Recommended Class Novel; Hairy Bill by Susan Price

  After many years of using the book with KS2 children, I have come to think of it as the perfect classroom text. Susan Price has created a rich and exciting story which is told in a comparatively short book, which makes it ideal for classroom use…helping to avoid those terrible moments at the end of the year when your poor class leaves you without you ever reaching the end of your weighty class text.
The story itself is centred around the arrival of Hairy Bill in an unsuspecting household. His first appearance in the text is incredibly memorable; adults and children alike will be immediately transported to those seconds that seem like minutes in your own bed when you hear a sound in an otherwise silent house. 

The way in which Susan Price juxtaposes the ordinary, everyday lives of the central family against the world of myth and magic brought by Hairy Bill makes the story truly enthralling and strangely identifiable. You will find yourself imagining what it might be like to have Hairy Bill sat in your own living room!

The book is also interspersed with some wonderful illustrations. The illustration of Hairy Bill on the attack has stuck with me for a long time….its is terrifying in a comical way (perfect for children) and akin to an angry terrier going for your leg!

This would be a brilliant text to use as part of a unit of work on mythical stories, as the background of the text is deeply set within British, specifically Scottish myths and folk stories. However…you really don’t need an excuse to use this book in your classroom…it is one of the most enjoyable books to read aloud to children!

Sam and Dave dig a hole by Mac Barnett

sam and dave.jpgThis wonderfully whimsical and deceptively simple tale provides many rich opportunities for learning across the curriculum. The story of Sam, Dave and their Dog is all about them choosing a dig a hole but, unbeknownst to them, every time they are on the verge of a great discovery the trio veer off in a different direction and miss an amazing opportunity.

Quick Activities

Once the children are familiar with the story as a whole, they could choose one of the ‘near-miss’ discoveries to expand into a full narrative. For example, the group come close to discovery dinosaur bones. What might happen if they carry on digging? Will it be a rare/unknown dinosaur? Will they become famous? Is it a dinosaur at all – perhaps an alien? mythical beast?

Equally, the entire story could be expanded and retold from the point of view of a single character – typically Sam or Dave but for a real challenge for the more able, perhaps they could voice the dog and his frustration with the ineptitude of the human excavators!

Extended and Cross-Curricular Activities

At the core of the story is a clear link to the PSHE curriculum – resilience and determination in the face of a difficult challenge. If you keep going through tough times you might be surprised by your success. This text could provide a wonderfully inspiring centre piece for circle time activities. The children could be asked to write letters of encouragement to Sam and Dave or they could respond to the diggers’ letters of frustration in the role of an agony aunt!

From a mathematical perspective, this book could provide an unusual stimulus for work focus on shape and space – specifically measuring and drawing angles. Using copies of some of the images from the text, the children could measure the angles that Sam and Dave were digging at and create a sequence of instructions to reach specific goals from the story i.e. diamonds!

An additional and potentially very enjoyable collaborative project would be to draw and then write a class story. Groups of children could first create their own ‘near-miss’ images of Sam, Dave and the dog at the end of a session of digging – in the same simplistic style as the illustrations in the book. These could then be displayed together on the classroom wall and connected together with different paper pathways. This group artwork could then be used as inspiration for writing new stories for Sam and Dave; the children could pick one or more end locations and write a story about the journey taken by the characters!

This is an incredibly fun book and I would love to hear about your inspired ideas!

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill


As promised a few days ago, I have finally finished pulling together a few ideas around the use of William Grill’s ‘Shackleton’s Journey’ as a contextualising hook for a range of Mathematical learning.

The ideas that I am going to share are focused on Upper Keystage 2, with an additional emphasis on the development of numerical reasoning skills. For clarity, I have tried to organise the ideas using the page titles that Grill has assigned to each double page spread in the book. They actually form brilliant lesson titles for the children, not only helping to structure the story of Shackleton’s journey but also contextualising each and every lesson. This led me to choose to entitle the whole 2 week unit of work ‘Survive!’ to really get my class hooked from the outset! Keep in mind that these activities have been planned with my particular class in mind, including the extent of their prior learning. Needless to say that the length of time committed to each objective will vary from class to class.

