Book review: The Road to Ever After by Moira Young

The Road to Ever After

When the lives of two lonely characters collide, a story of deep sensitivity and personal growth begins. 13-year-old orphan, Davy David ekes out an existence on the fringes of life in the back-water town of Brownvale. Rising early each day from his home in the churchyard yew trees, Davy hides from Mr Kite the gang-master (who patrols the streets for down-and-outs) by sheltering in the local library and movie-theatre.  Things take a turn for the worse when the town’s tyrannical clergyman, Parson Fall, discovers that Davy is the secretive artist who’s been decorating the yards of Brownvale with his drawings of angels. Turning-in Davy to Mr Kite, would give Parson Fall no greater pleasure.

Fortunately, Davy stumbles into the overgrown grounds of a dilapidated museum on the edges of town. Here he meets ancient, decrepit and reclusive Miss Elizabeth Flint. Wanted by Parson Fall, and with little to keep him in Brownvale, Davy accepts an offer of employment with Miss Flint. And so a most miraculous adventure begins.

In a story peppered with references to the silver screen, it is hard not draw parallels to It’s A Wonderful Life and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Of course, to young readers these references will be less apparent and so perhaps the direction of the narrative less certain.

The Road To Ever After is a beautifully crafted tale. The two main characters are given time to develop and we continue to learn about them up to the final pages. Moira Young summons a world of indeterminate time, somewhere in the past and in a place never quite established – both of which add to the sense of mystery in the story.

Keen readers will note the socially pertinent references to a local authority unable to provide for its vulnerable citizens: both young and old. A place where the local library faces closure and the obvious future impact of this on those who seek refuge in the books and warmth of a shared and valued place.

This book is an ideal choice for shared whole-class reading in upper KS2. It offers multitudinous opportunities for discussion about life, death, social care, theft and so much more. With the current KS2 Reading SATs emphasis on vocabulary and inference, this text offers opportunities for teachers to scrutinise the author’s choice of language and how she creates meaning in and between the words she had written.

A special book to be treasured.

Watch the official book trailer here.

The Road to Ever After official trailer

Rachel Clarke, Director Primary English Education

All content on the Primary English website is owned by Rachel Clarke.

Where the Wild Things Are: 10 teaching ideas

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is a modern classic. Much loved in KS1 classrooms, this text is also a great model of a voyage and return story,  which could be used alongside a longer text such as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in KS2. There is also now a film version available but as it is quite dark (and younger children may find it frightening) think very carefully before using this is KS1.

Here are 10 teaching ideas for using Where the Wild Things Are in the classroom:

  1. Start with a trigger before reading the text If you were sent to bed with no dinner, what would you do?” or What might you have done to get sent to bed with no dinner?”

  2. Make an emotions chart or graph of Max’s feeling throughout the story.

  3. Look carefully at the pictures – what happens as you move through the book? They start small and they grow to become full page before reducing again. Does this signify Max’s world experience getting bigger?

  4. Due to the predominance of the illustrations the descriptive text in the book could be further enhanced; so can the children describe the Wild Things, or the setting?

  5. Speech punctuation features quite heavily at the start of the book. Use this as a model for teaching speech conventions.  Then with the later pictures write what characters may be saying to each other .

  6. Use the pattern of they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth etc’ as a model and rewrite the phrase using different words to create alternate effects…‘they whispered their twinkly squeals and licked their luscious lips’

  7. Challenge children to write a ‘Quick Write’ poem about Max: 1 Noun, 2 Verbs, 3 Adjectives/Adverbs, e.g

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Once upon an ordinary school day

Once upon an ordinary a day an ordinary teacher was looking for an ordinary book to read with her ordinary children during their ordinary guided reading lesson, when..she stumbled across a quite extraordinary book indeed: Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton and Satoshi Kitamura.

The ordinary teacher sat down in her ordinary chair, put on her ordinary glasses and started to read the book. She liked it. In fact she loved it and she realised that it would make a perfect text for guided reading with Y2 children.

