Mr Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Mrwuffles

There are many ways to categorise and organise personality types; one of which is those who love the structure of a clearly defined plot line which ends with a satisfying conclusion, as opposed to others who delight in the possibilities offered by enigma, mystery and alternatives. ‘Mr Wuffles!’ by David Wiesner is certainly a delight for the latter of these!

From the cover and first few images of this largely wordless text, it would be easy to mistake it for a rather conventional picture book about the eponymous Mr Wuffles. However, within a few pages it becomes clear that the central feline character is about to get a new toy!

Mrwuffles1

As a cat owner myself, I share the frustration of the owners in the story who purchase what they feel is a stimulating new plaything, only for the fussy feline to prefer a ball of string! However, Mr Wuffles discovers that his latest toy is actually the conveyance of a group of miniscule aliens!

Mrwuffles2

The jubilation of the very little green men, upon arriving on the planet, is short lived when they are ‘attacked’ by Mr Wuffles! The remainder of the story takes the reader on a humorous trip amongst the dusty corners of any average home; as the aliens team up with some equally cat-oppressed minibeasts who work together to escape from the clutches of Mr Wuffles!

Quick Activities

This book is full of potential! Throughout the text, the aliens are seen to speak using a strange symbolic language. It would be great for the children to try to replace the symbolic language with their own speech bubbles, literally putting words into the mouths of the aliens in each scene – essentially an educational caption competition. It would be really fun to explore the different alternative conversations generated by a class of children.

In addition, the aliens learn to communicate with the local minibeasts using the insect version of prehistoric cave paintings. They create these using found materials (bits of chalk, charcoal etc.) Perhaps the children could create their own cave paintings depicting the events of the story. They could use found materials around the playground, marking their story onto the concrete or they could create a 3D cave painting by arranging found objects on the ground to help create their tale. If you are feeling more adventurous, ordinary classroom paint mixed with some pva glue (you need to experiment with your recipe!) creates a beautifully rubberised paint which can be applied to a rock, concrete or wood surface which will then dry to a durable finish – extending the life of your cave paintings by a few weeks.

Extended Activities

I know of many children who would be enthralled by the code-like communication used by the aliens. Perhaps they could be challenged to devise the alien’s alphabetic, which they can then use to communicate with each other or to create classroom labels and signs. This would be great in a role play area designed around the interior of the alien space-craft – they could label all the buttons and gizmos. They would even create the communications sent to the explorer craft from the mothership or the explorer’s reports back to their HQ about the terrifying cat monster they have encountered.

It would be equally intriguing to tell the alluded to but untold story of the minibeasts who have been suffering at the paws of Mr Wuffles. The children could develop their own narrative based on these tales.

At the end of the story, one of the minbeasts end up leaving with the aliens in their spacecraft. This would be a wonderfully original launching point for some sci-fi writing, as it would provide a set of characters who are immediately ‘alien’ rather than the more obvious ‘human-meets-alien’ approach; has anyone ever written an insect-meets- alien sci-fi story?!?

Additionally, the final image shows the remaining insects being left with a series of broken technology from the alien spacecraft. These could form the basis of some wonderfully explanation or instructional writing, based around the insects working out how this technology might help to protect them from or defeat Mr Wuffles!

Above all else, this is a fun and entertaining story that will not fail to raise a smile!

 

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Hurricane by David Wiesner

hurricane

As a long-standing fan of David Wiesner’s intriguing stories and powerful illustrations, Hurricane has always been one of my favourites, yet it doesn’t seem to garner much popular attention.

This might be that the narrative, at first, might not seem as strong; when in actual fact the book is a ‘hurricane’ of potential narratives that readers can explore for themselves!

What appeals to my sensibilities as a teacher about this book is the way in which is encourages creative and imaginative play, in the outdoors! The basic premise of the book is that two brothers spend the night, tucked up in their cosy home, whilst a hurricane rages outside. The result? In the morning, they discover the largest tree in their garden has been felled by the storm and so the adventure continues.

As the brothers explore the defeated giant that is their favourite tree, their imaginations run wild. They imagine the tree becomes a spaceship, landing on a distant alien-filled planet and take to the high sees in their very own tree trunk galleon. The book is filled with a number of other adventures based in the imaginative worlds created by the boys.

Quick Activities

This obviously provides an excellent launching point for children’s own adventures in the outdoors. You may have a wildlife area which a log circle; there may  be a large piece of outdoor play equipment on the playground or you might be ‘lucky’ enough to have a recently felled tree. Send the children to your chosen location/s in pairs and give them a limited time to generate an initial idea about what this object /location could become – in the same style as the boys in the story. Share the ideas and ask pairs of children to take a small number of their peers to their given location, to share their story and roleplay the adventures.

Extended Activity

This book would clearly lend itself to narrative story writing. To maintain the link with the outdoor learning aspect of the text, ask the children to create a story stick. The children are given or find a stick in the locality that their story starts and then create a story by moving around the area finding physical objects that would act as a prompt to an element of the story i.e. the story might have a dragon; an unusual autumn leaf my be a dragon’s scale! The children can then use other materials such as wool or twine to tie these items onto the story stick, in the order that they appear in the story. Essentially, a Pie Corbett style story map but made physical through the use of the outdoors.

Upon returning to the classroom, the children can then use the stick to practice retelling (and embellishing) the story with their partner, before creating a drawn story map and eventually moving on to write or record their fully polished tale!

story stick

 

 

Tuesday by David Wiesner

  For this post, I have chosen to feature of one of true masters of the picture book genre, David Wiesner, and his amazing book ‘Tuesday’. The book itself tells the tale of a mysterious Tuesday night when the frogs surrounding a small American town take flight and run amok!
Quick Activities

The book is filled with page after page of humorous, creative and detailed images. One of these could be taken, out of context of the rest of the story and without the children knowing the plot, as the focus for a piece of short story writing. What is happening in the image? How would you describe the settin? Why is the frog in the images? Etc

Additionally, the whole text could be shared and then the accompanying narrative story could then be written. The original text itself is completely wordless. This allows scope for the story to be retold in comic strip form, with short sentences or paragraphs written for each image. Alternatively, you might choose to write a more conventional, extended narrative to retell the fantastic events in detail.

Extended Activities

At the end of the text, the residents of the small town are very confused. One image shows the police investigating the scenes of the ‘crime’. In this sense, the mystery element of the story lends itself to journalistic writing. The children could write a newspaper article reporting on the events, including interviews with the main characters featured in the story.

Extending the newspaper report theme further, you could challenge the children to write newspaper reports from the perspective of the animals in the story; The Daily Croaker (reporting on a great scientific break through for frog kind – flight!), The Barking Times (a sympathic report about the trauma experienced by domestic dog who had his home invaded by amphibians) or The Cat’s Whiskers (a report on the cat nation loss of night time dominion to the frogs).

For a more creative challenge, you could linger on the final image of the text…the ominous shadow of a pig taking flight at the arrival of night time on the following Tuesday night. Children could write a new narrative to tell the unknown story of the adventures experienced by the pigs on their magical Tuesday night!