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.
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.
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!!