The first thing that the ordinary teacher did was to make a word cloud using the text from the book. As she expected the largest word was ordinary; and school was quite large too. She knew that this word cloud would make a really extraordinary pre-reading activity for her children and that it would allow them to make predictions about the text that they were going to explore.

The next thing that the ordinary teacher did was to find a way of turning her ordinary children into detectives. Like every good teacher she delved into her ‘bag of magic’, rummaged around for a while and pulled out her very ordinary looking ball of elastic bands. She peeled off elastic bands and wrapped them around her copies of Once Upon an Ordinary Boy so that the children would be unable to open them past the phrase,

Then, something quite out of the ordinary happened…”.

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Love your school library

Do you love your school library?

Does your school library encourage children to develop a lifelong love of books and reading or is it a dusty store of dated books no-one wants to read?

We’ve collated this short check-list to help you encourage children into your school library:

  • Develop a buying team – select children from each class to support book selection. Use them to select books and canvas opinion – this creates a buzz when the books arrive as the children are excited to see the books they’ve chosen.

  • Be a book pusher! Encourage children to add post it notes (see our post-it notes blog) to books with mini reviews. You could make a feature display of these like many book shops do now.

  • Ask bookshops for promotional book posters, they get lots and will often pass them onto schools when they are finished with them. If you don’t ask you don’t get!

  • Have an extreme reading competition and get the staff to join in too. The winning entries could be made into reading champion posters to be displayed in school.

  • Have a simple display of what each class is reading that can be kept up to date and changed easily. Create collections that support the texts and topics being studied in each year group and rotate these as the topics change.

  • Have a cull, be honest, get rid of books that are tatty or dated. You can then replace them even if slowly with better quality books. You could run a sponsored read to raise money.

  • During guided reading you could send an additional adult to the library with a group of children to teach them both library skills and how to select books.

  • Make sure that your library includes a variety of texts. Don’t forget to include comics, magazines and newspapersFirst news is a must for your library and you might also want to explore subscribing to The Phoenix for a really diverse weekly comic.

  • Have a library champion. This could be a member of staff charged with running the library or could be a parent volunteer or school governor. What you need is someone who is passionate about books and reading and who has time to make the library the heart and soul of the school.

  • Don’t forget the technology. Libraries are about information as well as reading. Make sure children are able to access information through computers and tablets as well as from books.

  • Make it comfortable. We all like to read in different places so provide a variety of seating and open and closed spaces.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. We’d love to hear how else you’ve made sure that your school library promotes a love of reading.

Charlotte Reed and Rachel Clarke – Directors, Primary English Education Consultancy Limited.

My most recommended KS2 book

The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman has to be my most recommended KS2 book in the schools I work with – and I don’t apologise!  I could probably fit it to any given unit!  Historical story? Tick. Adventure Story? Tick. Strong female main character? Tick.  Multi-cultural story?  Tick.  Story with issues and dilemmas?  Tick.  Story by a significant author?  Tick.  Pesuasive adverts?  Tick.  Newspaper reports?  Tick.  Voyage and return story?  Tick.

You probably get the picture: it works well for all manner of units.  However, it’s also a cracking good read and a great book to read aloud.  It’s a fast paced adventure story with an element of warning and a moral.  Pullman’s writing has an economy of language that is effective. The sentences are short, as are the chapters, as is in fact the book itself; making it perfect to read aloud in my book! Its simple language structures give the descriptive elements a greater impact of light and shade. It’s a great text to teach children about writer’s use of language.

‘So that evening, after he’d settled Hamlet down for the night, Chulak called at the Firework-Maker’s workshop.  It lay down a little winding alley full of crackling smella and pungent noises, between the fried-prawn stall and the batik painter’s.  He found Lalchand in the courtyard under the warm stars, mixing up some red glow-paste.’

