Books for Sharing is a list of books compiled for use as class readers in Primary and Secondary classrooms by Joan Barker and David Bennett. They are avid sharers of books with their classes and both convinced of the enormous benefits of reading together. Part One appeared in July 1984.
Part 5 offers suggestions for titles for the first half of next term along with ideas for follow-up reading and activities. We hope that readers will try out books wherever they are appropriate to their own school situation and will explore and experiment with some of the follow-up work, ideas for which are not intended to be comprehensive but more to give a flavour of what might be done to further excite and engage the readers who share the texts.
The Julian Stories
Ann Cameron, Fontana Young Lions, 0 00 672227 X, £1.00
Here are six anecdotes of childhood, the memories of Julian and his little brother Huey. They are retold by Ann Cameron, an accomplished storyteller, who uses simple but effective language to relate everyday happenings and turn them into amazing adventures.
The warm relationship which Julian has with his father is apparent throughout the book. The characters of the two boys and their father are very convincing and lower junior children find it easy to relate to their escapades which are dealt with in a firm but loving way.
The illustrations by Ann Strugnell complement the stories and offer ideas for art work by the children.
Things to Do
1. Chapter 1. ‘My father is a big man … shiver to the bottom of our shoes.’ Paint a picture or make a collage of Julian’s dad or your own dad.
2. ‘The pudding will taste like a whole raft of lemons.’ What is your favourite food? Can you describe what it tastes like? Make up a class food poem.
3. Chapter 2. Make a mural of cats helping in the garden or in the house.
4. Chapter 6. What five wishes would you tie to a wishing kite? Write them down but don’t tell anyone. Make a kite of your own. (Sled kites are guaranteed to fly successfully. See The Penguin Book of Kites by David Pelham.)
5. Write a Julian story of your own either about Julian and his brother or yourself.
More to Read
The Fiend Next Door, Sheila Lavelle, Fontana Young Lions, 0 00 672082 X, £1.00
The Well, Gene Kemp, Faber, 0 571 13284 7, £4.95
The Battle of Bubble and Squeak
Philippa Pearce, Puffin, 0 14 03.1183 1, £1.00
Sid Parker’s mum detests animals. When Sid smuggles two gerbils (Bubble and Squeak) into the house, she is adamant – they will have to go. Sid and his two sisters, Peggy and Amy, take up arms in the battle to keep Bubble and Squeak. In between the adversaries is Bill, the children’s stepfather, who remembers keeping white mice when he was a boy and in his quiet way supports them and gains Sid’s friendship.
Philippa Pearce has long been a favourite author of mine and I think that all children should be given the opportunity to encounter her writing. She understands how helpless young people can feel and how persistent they can be in the face of parental opposition.
Things to Do
1. Design a cage for a pair of gerbils. It can have as many rooms as you like. It needs to have food containers and exercise equipment.
2. ‘Sid had named the two of them … Bubble and Squeak.’ Make a class collection of pairs of names that go together.
3. Mrs Sparrow advertised the two gerbils for sale. How would you advertise something to make sure that someone wouldn’t find it attractive, e.g. a pair of dinosaurs that had outgrown your house.
4. Imagine that you have to leave a pet for someone else to look after whilst you are away on holiday. Write out instructions for feeding, cleaning and exercising them.
5. ‘The night after the dustbin morning was a bad one … She was having a nightmare.’ Can you remember having a nightmare? In groups talk about it. Write a description or a nightmare poem or paint a picture.
More to Read
The Elm Street Lot, Philippa Pearce, Puffin, 0 14 03.1147 5, 95p
A Dog So Small, Philippa Pearce, Puffin, 0 14 03.0206 9, £1.10
I Hate My Teddy Bear
David McKee, Andersen Press, 0 86264 016 4, £4.50; Sparrow, 0 09 937510 9, £1.75
Whilst their mothers have tea together, John and Brenda take their teddies outside to play. Having both announced that they hate their teddy bears, they begin to boast about them. All the time that they are arguing about which one is best, they wander through a park filled with people performing strange antics and everywhere disembodied limbs appear. Several different stories are interwoven in pictures throughout the book.
I Hate My Teddy Bear is a classic example of a picture book for older readers (as identified by Elaine Moss) through which they can explore the world and their place in it. It has been criticized as being ‘difficult’, ‘surreal’ and ‘self-indulgent’ but the top juniors that I used it with voted it a winner.
Start by reading the book and showing all the pictures except the last one.