Lesson 1 Funding and Recruitment

Starter Activity-

Use mental strategies to recall multiplication tables for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 and use to solve division problems

Use mental strategies to recall multiplication tables up to 10 x 10 and use to solve division problems

 Read through the introduction to the text – there are a number of excellent number facts contained within such as dates. Challenge the children by asking then to devise some questions based on these numbers. What links are there between these numbers? (Reasoning – Identifying Patterns)

Main Activity – 

Order and compare the cost of items up to £1000

 Add and subtract totals less than £100 using correct notation, using whole number and decimals

Plan and track money and savings by keeping accurate records. Realise that budgeting is important

Read through The Crew and display the image. Then set the challenge of using taking charge of a total budget of £20,000 to crew the ship (not as simple as £1000 per person as there are more than 20 crew members – How much will you pay each crew member? The children must justify choices, listing the individual salaries in descending order in a format of their choice.


Lesson 2

Starter Activity – 

Multiply and divide decimals by 10 and 100

Again, using The Crew page, make reference to a salary list generated by the children from previous session. Explain that Shackleton is considering crew costs and structure. He has chosen to multiply the number of (choose a specific crew role) by 10 and the salary cost is now (choose a corresponding cost from the given salary list). Which crew role was it? Repeat with multiplying by 100. Then divide one salary over 10 weeks – how much pay? 100 weeks? (Reasoning – Identifying Patterns)

Main Activity – 

Order and compare the cost of items up to £1000

 Add and subtract totals less than £100 using correct notation, including whole numbers and decimals

Plan and track money and savings by keeping accurate records. Realise that budgeting is important

Move on to read The Dogs page to the children. It shares the information that 69 dogs were selected to support the trip. Having provided the children with a list of possible foods/prices (possibly taken from a current supermarket website) the children should apply the skills they developed in the previous session to cost out the provisions needed to feed the dogs.


Lesson 3

Starter Activity-

Add and subtract numbers using whole numbers and decimals

Referring back to The Dogs page, pose a series of questions about decimals complements within 10 (Children could have decimal complements to 10 grid as support) e.g. 1 dog needs 2 kg of food in one meal – if I have 1.4kg of meat, how much dry mix do I need? How else could I make the 2kg meal? How about 3 dogs? (Reasoning – Justifying)

Main Activity-

Extract and interpret information from an increasing range of  diagrams, timetables and graphs (including pie charts)

Represent data using lists, tally charts, tables, diagrams and frequency tables

Read through the next phase of the story, Equipment and Supplies. The children should then be provided with individual cost of items shown on the diagram in book. This is a really detailed image, as shown above, and the children will need to extract from diagram the total number of each item to calculate their total costs– however, there are some aspects that will require them to make decisions and justify these choices i.e. is a big barrel double the cost of a small barrel? What would the total budget be? The children should also be challenged to represent their results in a table.


Lesson 4

Starter Activity-

Make use of conversions e.g. ¼ of a km= 250m

Record measurements in different ways e.g. 1.3kg = 1kg 300g

Again making use of the Equipment and Supplies page, play the Psychic Game with the children. Start by telling them that you are thinking of a number between 500g and 2 ½ kg. (Really ham-up the psychic powers bit for effect!) The children should all individually write their answers. Then reveal your number to the class. Each table team should then look through their guesses and try to pick one answer that has a justifiable link to the teacher’s number. Each table then shares their answer and justification (hopefully mathematical i.e. if you multiply my number by 10 and add 5 you get your number) for the teacher to score.

Main Activity-

This session should be available for the children to complete yesterday’s task and then take the time to share their reasoning and problem solving skills with the rest of the class.


Lesson 5

Starter Activity – 

Calculate start times, finish times and durations using hours and minutes

Use and interpret timetables and schedules to plan events and activities and make calculations as part of the planning process

Move on to share the Setting Sail/From England to South Georgia pages from the text. The children should be given key dates from journey (including mixed units – days, dates etc). Can they work out from this information how long this stage of the journey took? How many months? Days? Hours? (Reasoning – Interpreting)

Main Activity –

Use coordinates and grid references to specify location

All map lovers will adore the next activity – introduce the children to the Expedition Map. The teacher should then model the use of coordinates and, for differentiation, 6 figure grid references using Map of South Georgia from text.