It boxes up very easily and has a great problem and resolution story structure.  Pullman has written stories within stories, it has the potential for you to break off and tell stories from other characters we meet along the way or explore other genre – persuasive adverts and newspaper reports are the most obvious. This makes for a great KS2 book to base a half or even term around.

Feel inspired to use it?  Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1)  Investigate story settings. How does Pullman create an atmospheric description using few words?  Workshop p12 (see above), great mountain p24

2)  Letters.  On p18 Lila writes a letter to her father, look at this informal style. Could the children take Lila’s character and write letters to her father at other points in the story ?

3)  Newspaper reports. There are plenty of opportunities for newspaper report writing through the story: Lila’s kidnap by Rambashi and the pirates; Rambashi’s restaurant opening; Hamlet’s kidnap by Chulak; the Firework Maker’s Competition.

4)  Persuasive adverts. Chulak uses Hamlet the White Elephant as an advertising billboard, therefore the adverts have to be short. Can you come up with short advertising slogans for popular products?

5)  Let the children write more chapters about Rambashi and the pirates’ failed attempts at money making.

I’m sure you can think of lots more but pick it up and have a read, it’s a cracking good adventure – and my most recommended KS2 book.

Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant

Good books to read aloud

“Ok children, settle down, relax and listen while I tell you a story…” These have to be some of the most precious words many of us have said to our classes – fond memories of shared moments, unbridled pleasure and a love of the spoken and written word. All too often it’s a phrase missing from classrooms. The burden of a cluttered curriculum, the pressure of year on year progress and the fear of a visit from the inspectors – with their agenda of evidencing learning at all times, means that reading aloud to children is for some teachers an impossible dream. It shouldn’t be. What better learning is there than learning to listen; to enjoy the cadence of a voice as it takes you on journeys to other worlds; to experience vocabulary beyond your reading ability, words that wouldn’t arise in your daily interactions; to take time out for pleasure; to learn to remember and resume with a narrative; a chance to predict, to make deductions and to problem solve. Reading aloud to children opens up a new space in the classroom, somewhere where the ordinary pressures and hierarchies of school dissolve. The book rules – not the endpoint of a level 4 in reading, writing and mathematics.

Now, the members of the Primary English Team don’t live in a book-filled library. We share our offices with maths and ICT colleagues and a number of very serious data-crunching school advisers. On mention of this blog post this raggle-taggle band of education professionals erupted into a cacophony of memories, shared experiences and voices raised in pleasure, excitement and… agreement (and that is not something that happens readily in these parts). It seems that reading aloud to children is not only a shared pleasure but a strategy that should be investigated by the United Nations to ensure world peace.

So, what is it about reading aloud to children that unites these previously disparate clans? A few major themes emerged – again from across the disciplines of our team. A text with pattern, rhythm and rhyme featured highly on our experts lists. ICT specialist Dy Hewett referred to the lyrical, flowing text of Room and the Broom, Whilst adviser Alex, talked about the raucous and irreverent humour of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Our experts talked about the predictability of rhyming texts and how it enables children to join in with reading the text. This type of choral response was also referred to by one of our senior colleagues, Ed Carter, who pointed to the patterned and predictable language of traditional tales. When reading aloud to children in his school he only needed to say, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair…” for the children to complete the refrain with, “So I may climb without a stair”. Similarly, a well-weighted delivery of “And they all lived…” should always elicit a response of “…happily ever after.” These shared experiences and choral recitations glue classes together. They show that storytelling creates cohesive communities which go on to exist beyond the stories.

“Bringing a book alive like a drama,” was how maths expert Becky Chandler referred to the joy of reading text aloud. For her a good read aloud text is one that enables her to put on accents like the Irish accent she uses for Rover Saves Christmas by Roddy Doyle. I used to love reading Farmer Duck for a similar reason. What’s happened with this text though is that one particular line has woven itself into the vernacular of our family, so that at the end of a long day we frequently say to each other, “How goes the work?” in I’m afraid a rather ham-acted Somerset accent. None of us ever replies with “Quack” but we all know where our line has come from and the many times that we shared that particular book.