Things to Do
l. Write a TV or newspaper report describing the first sightings of the arms and legs. Where had they come from? Interview people for first-hand reports.
2. In small groups produce a catalogue for the sculpture exhibition which must have a name, a location and a sponsor. Name at least four exhibitors, write a description of their careers and draw pictures of them. Describe the exhibits including materials and tools used, name them and fix a selling price. The catalogue should also contain advertisements.
3. Discuss problems of producing such large sculptures – how a block of stone or wood takes the required form. Write a poem called ‘Sculpture’.
4. Pencil drawings of arms and legs in unusual positions. Partners used as models and first drawings made on squared paper to aid perspective.
5. Picture of Brenda and John’s motherssitting together. Why is Brenda’s mum crying? In secret, write the letter that makes her cry. Address it and post in the classroom. Later distribute letters randomly and in groups read aloud and decide which letters would be most likely to make someone cry.
More to Read
Bear Goes to Town, Anthony Browne, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 10817 9, £4.95; Sparrow, 0 09 932040 1 £1.75
A Walk in the Park, Anthony Browne, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 89397 6, £4.95
Not Now Bernard, David McKee, Sparrow, 0 09 924050 5, £1.35
SECONDARY YEAR 1
The Secret of NIMH
(Mrs Frisby and The Rats of NIMH), Robert C. O’Brien, Puffin, 0 14 03.0725 7, £1.25
I’ve always suspected that O’Brien was so enamoured with the mouse creation that Mrs Frisby gets rather too much of this book, and so the first sixty-odd pages need dispensing with rapidly in order to get on to the real stars – the rats. I suppose they’re ‘Super Stars’ really, having been rendered extra intelligent and inordinately strong by a scientific experiment, from which they have escaped. When Mrs Frisby seeks their help she learns of their adventurous past, their brave plans for the future and of her dead husband’s past involvement in their affairs.
The film version will probably make the contents known to some pupils, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent for a class sharing its ingenuity and cleverly paced action and suspense and for exploring the more serious implications, all of which contributed to its Newbery Medal award in 1971.
Things to Do
1. The book has a strong message of giving help to others. Explore this in discussion. Then make a pictorial representation for the classroom wall.
2. Two ideas for writing: (a) The adventures of the six mice blown away in the tunnel (p.122); (b) The day Martin persuaded Jeremy to take him to Thorn Valley (p.196).
3. Dramatise the great debate between the Nicodemus Party and the Jenner Party when the idea of Thorn Valley was mooted (p.153). Mount a campaign for each party.
4. Imagine that Rat 17 was appointed Recorder Rat, jotting notes and collecting artefacts for a museum devoted to the rats’ adventures. Describe or recreate his collection, which he set up in Thorn Valley.
5. Class attitudes to vivisection, etc. (p.119). This might be tied to parts of The Plague Dogs, Richard Adams, Penguin, 0 14 00.5533 9, £l .95.
More to Read
R C O’Brien’s other book is The Silver Crown, Fontana Lions, 0 00 671005 0, £1.50
A Picture Puffin version of The Rats of NIMH is available – The Secret of NIMH Story Book, 0 14 050.418 4, £2.95 (see also Books for Keeps 15).
Mog and the Rectifier
Chris Powling, Knight, 0 340 28046 8, 95p
Last time I promised a strong female lead, well a Tyke Tiler look-alike dominates this book, only her identity is revealed quite early on. The Rectifier himself is kept fairly secret although the cover of some editions gives too much away. Who is the Rectifier – he (or she) who ‘makes adventure something that can happen anywhere, any day. He (who) can turn life into a sort of Golden Land?’ Brains, the narrator, doesn’t know; Mog, who seems to possess some inside information, might know… but then again…
The story moves briskly and remains steadfastly over the top, which make it well suited for this age range, who often seem bogged down in realism and in need of an antidote!
Things to Do
1. Predict the story from the title and Genius’s letter at the onset. After reading the whole story what might Mog’s reply he to the letter?
2. Use the class’s suggestions of super heroes to examine the appeal of such a phenomenon as the ‘righter of all wrongs’. Invent a super-hero, specifying his specialities and powers. Use him for drama, cartoon work, creative writing, news reports, a Rectifier boardgame.
3. Script the discussion between The Headmaster, Sir Edwin and The Chaplain after Howard and Brains have been interviewed at the school.
