's parents didn't know what to do,
and even the Doctors didn't have a clue.
But a kind old lady came Camilla's way
and hoped that she could save the day.

She gave Camilla some lima beans.
At first she said no (as odd as that seems).
When she finally ate 'em, it felt oh so good.
She didn't care if they teased her like she feared they would.

So the point of the story is this, you see:
Respect your individuality.
Just take a stand, to yourself be true -
then others will trust and respect you, too.

If students like this activity, have them test their creativity by writing a rap of their own with a character values theme.


  1. This is one of my all time favorite books. I love your ideas for it...and the rap is awesome!!!

    Fun in Room 4B

  2. Oh Barbara!
    So glad we weren't skype-ing when I tried on that rap!
    You have hidden talent... Is there a recording deal in your future?!
    We could do this together wearing sunglasses and backwards baseball caps...
    Can you see it?!
    I am in awe of your awesomeness--not to mention your diversity!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade


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