The children should then be asked to respond to questioning to consolidate understanding i.e. using ‘The Answer is…’ activity, with a range of possible questions on board. Can the children match the correct question to the given answer? (Reasoning – Generalising, Identifying Patterns)


Lesson 6

Starter Activity –

Extract and interpret information from an increasing range of diagrams, timetables and graphs (including pie charts)

Display a pie chart for the children – out of context of the story but relevant to the class, such as number of boys/girls, numbers of letters in first names of pupils. However, the pie chart should be unlabelled and untitled with no key. What is the story of this pie chart? (Reasoning – Generalising) 

Main Activity-

Use coordinates/grid references to specify location

Return to the Expedition Map. The children should then be challenged to apply their skills in the use of coordinates and/or 6 figure grid references from yesterday to expedition map. Teacher to pose a series of relevant questions such as What would the coordinates/grid references be for each key point in the journey? How would you reference the Landmarks? What was the sequence of the journey? (Reasoning – Generalising)


Lesson 7

Starter Activity –

Use understanding of simple fraction and decimal equivalences when measuring and calculating

Use understanding of simple fraction, decimal and percentage equivalences.

Extend the retelling of the story to include the pages entitled ‘Into the Weddell Sea’. Explain to the children that they are working in freezing temperatures on deck, keeping watch for ice bergs and other dangers. Ask them to consider their response to ‘Would you rather spend 50% or 6/8 of the day on deck?’ with them justifying their choices mathematically (Reasoning – Justifying)

Main Activity – 

Extract and interpret information from an increasing range of  diagrams, timetables and graphs (including pie charts)

This session will move away from the pages of the book to enable a Silent debate activity to take place. The children will be presented with a series of graphs showing different info relating to journey/Antarctica but with scales, labels etc removed. Each graph will be glued to the centre of a large piece of paper. Each individual piece of paper will be displayed in different areas of the room. They will then silently visit each graph, noting their guesses about the purpose/information shown in one colour pen and the facts they can extract in another colour. What does the graph represent? (Reasoning – Guessing, Comparing, Justifying)


Lesson 8

Starter Activity – 

Use understanding of simple fraction and decimal equivalences when measuring and calculating

Use understanding of simple fraction, decimal and percentage equivalences.

Now the tension is really going to build! Move on to explore the pages entitled Endurance Stuck! The children will learn that the ship is stuck in pack ice. They have been tasked with the job of clearing the ice away. Would you rather spend 25% or 2/4 of your day digging? How about 0.75 or 2/3 of your day digging? The children should mathematically justify their responses and could show their working on whiteboards. (Reasoning – Justifying)

Main Activity – 

Represent data using lists, tally charts, tables, diagrams and frequency tables

Now that the level of jeopardy has increased, the children should be hooked! Move on to the Winter Months pages. The children should be provided with a set of data about the length of daylight hours between May and July (this can easily be sourced online through Google). Ask the children to choose a method of graphing this data? Once they have constructed this, they should then explain why. (Reasoning – Justifying /Visualising)


Lesson 9

Starter Activity – 

Recognise acute and obtuse angles

The pages entitled ‘Pressure’ provide excellent stimulus for work on angles. Explain that the Endurance tilted to a 30 degree angle in the pack ice. Children to make and measure this angle on the interactive whiteboard using an on-screen protractor or simply card angle representations with split pins – they should explain reasoning i.e. I know it is less than 90 degrees etc. Repeat with other angles. Would you be able to easily stand on the deck at each of these angles? (Reasoning – Justifying, Generalising)

Main Activity – 

Represent data using lists, tally charts, tables, diagrams and frequency tables

Use understanding of simple fraction and decimal equivalences when measuring and calculating

Move on to read Endurance Lost. Introduce the children to PBS Nova Weighty Decisions activity (available online through Google)– which raises the question about what Shackleton chose to recover from the wreck of the ship to stage their escape. Without knowing Shackleton’s final decisions, the children should be asked to make their own decisions about what to take, choosing their own format to organise and collate the information, including the weight of each item (with the consideration that each person could carry 100lbs = 45Kg; 1lbs = 2.2kg). At the end of the session, the children will be interested to know what Shackleton chose and some of the intriguing reasons why – such as the choice to carry oil paints; for the purpose of waterproofing leaks in their small rowing boats.


