Oliver is a solitary child. This gentle story is essentially about feeling as though you are different to other people, how that is OK and, eventually, about making friends with someone just like you. I used this during a circle time/PSHE lesson.
The text tells us that he plays with his friends but the pictures show only Oliver. This caused a bit of debate in Y3 and a lot of children assumed Oliver’s friends were ‘out of picture’. We had to do quite a bit of digging around before someone suggested that his friends were imaginary, i.e. his toys. There was lots of discussion about loneliness and we had to look carefully at the pictures to see if Oliver looked sad. Can you be happy without friends? There were lots of puzzled faces looking at me. “Well he looks happy at the beginning, but then maybe he’s lonely when his friends stop listening to him.” “He’s happy when he finds a girl just like him.”
There was a debate about whether Oliver had any parents: they are not an obvious presence from the pictures but it wasn’t something I’d even considered: trust children to notice something different! Hence we went off on a tangent for a bit (no change there).
A few weeks ago we read the book ‘We are Wonders’ and several children referred to this during the discussion. One girl noted that in Wonder Auggie looks different so people can see that he’s different whereas Oliver just feels different, so people wouldn’t know.
This is a great book to begin a discussion on how we are all different: they all had lots of things to say about times when they had felt ‘different’ – when they started a new club, for example. They also spotted that Oliver’s new friend had appeared throughout the book (again – I hadn’t noticed…). We had to go back through and look again at all the pictures, noticing what the little girl was doing in each.
A lovely story.
I hadn’t realised when I bought this book (in my local bookshop-in-a-pub: it’s got a lot to answer for that place!) that this is one of the books in Andrew Moffat’s ‘No Outsiders in our School: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools’. As a school we are going to be using Andrew’s approach from September: I highly recommend you look it up. Brilliant lesson plans using picture books from YR – Y6.