Humour was another characteristic that our experts felt was influential in making a good read aloud text. Almost everyone asked, recalled reading Quick let’s get out of here by Michael Rosen. As a collection of poetry this also shows that short stories and poetry make useful additions to a read aloud curriculum. At the other end of the emotional spectrum books that make you sad can also be great books to read aloud. Primary English colleague Julia recalled reading The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde whilst accompanied by Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The tears that flowed from her Y6 children caused a rush of Kleenex on that particular day.

Other features that our experts referred to were: easy sentences, ones where you don’t trip over punctuation or have to read ahead to check your intonation. Short chapters work well too, particularly ones that leave a great cliff-hanger so that children are desperate for you to read on. A manageable amount of characters was also referred to – our experts didn’t like reading books aloud when there were lots of character voices to remember. Books that lead children to seek out more by the same author was another point raised by our teacher experts. Books in series, such as the Famous Five, a Series of Unfortunate Events  and Horrid Henry were all discussed at length in our read aloud learning conversation.

I was once asked at interview what I would do if I could be Secretary of State for Education for ten minutes. It’s simple really. I’d make reading aloud to every class at the end of the school day a core element of the National Curriculum.

Rachel Clarke, Primary English Consultant

To see more recommendations for read aloud books see our Pinterest board here.

Our Books in Series Pinterest board also includes great books to read aloud

Who inspires you?

This year for the very first time at the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards, as part of Literally Coventry Book Festival, we awarded a Lifetime Inspiration Award. A few weeks ago we had confirmation Sir Quentin Blake was coming to town to accept! I was asked by Joy Court to do the honours and present his award.  What a task!  I thought, I wrote, I scribbled, screwed it up and started again.  About 5 times.  Most of it came to me in the night, well, 3am actually, and was written onto my kindle.

Meeting Sir Quentin has certainly been a highlight of what has been both a physically and mentally demanding week.  I have been tweeting, ‘Facebooking’ and blogging daily for the festival, as well as stewarding events.  It’s been a privilege and if we have only encouraged one person to pick up a book and read then we have done a good job. What an amazing city we live in, a reading city that values libraries and books.  If you haven’t been involved in the festival this year then do get involved next year!

Here’s my thanks to Sir Quentin:

‘Sir Quentin Blake illustrated my childhood. In fact, I’ve never really grown out of the books he has written and illustrated.  They have become my ‘read and read agains’, the books I still enjoy, the books I want to share with the children I know.  Through my 16 years as a teacher, Sir Quentin Blake has always been there.  My classes have all grown to love them too. His illustrations are an inspiration.

When tasked with this speech, I didn’t know where to start when talking about someone with such a phenomenal career and back catalogue, so I have thought about those books and illustrations that mean the most to me.

Predominantly, the illustrations that stick in my mind are those Sir Quentin created for Roald Dahl’s books. Growing up, I read mild-mannered Famous Five books until one day in 1980 when my very own chocolate factory came to our village in the shape of the library bus.  I picked up a book because of its cover, a yellow cover. I read that book because of the cover.  I picked it up to inspect further the revolting looking couple staring out at me.  Flicking through the book now, I remember the joy of seeing illustrations. It was these illustrations that made me pick the book up.

They perfectly captured the glee in Mrs Twit’s glass eye as she watched Mr Twit eat the wormy spaghetti. The book came to life through the illustrations, they animated it as Mrs Twit stamped her feet and clapped as she told Mr Twit what he had eaten.  I can only imagine those conversations that resulted in the illustrations.  As a keen young artist, forgive me Sir Quentin, your illustrations stopped me worrying about the right way to draw hands and to just draw.  Your illustrations spoke to me, they simply worked.