Lesson 10

Starter Activity- 

Calculate temperature differences, including those involving temperature rise and fall across 0°C

In the story, the team have now reached the Ocean Camp. The children should be presented with samples of monthly temperatures from the Antarctic during the winter months (again easily and freely available via Google). Which two consecutive months greatest range? How much did the temperature rise/fall between the x month and y month etc? (Reasoning – Patterns, Comparing)

Main Activity – 

Calculate temperature differences, including those involving temperature rise and fall across 0°C

Find differences between numbers with 1 decimal place

Calculate Mean, Mode, Median and Range of a set of data

Continuing to focus on the Ocean Camp pages, the session will continue to focus on temperature and negative numbers. The children will be provided with a range of temperature data, taken from the Antarctic, for months relevant to this stage in the story, to sequence and graph on a line graph – with a focus on arriving at the mean, mode, median and range of the data.

Finally – set aside some time to share the end of the story, so that the children can realise what an amazing achievement the was made. All returned safely despite incredible odds!

If the focus on reasoning skills has also peaked your interest in this area of Maths, there are some great texts by ATM – one which I use heavily is called ‘We can work it out’ and is brilliant for developing mathematical reasoning and group problem solving.

There you have it, my thoughts on the use of this wonderful text in a Mathematical context! I am sure that there are many other potential uses for the text in a similar vein and I would love to hear about your adventures alongside Shackleton!


  Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for (what will hopefully be!) an exciting set of ideas linked to the wonderful ‘Shackleton’ by William Grill. I am hoping to generate lots of exciting Maths theme ideas for this text to create a maths mini-top around the evocative illustrations. This is also an excuse for me to use yet more picture books in my classroom!

Recommended Class Novel; The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

  The children’s literary world is filled with swashbuckling heroes, supernaturally powerful heroines and teenage super-spies. The refreshing take from Trenton Lee Stewart is that his main character is highly intellectual but otherwise quite ordinary, but yet he still manages to save the day! That said, he does it with the help of his friends.
The book tells the story of children who are gathered together to attend The Mysterious Benedict Society of the title. Their attendance is made to appear as a sought after prize for the intellectually gifted but once they are locked behind the doors of their new home, the reality is much different! 

The story is a testament to the power of friendship, especially when friends offer support to each other to overcome their weaknesses or fears. Having read this to a number of older primary school classes, I can comment on the way in which the children are quickly drawn into the many mysteries of the novel. This is obviously due to the high level of adventure but is also the result of Trenton Lee Stewart’s masterful characterisation…he makes the reader really care for all the characters. I distinctly remember a whole class being genuinely concerned for the welfare of a character who is made to suffer at the hands of the James Bond-esque villain of the story…think Blofeld without the cat!

The novel would provide a good counterpoint to other group adventure narratives such as Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, with the aforementioned normality of the characters offering balance in a world of superheroes and mystical forces! This is also another strong candidate for books to hook reluctant readers as this is the first in a series of adventures for the central characters. 


The Viewer by Shaun Tan

   If you are a child of the late 70s and early 80s, you will no doubt be familiar with the once popular (but often disappointing) viewer toy. Mine was made of red plastic and I would regularly be bought white disks to insert, showing scenes through the lens from the latest blockbuster film or popular tv programme….not exactly Netflix or Amazon Prime but it was all we had at the time. Well, one such device is featured in Shaun Tan’s The Viewer…although this tale is altogether darker and definitely for older children.
 The book tells the tale of a young boy who likes routing through rubbish, who finds the Viewer of the title. When he looks through the lenses, he sees images of suffering and descruction (all the scenes depicted can easily be matched to significant periods in History, such as the fall of great empires and the relocation of indigenous people. The tale ends on a mysterious and sinister note after the main character feels the viewer is watching him, until he finally gets pulled into the dark places between the images on the viewer disks….and his family forget he ever existed!

