The Emperor’s Cool Clothes, by Lee Harper

The Emperor’s Cool Clothes is a cool new take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. 

In it, a penguin who has always wanted to be cool and his counselors, who are very proud of how cool they are, are taken in by a couple of tricksters. The idea of wanting to be cool may have more immediacy for today’s students than the idea of wanting to be thought wise.

Enjoy the book as a read aloud for your younger students, or use it as a lesson starter for older students.

Here are some cross-curricular activities for the book:

  • Use a Venn diagram to compare this book with The Emperor’s New Clothes. 
  • Click through to the less plans for the traditional story for more activity ideas.
  • The story begins with an emperor penguin who was teased about his clothes when he was a kid. Specifically, they made fun of his bow tie and his checked pants, but his “before” picture also include horn rimmed glasses and an old-fashioned Dad-type belt and sweater vest. Discuss the idea of whether clothes affect how people are thought of or treated. If your school has a dress code or uniforms, this is a good time to talk about it. It’s also a good time to talk about teasing and bullying. How about wearing bow ties or Bow Tie Stickers for a week to promote awareness of bullying?
  • The cool clothes in the book have patterns such as paisley, chevrons, and skulls as well as stripes and dots. Spot all the patterns, learn their names, and use them in art projects.
  • The rogues in the story have “a special formula.” Have students find ads for “special formulas” and create a bulletin board. How many seem truly to be new technology? Do any seem as though they might be trickery?
  • The rogues shop online for themselves . This is a good chance to remind students never to share private information online without their parents’ permission, never to share passwords, and about any school rules regarding internet use on campus.
  • Author Lee Harper explains, “I’ve set my story in an imaginary kingdom where emporer penguins, walruses, albatross, seals, and polar bears all live — and shop — together.” Have students identify the animals in the story and find where they actually live. Add the information to your classroom map.  Use Google Earth to learn more about the animals.
  • Check out our penguin classroom ideas.
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