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.

Double, double, toil and trouble…

We were recently asked if we had any ideas for using Macbeth with Y5 and Y6 children. Being ladies who like to help, we turned to our very merry band of social media followers who came up with a great list of ideas for using ‘the Scottish play‘ in upper Key Stage 2. Knowing that there are more busy teachers out there looking for ideas to inspire their classes, we’ve taken the list, tweaked it, added a few of our own ideas and created a list of 15 ideas for teaching Macbeth in primary schools.

1. Reciting poetry aloud, or performance poetry as we prefer to call it, is set to take a central role in the proposed Primary Curriculum due for arrival in schools from 2014. Whilst our follower asked us for ideas for Y5 and Y6, we can’t help thinking that the Witches Spell (Act4 Scene 1) makes a great introduction to learning to perform Shakespeare by heart and we think it’s suitable from Y1 onwards.  You could also link this to Shakespeare’s sonnets and a comparision of the sonnets and the Witches Spell.

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