Quick Activities

The images in the book could all be used as a starting point for a piece of short story writing, as they are dripping with opportunities for descriptive writing.

Equally, the images displayed on each disk viewed by the main character could be used together, with the children being asked to sequence the images and then write or orally retell the story they believe is depicted. This would be a great opportunity for the children to explore different interpretations of the same events, as the images provided plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Extended Activities

The final set of images seen in the viewer are of potential modern day apocalyptic situations such as Nuclear explosions, famine and pollution. To take a more positive view, the children could be asked to create a viewer disk set of images or associated story which tells how one of these events was averted or avoided.

On a similar theme, the children could all be challenged to create images or stories for a positive viewer – perhaps a companion device to the one in the story which is found by another character on the same rubbish dump. They could be asked to identify significant successes and triumphs from mankind’s history to show the achievements and progress of the past.

The author’s note states that they were inspired to write the story after one of their childhood disks from their own viewer had a missing image pane….stimulating the idea that someone had been there before them and fallen through the broken image into history. The could provide a rich and challenging opportunity for writing as the children could be asked to write the story of the main character who is drawn into the viewer, in relation to where and when in history he appears. Does he return home? Does he influence historic events? Does he meet any historic characters. This would make the book easy to link to virtually any history project!

Cross curricular opportunities

There are obvious links to be made with art, in that the children could produce their own sets of images to reflect a world, local or personal event. However, this idea could be taken further with the use of animation software; the children could animate their own sequence of images or try to replicate those in the book, filling the gaps with their own storytelling.

The Viewer itself is found in an ornate box. There would be great scope for the children to create their own boxes, decorated and adorned with significant symbols and images, as part of a structures project in DT.

Additionally, the very emotive imagery in the book could provide stimulus for composition in music. What soundtrack would the children compose for the different sequences of images on each disk?

The Egg by M.P Robertson/ Dragonology by Dugald Steer

The EggInterior-Page-from-Dragonology-Book

Multi-text themed project!

Here we have an opportunity to provide children with experience of narrative and non-fiction texts in one integrated, themed project.

The first of the two books is ‘The Egg’ by M.P Robertson. The book tells the story of a young boy who discovers a rather large, mysterious egg. He soon discovers that within the golden shell dwells a young dragon and he decides to take on the role of surrogate mother; resulting in him teaching the dragon how to fly, breath fire and generally be a dragon of legend.

The second text in this project is ‘Dragonology’ by Dugald Steer. This is an increasingly common genre-twisting text; a non-fiction structure presenting fictional information as fact. Nevertheless, it provides an engaging stimulus for non-fiction writing. Dragonology draws together myth and legend from across the globe, with a healthy dose of the author’s own creative flair, resulting in a rich and engaging guide to all things dragon!

The Narrative Element

To introduce the project, the story of ‘The Egg’ could be shared with the children. At this point, you could simply launch straight into the non-fiction portion of the project (see below) having peaked their interest about having to care for a dragon. However, there are a number of further opportunities that could be exploited in order to also develop the children’s narrative skills. These could include:

-Storymapping the plot of the story, in the style promoted by Pie Corbett, to develop further working on the tradition of oral storytelling – stemming from the mythical and legendary link to dragons, with possible extensions to other supernatural creatures.

-Extending the original plot; the story gives the reader short snapshots of the numerous training sessions the dragon undergoes, which could be extended into short narratives in their own right. This could even be extended to feature event extended event becoming an additional chapter in its own right.

-Read around other narratives linked to Dragons i.e. How to train your dragon, George and the Dragon, Eragon.

– Challenge the children to innovate the original plot to create a new story, involving the character finding an egg containing a different fantastical beast – how would the training element of the story change? What challenges or dangers might the main character face?