4. Write Mog’s ‘Rectifier Training Manual’ with full notes and step-by-step instructions or ‘Mog’s Great Hoaxes’ or ‘How to be the Complete Bully’ by Howard Bygraves.
5. Make an illustrated chart to demonstrate the ups and downs of the rivalry between Mog’s Gang and the Bygraves. This will require careful detailing from the whole book.
More to Read
Other books by Chris Powling:
Daredevils or Scaredycats, Fontana Lions 0 00 671897 3, £1.25
The Mustang Machine, Knight, 0 340 32101 6, £1.25
Welcome Home, Jellybean
Marlene Fanta Shyer, Collins Cascades, 0 00 330018 8, £1.65
‘Now I’ve read this I really feel I know a mentally handicapped person and my attitudes have changed.’ A telling remark by a third-year girl after her class had thoroughly enjoyed this humorous, lively and challenging novel. The story of Geraldine’s adaptation to home and family life after years of being in institutions is told by her brother Neil, who sees his hitherto secure existence collapse under the strain and his own performance at school disintegrate as dilemmas pile up.
The group’s initial uncertainty and some silly clowning soon disappear, for a strength of the book is that it evokes seriousness and concern rather than derision and many young readers are visibly shaken by it.
The chapters are very short and read aloud well, with intriguing tasters for the next episode at the end of each. The Americanisms barely intrude because the focus of attention is on Geraldine herself, or Jellybean as she prefers it, whose good humour and journey towards acceptability in a hostile world creates an impact that transcends every other concern or quibble.
Things to Do
1. Before the novel starts, discuss class attitudes to the mentally handicapped. Contrast this with a discussion at the end which explores how class attitudes have now changed.
2. You are Mrs Shrub. Mrs Oxley has asked you, at very short notice, to have Geraldine at your home for the weekend. Over a cup of coffee with a crony, describe your preparations for the visit and the events of the weekend.
3. Compile the flat owner’s dossier on the Oxleys. Include Miss Gropper’s letter after Chapter 3, Mr Rasmussen’s after Chapters 3 and I I and Mr Parrish’s reports after Chapters 12 and 17.
4. After Chapter 15 record the lengthy and serious conversation between Mr and Mrs Oxley where they talk frankly about their perceptions of their situation. Perhaps introduce a Social Worker.
5. Make up another story about Neil’s school life which involves Beef, Joe/Jason, Lady Bowring and Mr Guttag. Try very hard to keep them with the same characteristics as they have in the book.
More to Read
Another novel by Marlene Fanta Shyer:
My Brother the Thief, Granada, 0 246 11635 8, 95p – the dilemma of a girl whose brother has taken to petty crime.
It’s My Life
Robert Leeson, Fontana Lions, 0 00 671783 7, £1.25
Robert Leeson is quoted as saying that, ‘class readers can be the kiss of life rather than a fate worse than death’, so his own book, with its appropriate title, seems like a good choice for our penultimate novel. Placing it after Your Friend Rebecca might seem a little odd, but I value the opportunity to examine the different ways that authors might choose to explore what is essentially the same situation, and if the boys are beginning to feel rebellious promise them something macho for next time. Leeson is of course strongly associated with the Grange Hill stories which is generally a good recommendation to youngsters.
Jan’s mother’s sudden departure leaves her family emotionally stunned and lost. It seems that brother Kevin and Jan’s father choose to gloss over their problems by directly substituting Jan for her mother, but then so does everyone else. When the boyfriend too takes her for granted Jan realises that, like her mother, she must take control of her own life before others do it for her.
Things to Do
1. Begin by predicting the story just from its title and discuss what sort of story the pupils could write if faced with this subject in an exam.
2. A practical way of examining the mother/father, male/female role is to do a parent pursuit – based on observation, like the pupil pursuit carried out in school. Pupils, armed with a checklist, watch their parents for half an hour over the busy tea-time period, ticking every time they perform certain prescribed actions. The results are hugely illuminating!
3. Record Jan’s conversation with Mr Donatelli had she gone to see him (p.113).
4. Dramatise Jan calling the Samaritans between Chapters 14/15.
5. Devise a chart to demonstrate the comparisons and contrast of attitudes to life between Jan, her mum, Sandra, Gran and Tina.
More to Read
Other books by this author:
Candy for King, Fontana Lions, 0 00 672467 1, £1.50
Forty Days of Tucker J., Fontana Lions, 0 00 672176 1, £1.00. There is a programme on this book in ITV Thames’ ‘English Programme‘ series.