Students will read the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, explore Charles Deas’ painting Long Jakes, and exercise their imaginations to create their own cause-and-effect story.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonOne 25 minute lesson
Standards AreaLanguage Arts
Students will be able to:
- listen actively to a read-aloud book;
- explore and point out details of a painting;
- use their imaginations to create likely and unlikely scenarios for a character in a painting;
- imagine Long Jakes’ reactions to their invented scenarios; and
- work together to write a story.
- Read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to students and explore with them cause-and-effect relationships. As the story progresses, have the students guess the “then” consequence for the mouse’s actions.
- Display the Long Jakes painting and ask students questions about it. What do you see? What is he riding on? What is he carrying? What is he wearing? What might he do for a living? Where might he be? What do you think he is looking at? What kind of facial expression does he have? What kind of facial expression does his horse have?
- On the board, make a list of things that Long Jakes might be looking at. Encourage students to come up with both likely ideas (e.g. another fur trapper, rattlesnake, thunder clouds, a stampede) as well as more creative ideas (e.g. aliens, a giraffe).
- As a group, practice making IF/THEN statements. Choose an item from the list and create an IF statement. Then call on a student to answer with a THEN statement. For example, you might start with, “If Long Jakes sees a rattlesnake…,” and the student might say, “…then Long Jakes rides away on his horse.”
- Repeat the student’s answer as an IF statement (“If Long Jakes rides away on his horse...”) and have another student create the next THEN statement, and so on. Encourage students to link their statements to details they can see in the painting.
- Write the statements on the board as the activity progresses. Combine different statements to make various stories about Long Jakes and read the stories aloud. You may want to record the students as they talk and create a podcast story.
- One copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
- About the Art section on Long Jakes
- One copy of the painting for each student, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Writing and Composition
- Reading for All Purposes
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
Born in Philadelphia, Charles Deas [DAYS] enjoyed an education based in the classics (which included art) and he aspired to a military life. He was denied admission to West Point Military Academy, after which he began studying art. Deas traveled west in 1840 to visit his brother at Fort Crawford in the Wisconsin Territory and moved around that region for the next year or so, painting scenes of the frontier, Indians, and military portraits. He settled in St. Louis, the gateway to the West, where he set up a studio and made it his home base for expeditions. Deas immersed himself so completely in the frontier lifestyle that he earned the nickname “Rocky Mountains.” He dressed like a trapper, according to a soldier he traveled with, in “a broad white hat—a loose dress, and sundry traps and truck hanging about his saddle.” That description doesn’t sound far off from what we see in this painting, and some think that Deas personally identified with the Long Jakes figure.
Deas’s art was exhibited in St. Louis as well as New York and Philadelphia. He enjoyed critical acclaim and lived to see the immense popularity of Long Jakes. He was a prolific artist, even though he only had a 12-year painting career. However, most of his paintings have either been lost or are not recognized as his, and only 30-40 are known today. Deas died in 1867 in a New York mental institution.
What Inspired It?
Long Jakes documents America’s first frontier hero, the fur trapper. The fur trade in the American West flourished in the 1830s and was one of the most financially successful industries in America during the first half of the 1800s. The image of the trapper was that of a fiercely independent traveler who led a solitary life. Trappers worked throughout the Rocky Mountains to gather beaver fur, a major commodity (beaver hats were very popular). Trappers were often seen as rebels living outside the limits of society, but more often they were viewed with a sort of heroism, the ideal of the independent American spirit.
Using painting conventions usually reserved for kings and generals, Deas placed this motley American hero on his horse, top and center, elevated over a vast landscape. Critics discerned refinement and sensitivity behind his weather-beaten face. Long Jakes is turned in his saddle, looking with concern at something we can’t see. Clearly, the West was filled with danger and adventure at every turn.
When Long Jakes was exhibited, the heyday of the trapper was over, so it seems the picture summed up the spirit of an idealized time in its tribute to the courage and lifestyle of these men. This painting set the ongoing iconography for how to represent a trapper.
Long Jakes’s beard, long hair, and sunburned face are all signs of life in the harsh outdoors. Also note his blue-veined, chapped hands.
This mountain man’s garb was assembled based on availability and functionality. His long red hunting shirt is made of trade cloth. A broadbrimmed hat would guard his eyes from sun glare, hail, and sleet. He wears leggings with quillwork decoration and moccasins fitted with spurs.
The rifle, bedroll, powder horn, knife, and rope are all items that were associated with trappers. His saddle has been identified as a Mexican one.
At the time, a red nose was a well-recognized sign of someone who drank excessively, and it made the figure somewhat humorous to its 19th century audience.
Whatever is happening off to the left has alarmed the horse. Its bulging eye and startled gait suggest fear.
A brand is barely visible on the horse’s hind leg. It was previously thought to be the letters JS but is now thought to be the letters US. We know Deas rode a horse that formerly belonged to the government; perhaps the same is true of Long Jakes’s horse.
The mountains had a symbolic association with trappers, so they’re almost like another trapper accessory. This is a very early use of the Rockies as a backdrop, and it’s unclear whether it’s based on an eyewitness experience.