The Non-Fiction Element

Once the children have been inspired by ‘The Egg’, they could then explore the content of ‘Dragonology’. This text could be used as the source material for the children to produce their own non-fiction text in the form of ‘A Dragon-Keeper’s Guide’. This can be contextualised by relating it to the challenges face by the human character in ‘The Egg’ who has to learn about dragon husbandry through, sometimes dangerous, trial and error.

The children could then be tasked with researching the different species of dragon, their needs, wants and health/safety requirements. The writing related to this task could obviously link to multiple non-fiction genres such as instructional writing (How to safely clean a young dragon’s teeth), explanation writing (How does a dragon breath fire?) and non-chronological reports (The Major Dragon Species of Europe).

Other curriculum links to the project

DT – design and build a cage/home/shelter for a dragon

Art – produce anatomical or still life drawings and paintings of the dragons featured in the children’s self written dragon guide

ICT – use animation software, action figures (snope produce great ones!) or modelling clay to create an animated version of ‘The Egg’

Music – create a soundtrack to accompany the animated version of ‘The Egg’ (above)


Recommended Class Novel: ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ by Joseph Delaney

The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

Age: 9-11  (scary in places, especially when the main character is being trained in a haunted house)

Plot Summary: This first story, in a series of over 12 novels, is set in the North of England. The time has come for a young boy, the seventh son of a seventh son, to leave his home and family behind him as he embarks on a terrifying new adventure; he is to become the latest in a long line of apprentice to the county’s mysterious Spook. The Spook lives on the fringes of society, hated by some but needed by all when the things that go bump in the night stray into the world of man.

Why this book? In the first instance this is simply an excellent series of books for older children. The stories are well written, full of suspense and they also achieve an excellent balance of character driven story-telling, alongside powerful narrative plot lining. My own use of these books in the past have actually converted some year 6 boys to reading. The benefit of introducing the children to a series in class is that once you have them hooked, the reading may continue beyond the classroom. The Spook’s Apprentice actually brought a parent of one of my pupils to tears; the reason – it was the first time EVER that her son had put books on his Christmas list!

Curriculum Links:

Fantasy, myths and legends – the books are steeped in mythology. They pick up on the features of traditional story telling about witches, bog arts and ghosts but add their own twist of the newly created Spook’s role as a nightwatchman for humankind. In addition, the story also draws upon real world legends and mythology from the UK in the form of the Pendle Witches. If you are lucky enough to live in this part of the world then I am sure you have already seen the potential for an inspiring trip to the Pendle Witch attractions!

PSHE – the main character of the young apprentice is a revelation. He is not the all powerful hero of many books. At the start of the story he is an incredibly vulnerable child who misses his mam greatly, has a difficult relationship with his Dad due to his sensitive nature and weak frame and (most troubling in terms of the story) is scared of the dark. The story overall is about coming of age and learning to stand on your own, facing challenges, away from the protection of your parents. The developing friendship between the Spook and his apprentice is also excellent as we see it evolve from cruel disregard to true friendship. In addition, there is also the innocent development of a relationship between the apprentice and a suspected witch…is she who she seems to be? Why might she be conflicted?

Instructional/Explanation writing – the apprentice is always learning and the book is full of the Spook’s teachings. This could provide some excellent writing stimulus; explaining how to trap a boggart, for example, or instructions of Spook’s potions and powders.

Geography/mapping – the book continues a beautifully illustrated and plot linked map of the story world. It could be lovely to jump into this map and conducted some position and movement activities linked to events, journeys and challenges of the main story…of event create some new tales!

Art –  the descriptions in the text of settings and characters are dripping with atmosphere. It would be great for the children to create their own artwork (across a range of media) to realize their interpretations of the places and people being described. Watercolor painting of the moonlight moors, clay sculptures of the terrifying creatures or pen/ink drawing to emulate the style of the book illustrations would all provide rich activities.

DT – An amazing collaborative DT textiles project could be to create a Spook’s cloak, adorned with the protective symbols of his trade or with lining that tells the story of his exploits using different appliqué and sewing techniques. The children could also fashion their own Spook’s staff, created a 3D relief map based on the map in the book or even build a structure to emulate the Spook’s secretive hideout!

