The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Try as I did, I just couldn't come up with a post title that would do this book or this lesson justice, so I just used the book's title as my attention grabber. 
Not too original, but why mess with perfection?
Meet The Invisible Boy by the amazing Trudy Ludwig. 
Have you experienced new this gem yet?

Captivatingly illustrated by Patrice Barton, Brian's story is so powerful because it's so very real. Many kids go unnoticed day in and day out. Some seem to fade into the wallpaper they're so quiet. Or well-behaved. Or shy. Or compliantly easy.  

I started by focusing students on my puppet, Pillar, who left his dream of becoming a beautiful butterfly behind so that he could take his turn helping me with peace class. He explained that being who he is - a Bucket Pillar - is just as important to him right now as becoming a butterfly one day will be. 

First, we looked at our problem poster. What would make that friend (or as Wyatt described him, a non-friend) behave like that {he's mean, he's jealous, he didn't get to go on the field trip and he's sad, his bucket is empty} and who are the stakeholders {the critter, the kids whose pictures he's ruining, the parents, the teacher(s), the principal, the counselor, the Art teacher, anyone who sees him or his mess, students who don't get to enjoy the pictures he's defacingin his decision to be destructive?

Then we tried to find kindness (and a few other character words that connect to kindness!) in our word search. Students love this! In my first class of the morning, because I had moved a letter out of kindness to try to intersect it with empathy, it was spelled kiadness. No one could find it and I couldn't imagine why they were stumped 'til I realized it wasn't even up there. As I was fumbling around for my stapler and my extra letters to correct the mistake, one second-grade friend tried to let me off the hook with a lovingly-forgiving question: "Did you do that on purpose, Mrs. Gruener?How much did I love him at that moment?

We talked about what it would take to change, from naughty to nice for example, from a caterpillar to a butterfly, or from invisible to visible then I showed students The Invisible Boy book cover, front and back, and posed this question: What do you think makes the boy invisible? 

Student answers varied from "Maybe everybody hates him" to "Well, he's gray and no one can see him, kind of like air" from "Maybe he doesn't want to be noticed" to "Maybe nobody cares about him."

When we opened the book and I showed them the title page, my students got almost as excited as I am about the author's signature. First-grade Chase exclaimed, "It's dedicated to you!"

Yep, dressed as the Queen of Hearts, I met a new friend, Trudy Ludwig, in DC at the CEP Forum and she graciously signed a copy that her friends from Zaner-Bloser generously shared from their private stash. I'm blushing with gratitude!

Students are quick to notice that the invisible Brian is always pictured in B&W until a new student comes to his class and starts to add color, literally and figuratively, to his world. With kindness. With friendship. With character. 

It mesmerized my students to watch as Brian transformed but quickly changed back in reaction to how he was being treated. And they connected with it. One of my third graders said, "hey, that's just like me when I was in kindergarten!"

After a riveting discussion about what the B on Brian's Super Hero picture stands for (Brian, Buddy, Best, BFF, Bucket Filler, Be A Friend, Be Kind, Brave, Best Artist) and what Brian's Super Power is, we stopped for a spell to survey whether it'd be worse to be laughed at or feel invisible. Pretty evenly split, actually. A second-grade sweetie said that being invisible would actually be a pretty cool super power because then you wouldn't have to be laughed at.

When one second grader noticed aloud that Brian never stands up for himself or says anything, it was the perfect segue into using "I" Statements.

Tanya's I-Statement Bookmarks perfectly enrich this lesson; click here to download.

Students were instructed to switch places with Brian. 
What would The Invisible Boy say if he had a chance? 
Their answers included these thoughtful reflections:

 I feel sad when you leave me out and I want you to be my friend.  
I feel lonely when you ignore me and I want you to let me play.
I feel happy when you notice me and I want you to keep filling my bucket.

Students all got I-statement bookmarks to take with them, 
but not before we launched with my KINDness Song:

Here are the lyrics; watch our movements or make up your own.
We combined sign language words with other motions
to come up with what works for us.

Check out this book to see why it is hands-down my newest favorite. 
Thank you, Trudy (and Patrice), for this treasure and for sharing this 
Random House Book Discussion Guide with us.
Keep up the heart work!

Click graphic for a comprehensive guide to use with Trudy's books.

Want to know how to help Invisible Children?
Click {here} for some tips from Trudy.


  1. Thanks Barbara as always for a great post with lots of resources! Trudy Ludwig is one of my all time favorites for classroom guidance. I've already used Just Kidding this year in fourth grade. I don't own The Invisible Boy but I'll be getting it soon. Sounds like a very powerful story.

    1. Thanks, Lynn, for stopping by and sharing your reflections with us. Yep, this is quite possibly my favorite Trudy book so far though the others are AmAzInG, too. Using it across the grades intrigues me because Kinder Kids actually think he might be invisible and third-graders SO get who that child might be in their class.

  2. I saw this book somewhere else recently. It hit a chord with me because I encounter "invisible" kids sometimes at school. I'm always attracted to these kids. They usually become my favorites. It's nice to see them shine a little when they take me for walks around the school. i think that this book would be a good one for our book bag.

    1. Rhythm, I say go for it ... it will be an unbelievable addition to your book bag. Brian is a likable boy but a lot of my super heroes wanted to know why he never said anything to stand up for himself. Interesting. Do we give them that permission? I can't wait for the day that you come to my school; I'll bet your like a magnet to all kids ... and grown ups!


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!