Fast forward a few years to my days as a newly qualified teacher and you would find me sharing Mrs Armitage with my class, a veritable Miss Marple/James Bond hybrid of a woman.  My class loved to dissect the illustrations – what else could she fit on that bicycle?  She was way ahead of her time. Who knew we would end up with so many gadgets on cars in real life? And the book has the perfect rhythm for reading aloud.  Mrs Armitage inspired another generation to read, draw and write.

As a consultant working in schools I worked with Joy Court to encourage schools to shadow the Greenaway Award and came across a book that has stayed with me.  The Sad Book by Michael Rosen, illustrated beautifully by Sir Quentin.  A haunting story of a personal and very real bereavement and how it can leave you in turn angry, sad but also happy with memories.  Sir Quentin’s illustrations yet again capture the emotions perfectly, simple portrayals of family life, snapshots of expressive and uncomfortable emotions, when sometimes no illustration is just right.  A brave book.

 Sir Quentin Blake, his website says, has drawn ever since he can remember, and ever since I can remember his name has been on many of the books I want to read.

Sir Quentin has had a long career, a teacher at the Royal College of Art, curating exhibitions, writing and illustrating his own books and those of others.  He has won numerous prestigious awards such as the Greenaway Award and in 2005 was given a CBE.  Earlier this year, Quentin became Sir Quentin when given a much deserved knighthood for services to illustration.  Today we honour him as a city with an award of high accolade, a Lifetime Inspiration award, our first ever awarded.  We thank you as a city of readers for your work to entertain and encourage young and old to pick up a book and read and sometimes laugh and always enjoy.  Thank you.’

Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant

So, who is your literary inspiration?

Forbidden food – Food in stories

This week’s blog considers a theme in stories favoured by many authors – food. Here we explore how we can use this theme to develop children’s understanding of stimulus and consequence in narrative.

Food appears in many stories, frequently working as a device to move the narrative forward. Here we take a look at foods that really shouldn’t have been eaten. Food that we like to call ‘forbidden’….

Forbidden foods appear in stories from different times and cultures, meaning that they are great for making cross-curricular links and raising opportunities to teach NC Reading Assessment Focus 7. Once children have experienced a number of stories that use forbidden food they should begin to notice that there are always consequences for eating the food. This, then, in turn supports them in Reading Assessment Focus 3, so that they are able to infer what may happen if a character eats something they shouldn’t.

Before looking at some learning activities that could be undertaken with food, let’s consider some of the stories where forbidden foods play a role.

A serpent tempting Eve to eat an apple in the Garden of Eden has to be the starting point for any analysis of forbidden food. It also allows a useful opportunity to look at morals in stories and to make links to RE. Staying in the ancient world, what about Persephone in the Underworld? As a consequence of having eaten six pomegranate seeds whilst in Hades, she was doomed to spend six months of every year in the underworld for the rest of her life.

When Alice ventured through Wonderland she encountered two different types of Forbidden food: Eat Me cake which caused her to grown to an unfathomable size and Drink Me potion which did quite the opposite. Both of these consequences were an inconvenience to Alice, but neither was particularly sinister. This isn’t the case in all stories, however. Just think what happened to Edmund Pevensie when he ate the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; or Snow White when she ate the apple (yes, apples again).

Sometimes the consequences of a bit of food indulgence aren’t quite so serious. A severe case of tummy ache is all that worries little Tiro, when he’s indulged on stolen oranges in Journey to Jo’burg. More comically the young Michael Rosen is given away by a chocolate smudge after his nocturnal chocolate cake consumption. And Julian and Huey suffer a ticking off and a quick cookery lesson after eating the Pudding like a Night on the Ocean intended for mum.

So, how can we teach children about the use of forbidden food in stories? First we need to collect stories where something happens as a consequence of consuming forbidden food. (Take a look at our Pinterest board). Once children have knowledge of this narrative tool it should help them to make inferences when they come across other examples of forbidden food in their reading (AF3).

