Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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This is our latest class novel that we finished on Friday.  30 out of 32 children loved it. It’s a great little adventure story for Year 3 – shortish chapters, characters the children loved (with scope for me having fun doing the voices), and a perfectly tied up and happy ending.  It’s about a boy whose parents are explorers.  They are about to settle down so Oliver can go to school, when they discover some ‘rambling islands’ and go missing. Oliver goes on an adventure trying to find them. No spoilers here, but the characters include a short-sighted mermaid, a cantankerous seagull and some sarcastic seaweed (oh really…).

The children really enjoyed this one, although interestingly two or three didn’t think the illustrations matched the story – I guess they had pictured it differently in their imaginations.

I’ll leave you with a couple of reviews:

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Angry Arthur by Hiawyn Oram & Satoshi Kitamura

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I read this to the children as part of a circle-time.  It’s one of those books where I wish I had 32 copies so everyone could get a good look at the pictures while I read (there was a lot of  ‘teacher book-swooping’ going on). The story is about Arthur (fancy that) who gets really angry when his mum won’t let him watch a Western at bedtime (we had to have a discussion about what a Western was.  I feel so old.)  When I say he gets angry, I’m understating: he destroys the world/universe and everything in it with his rage.

The children could really relate to this and there was lots of chat about things that make us angry.  They had advice for Arthur, “He should really just count to 10…”, “He shouldn’t get so mad about a stupid TV programme – it’s just a TV programme.”, “It’s a bit like the boys earlier when they were fighting over the chair, Mrs G!” Oh, so it is – what a perceptive child!!

We discussed whether he really destroyed the world.  There were mixed opinions: was it just a dream?  “It’s a story,” said J, “he didn’t really destroy everything, he was just so angry it felt like he could have done.” (Tick that inference box!)

“Of course it’s not real – it would be impossible! You can’t breathe in space.”  Thanks F.

A great book for exploring anger and what to do when we feel angry.

 

The Flower by John Light

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This is a stunning book.  I thought it would fit in well with our science topic of plants.  It is the story of a boy called Brigg, who works in a library where ‘dangerous books’ are stored.  It is set in a dull, grey future world where there are no plants (When Brigg discovers a book about flowers he doesn’t know what they are: just that they are beautiful).

Class 3 started by looking at the cover and reading the blurb: there was lots to discuss. There is some sophisticated vocabulary in the blurb which we unpicked together.  I asked the children to come up with questions about the book: what did they think might happen? What did they want to know?  This provoked some interesting discussion.  One child was excited to share that she thought it might be similar to ‘The Promise’, a book she had read at Art Club, because that was set in a dull future too.  She was spot on with this observation and the two books would work well together (as would Footpath Flowers I think).

We didn’t read the story for a few days (the bank holiday weekend happened!) and the children were really keen.  I photographed the pages and put them into a powerpoint, zooming in on the details, as it is tricky to share a picturebook if you’ve only got one copy: the children really do need to study the pictures.  What followed was astounding.  I had looked through this book several times but I didn’t come up with anything like the ideas and observations the children had.  It always amazes me how much children bring and interpret and notice that I haven’t.  “Look at the cat! It looks just like the boy from the first picture with the stripy jumper! Are they in any pictures together? Perhaps he IS the cat!”; “Why does he go to work when he’s only a boy?”; “Maybe the books are dangerous because they will suck you into the story and you will be trapped forever.”; “Maybe the ruler of this world is evil and doesn’t want any colour.”; “Perhaps they have hidden the books because there aren’t any flowers any more and they don’t want people to be sad – if they don’t know about it then they won’t miss it.” (Mrs G nods sagely at this point); “The picture is in colour!” ; “Look at the clouds…or is it smoke? Maybe the smoke is showing where the flowers are?”

We all sat and listened as one child literally talked his way around to understanding: he started in one place and ended up in entirely another (it took a while but it was a joy to listen to!). We spent a good 50 minutes reading and discussing the story (far longer than I’d planned, but it was too rich an opportunity to rush – how often do we teachers allow ourselves and the children enough time to do something as well as we’d like?).

The next day we read the story again (quickly this time), and the children did an activity where they wrote thought bubbles at different points in the story: what might Brigg be thinking here? This showed different levels of understanding (as you might expect).  We discussed a few ideas each time.  This is a good activity to show who is looking and thinking beyond the obvious – we had a chat about whether Brigg would actually think, “I’m really happy!” or whether he would think something else which would show his happiness.

Finally the children wrote a short synopsis and book review.  You could spend far longer on this book (and I will refer to it again) but, as always, time is short.  As one of my class wrote, “A beautiful book that you could read over and over again.”

You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum by Andy Stanton

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This won our class vote for our new class read and the children loved it.  This book is bonkers! It has lots of jokes: some obvious (much laughter) some less so (one or two sniggers) and one or two which went completely over all their heads but made their teacher smile.  This book got the children very excited: they weren’t calm, quiet reading sessions.  Very funny – Class 3’s thumbometer showed approximately 97% positivity.  The truth is a lemon meringue!

The Colour Monster by Anna Lenas

The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas (a pop-up)

I used this book to support discussing feelings in a PSHE lesson.  It is a gorgeous book with brilliant pop-ups.  It’s the story of a monster who is all mixed up because his colours (emotions) are muddled.  The children loved the book and we chatted about how different colours make us feel.  There was a debate about blue: is it calm or scary? A good way into what might be a tricky topic.  You could do loads with this book.  Highly recommended.

Borka by John Burningham

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We liked the pictures in this one.  It’s an ‘Ugly Duckling’ kind of tale about being different and finding your own way in the world.  Some children were disappointed that Borka didn’t end up back with his family: there was a discussion about how the other geese at the end were like his new family, “Maybe they were different too?”  Thumb-o-meter (scientific measuring device used in class – ‘show me on your thumbs what you thought of the story…’) proved inconclusive: a mixed reaction to this one; some thumbs up but mostly middling!  It will be a good introduction to our next writing task: rewriting the Ugly Duckling for year 1 to read.