‘The Land of Neverbelieve’ by Norman Messenger

 This amazing book by Norman Messenger is one of the rare gems; a book with so much depth that you can make many return visits and discover something new every time! The book takes the form of a 19th Century style biological journal, filled with amazing observed anatomical drawings of strange beast and maps of wonderous landscapes.

Quick Activities

Encourage the children to take inspiration from the amazing hybrid animals in the text to invent their own fantastical creature with consideration of how interesting and inventive adaptations can help it cope with life in the wild.

Using the map, displayed above, the children could be challenged to create their own fantastical land, within which they demarcate specific habitats, geographical features and natural wonders. They can create their own key to accompany a written travel guide for tourists.

Extended Activities

This book has so much depth, there is great potential for the text to be used as a central anchor for cross-curricular learning. I will detail below how different aspects of the text could be linked to curriculum subjects:

English – narrative writing focused on the adventures of a traveller in the world of the book or a child’s own invented land.

Non Chronological reports based on the lifestyle and habits of one of the amazing creatures or range of species.

Narrative/nonsense poetry based on an encounter with a terrifying creature, linked to The Jabberwocky.

Science –  study the habitats of the species depicted in the text and make comparisons with real animals.

Plant anatomy, food production and seed dispersal, studying real plants and then creating fantasy species.

Art – Observational drawing of plants and animals, emulating the 19th century biological journal style.

Experiment with the use of watercolour, in the style of the illustrations, to enhance observational drawings

3D sculptures of the animals and plants with the text i.e. Clay

Geography – create a 3D relief map of the island, encouraging the children to inclide features such as valleys/ volcanoes

Consider the impact of the physical nature of the island on humans by designing a new settlement.

History – investigate the ‘explorer’ heritage of the past, makin links with the work of Charles Darwin.

Personal, Social and Health Education – invent a new indigenous tribe for the island, considering how they would develop laws, ensure equality, provide for the needs of the people and develop a moral or religious belief system.

These are just a few ideas to get you started! Personally, I would have my whole classroom themed around the text, with regular letters or deliveries being made to the classroom from a fictitious field investigator on the island, with the deliveries then acting as a stimulus for learning activities. Imagine the excitement of a packing crate arriving in the classroom early one day filled with exotic plants for the children to dissect and investigate or a broken packing crate with an escaped creature in the classroom…can they use what they know of the creatures features and habits to create an appealing home to trap it again?

Please let me know what amazing ideas you come up with!!

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‘Pictures of Home’ by Colin Thompson

 In my experience, one of Colin Thompson’s less known books is the amazing ‘Pictures of Home’. The images were originally commissioned as part of a building society marketing campaign but Colin had the idea of then combining all the images in this single book. In essence, Colin has taken everyday scenes of home, such as arm chairs, kitchen sinks and back gardens; he has then developed smaller homes within these scenes, such as the one shown in the picture.
Quick activities

Children could be given the opportunity to view selected images from the text and then draw their own imagined home in a familiar setting.

Extended activities

Having viewed the text, the children could be given images taken from around the local area or school. Using these photographs, they should then be challenged to ‘Thompson’ them by drawing the photograph with the addition of their own imaginary home. The individual pieces of artwork could then be compiled into a class book i.e pictures of school.

In addition to the above artwork, children could then use a variety of poetic forms inspired by their images, such as cinquain to summarise the scene being depicted.

Alternatively, as part of an extended narrative writing project the children could choose their favoured image from the text, from which they develop the story of the shown/imagined characters who inhabit that particular home. These could be developed further by establishing a link with ‘The Borrowers’ whereby the children write a short story about the interact between the large and small inhabitants of both ‘homes’ in each image.

Any other ideas? Have you used any other of Thompson’s books? Is there a particular text that you would like to see featured?

Colin Thompson

 

I love authors who create their own mythology around their work. Colin Thompson incorporates hidden features throughout his books, such as his signature being hidden within each illustration. I’m going to spend this afternoon scouring my Thompson collection to select which of his impressive catalogue will be featured as the first focus for my teaching and learning ideas. Keep watching!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

During my many years as a teacher, I have witnessed first hand the power of pictures, imagery and symbolism to stimulate and engage learners. Pictures reach to the very core of the human condition; cave paintings were used to communicate the earliest experiences of our species and we have been hooked ever since. The world is full of amazing picture books, potent novels and powerful images which act as a catalyst for the imagination. Unfortunately, many educationalists still limit their own potential and that of their learners by insisting that picture books, in particular, are consigned to areas of earliest childhood learning, when in actual fact they can be even more impactful with older pupils. I have therefore made it one of my missions in life to spread the word (or should I say pictures!) about the importance of illustrated stories in firing the imagination and inspiring experimentation with the written word.What I hope to share here are some simple suggestions of picture books and other sources that can help to create exciting and engaging learning opportunities for children. In addition, I would hope to share some suggested activities for my favourite texts which might encourage my fellow teachers to set off on their own journey into the world of picture books.

I am happy for anyone to contact me if I can be of any help or offer advice from my perspective. Enjoy!