There are lots of PSHE links to be made by looking at forbidden foods. The danger of taking food from strangers springs to mind – this could be covered with Snow White in KS1 and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in KS2. What about foods, potions and poisons? Why not debate whether Alice should have drunk the Drink Me potion, how did she know it was safe? Alternatively, you could turn each of these foodie encounters into an opportunity to persuade a character why they should eat the forbidden food. This could be as a poster or a persuasive letter.

If you’re feeling really creative you could provide the class with a selection of food. Naturally they will want to taste it, touch it and smell it, which is great for stimulating descriptive writing. If you’ve used The Pudding Like a Night on the Ocean you could even persuade them to use figurative language. Why not then, get the children to invent possible outcomes of eating various foods. Giving them exposure to lots of stories that use forbidden foods should really help fire their imaginations.

Explore creation myths which use food. I’ve referred to Eve and Persephone, can the children locate any others? This would make a good research activity.

Ask children to write their own stories where a character eats some food that they shouldn’t. In KS1 these could be simple innovations on well-known stories such as Snow White or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In KS2 children could box-up the narrative structure from one of the stories above and include a forbidden food with consequences that are suitable to the setting of their story.

And now we’re off for lunch. This blogpost is making us feel a little peckish…

Rachel Clarke,  Primary English Consultant.

Here be dragons!

Tuesday 23rd April: Shakespeare’s birthday,  International Day of the Book , World Book Night and St George’s Day. A Tuesday of treasure for readers everywhere – great literature, favourite books and, especially for those of us here in Coventry, DRAGONS!

Oh, you didn’t know that St George was said to have been born and died in Coventry, saving a fair maiden from the jaws of a dragon whilst here? Yes, Wikipedia will tell you otherwise, but we like to believe it’s true. (As are fairies, unicorns and brownies who tidy the house when you’re asleep.) And this gives us a great excuse to explore that intriguing character who pops up regularly in literature we love.

Here be dragons!

If I had a DRAGON Written and illustrated by Tom and Amanda Ellery

“I don’t want to play with my brother!  He’s too little.  I wish he would turn into something fun…” begins if i had a DRAGON.  I can relate to this. As a child I prayed the new baby would be a girl.  This is a really simple but fun tale that young children can retell and use to imitate their own stories.  Just think, if you had a dragon, what could you do?  But would it really be all that fun?  Suitable for Reception and Year 1.

 Again! by Emily Gravett

A little dragon, Cedric, wants his favourite bedtime story read again, and again, and again. Unfortunately his parent falls asleep before Cedric can hear the story enough times, turning the little dragon red with anger, with a rather heated consequence…As is usual for the author, the book includes humour appealing to child and grown-up alike. Is it just us who want to squeeeeze the illustrations in Emily Gravett’s books? We love them so much we thought we’d have a go at drawing lovely little fire-breathing dragons. Try this step-by-step guide from Emily herself. What do you think of our attempts?

The Emperor of Absurdia by Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell’s illustrations are glorious and, added to an enchanting tale, this makes for a good book choice for the KS1 imaginary tales unit of work.  Starting with a young boy, it moves into his dream of an Emperor looking for his snugly scarf (a very simple voyage and return story). Each element of that dream is made up of objects from the boy’s bedroom which you see at the end.  The text and pictures work together well to entertain and guide you through the book.  With a nod to a We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, this text would make a good partner if studying journeys or prepositions.  Suitable for Reception/KS1.

Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide by Tony DITerlizzi and Holly Black

This is a genius idea of a book; it’s simply a botantical study of the fantastical creatures that feature in the popular series of Spiderwick Chronicles.  The illustrations are exquisite, as you would expect from Tony DITerlizzi and Holly Black.  Each plate has much to explore and read and is particularly useful for a character study.  The book lends itself to new discovery every time you open it.  There is a whole section on dragons and griffins as well as nymphs, faeries and all manner of hobgoblins!  Suitable for KS2

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

I remember being born.                                                                          

In fact, I remember a time before that. There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion. Sound enfolded me and I was safe.” Prologue, Seraphina.