Film/Media link – the original series of books was snapped up by Hollywood – much excitement was felt by fans of the books, however, Hollywood disregarded much of the book when turning it into the film ‘Seventh Son’. It is unfortunately a confused mix of Yorkshire-Irish-Texan accented characters, overblown and exaggerated versions of the original plot points and 100 too many special effect sword fights. However, it does provide excellent fodder for comparing text and film versions of the same text, for good and bad!

In addition, the author Jospeh Delaney and the publishers, have produced a brilliantly atmospheric website in the form of where they extend the mythology and provide additional activities to engage readers of all ages!

If you are a fan of the books or have other ideas to contribute on their use with children, add a comment!

Until I Met Dudley by Roger McGough and Chris Riddell

If you haven’t yet discovered the world of machines and technology, as explained by the eponymous Dudley, then you haven’t lived! This incredibly fun, creative and inspiring text will have you thinking up amazing and unusual explanations for everyday processes. At the heart of the book is the professor pooch, Dudley, who talks the reader through the unusual means by which machines function…like the enormous snake that lives in your vacuum cleaner or the colony of polar bears keeping your fridge chilled!

Quick Activities

To really get the children thinking and stimulate excellent discussion, provide them with an image from the text without the written explanation. Can they explain to a partner how the machine works? How close were they to the ‘Dudley’ version? 

Explore the whole text with the children and ask them to pick their favorite machine. Can they then write an explanation of how the machine works or a set of instructions for caring for the creature that drives the machine? They might even need to create a set of health and safety instructions as the vacuum snake can get a little peckish between meals!

Extended Activities

‘Until I Met Dudley’ could be used as the stimulus for an extended English and DT project. Once the children are familiar with the text and have had a chance to explore written explanations or instructions for the machinery in the book, they could go on to create their own wild and wacky machines.

As further stimulus, the illustrations of Rube Goldberg provide further fun. The illustrator designs ridiculously complicated inventions to perform the simplest of tasks and accompanies each with minimal explanation. The children could try expanding on these before creating their own fully explained wacky inventions.

Finally, the children could be challenged to make a model of their invention. This could range from junk modeling to more skilled tasks such as projects incorporating simple syringe/tubing pneumatics or cam driven mechanisms. There is loads of fun to be had once you have met Dudley!

The World of Food by Carl Warner

  Regardless of your pupils’ interest in books and reading, they are all universally engaged by food and that what this book has in bucket loads. The amazing aspect of the book is that the author, Carl Warner, has actually constructed every scene in reality, with genuine food items. The sets have then been photographed and compiled in a book, with each page having a color theme and a matching piece of poetry to explain how the image has been constructed.
Quick Activities

At the simplest level, the images provide enthralling stimulus for narrative writing. The children could be asked to step into the picture, with their descriptive writing focused on the sights, smells, sound and obviously tastes that are found in that culinary country.

In addition, the children could use the images as starters for a new batch of fairy stories, starting with the traditional link of Hansel and Gretel through the image of the land of sweets, as shown in the image above. Children could select their favored image and develop a fairy story about the events that could take place there. This would work equally well myths and legends.

Extended Activities

This book could form the basis for an extended Art, DT, Maths and English project.The children could be challenged to make a number of different lands, through a number of different means to create a new class book ‘ Our World of Food’. The worlds could be made through Art;

  • Mixed media sketching
  • Watercolor painting
  • Collage with papers or even food items (non perishable!!)
  • Clay sculpture
  • Plaster or Mod-roc relief
  • Photography project using more of the author work, which can be found online.

In addition, the worlds could be made through DT;

  • Using structures skills to build a new shelter using unusual objects or food
  • Textiles project focus on making a world of fabric…possibly even incorporating a felt making project
  • Creating the national dishes of each world of food shared in the book

Finally, it would be an excellent Maths project to evaluate the cost of the items bought to build each of the worlds in the book, with the children using current online prices from supermarkets to find the worth of each world. Which one will be most expensive and why? Can they create their own budget/luxury versions?

Failing all of this, just enjoy the incredible skill required to create this masterpiece of text!!