 Seraphina, is the 2012 debut novel of Rachel Hartman. The novel was longlisted for the 2013 Carnegie Medal and has been shortlisted for the 2013 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the teen section. Set in the mediaeval kingdom of Goredd, it is a beautifully written fantasy novel where for 40 years humans and dragons have lived side-by-side. The ability to fold themselves into human form means that the dragons in Goredd are able to hold positions of authority, alongside humans, in the kingdom. This uneasy peace is jeopardised when the Crown Prince of Goredd, Rufus, is found dead in a way that can only imply a dragon murder.

The narrative centres around Seraphina, a sixteen year old court musician. Like many teenagers, Seraphina harbours insecurities about her personal identity. Despite these adolescent insecurities, Seraphina is a resourceful, brave and intelligent young woman. She is an enduring character, staying in the mind long after the last page has been turned.  It is the depth of this characterisation alone that makes Seraphina such an engaging read.

The first in a planned series, Seraphina is a dragon book for teenagers looking for a strong female lead.

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

A dragon book for grown ups.

When young Jaffy Brown is taken in the mouth of a tiger his life changes direction for ever. His survival from this particular ordeal sets him off on a path out of the slums of Victorian London and onto an unforgettable journey to the East.

The tiger belongs to Jamrach, purveyor and importer of exotic animals, who takes young Jaffy into his employment. When a rich customer wants to acquire a dragon Jamrach sends young Jaffy and his friend Tim to join the expedition. The early parts of this novel drip with hope and colourful optimism. Once the dragon is captured and stowed on the ship though, the sublimely beautiful adventure spirals into a gut-wrenchingly macabre study of desperation. This is an unforgettable narrative for readers with a strong constitution.

Take a look at our Pinterest board for more dragon-related reading suggestions. And if you’re in Coventry on Tuesday, join in with the fun in Broadgate Square.

My ‘impossible to teach without’ book

Do you have an ‘impossible to teach without’ book? A book that you have used year after year, with class after class. A  ‘Please Miss, read that one’ kind of a book?

I’ve got a few but the one that tops my list is Quick, let’s get out of here by Michael Rosen. The book is a collection of funny poems about the things that children say, do and think (or perhaps the things that they wish they had said, done and thought). It’s the place where you will find Rosen’s poem Chocolate Cake, along with: Washing up, The Watch, Go-Kart, and the ‘Eddie poems’.Each and every one of these poems connects with the children, talks to them in a language they know and takes them on a journey of gasps, sighs, anxiety and laughter. After 18 years of reading this book I still share the guilt of stealing chocolate cake in the middle of the night and the joy of a two year-old Eddie proclaiming ‘Hallo Gerbils’ at the exterminated mice in the Rosen’s kitchen bin. It is an ‘impossible to teach without’ kind of a book.

Now you may not know this, but this small ‘impossible to teach without’ book has magical powers! So magical that when placed in the hands of a KS2 teacher it can quell the most quarrelsome class, inspire the uninspired and engage the ‘unengageable’.

If read sparingly but regularly at the beginning of the autumn term this little book can be the carrot that every teacher needs for a quiet classroom, completed work and willing children. They simply can’t get enough of it! Every class I have taught have begged for an Eddie poem and of course pleaded for chocolate cake. This little book is one of the best behaviour management tools I know!

‘Quick, let’s get out of here’ was published in 1983. I bought my copy in 1995 when I was training to teach. I’ve read this book to every class I’ve taught and if I were to meet a new class tomorrow it would be the first thing I’d pack in my bag. My copy is now yellow around the edges and held together with sellotape and coverlon. It’s now far too fragile for little hands to handle but not so infirm that it cannot be read to their eager little ears. ‘Quick, let’s get out of here’ is definitely my ‘impossible to teach without’ book.

Rachel ClarkePrimary English Consultant

Click here to see Michael Rosen perform Chocolate Cake