Hello Mr Hulot – welcome to guided reading


Hello Mr Hulot by David Meveille is a wonderful wordless book that made me laugh out loud and I don’t often do that.


The book is strongly patterned in terms of the way that the pictures are framed – 4 to 6 frames on the first page followed by a one page frame when you turn over.  It is this that lends the book to being used in guided reading.    It would be very good to use a reciprocal reading type session where the children predict from the first page and then draw what they think the last image would be after having studied The Heart of Paris and Hulot the Plumber.  The children could then generate questions that can be answered by the text and summarise it.

See  a YouTube version here.  This book is going on our guided reading list for level 4 readers.

How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Robinson and Hindley

cover   We have been on the lookout for a book that has a good set of instructions for KS1 and look what turned up from Amazon this evening!

This set of instructions sets out how to wash a woolly mammoth with a great sense of humour.  I love the back cover with the bottles of shampoo and soap such as Tusk Whitener and Antibacterial Hoof Wash.

The instructions reassure the owner of the mammoth that they can wash the animal with a few clever tricks.  Step three just says ‘Add mammoth.’ and is then followed by a series of images showing ways in which the mammoth can be encouraged into the bath using a broom or a spooky mask.  This page lends itself to children writing a series of sentences to explain what is happening in the images.

The voice of the text is informative ‘ Don’t forget to wash behind those ears….’ and ensures the owner   undertakes this task successfully ‘CAREFUL – a mammoth’s tummy is terribly tickly!’

hairdoI love the hair styles that the little girl makes when she washes his topknot – a mammoth mullet anyone?

I wondered about using this book with The Night Zookeeper where children could make their own imaginary animal and then write a set of instructions about caring for it in some way.  This could be washing it but it could also be feeding, exercising or clipping it. Maybe that last one isn’t really for KS1 children! I was getting carried away by the TV programme that showed competitive poodle clipping and colouring.

This is one title that will end up in our Teaching Sequence subscription service based on the new national curriculum.  These are the titles that we have written teaching sequences.  More will be added to the list as we write them.

The Fishing Trip by Beatrice Rodriguez

The Fishing Trip by Rodriguez  is a wonderful wordless book that I will be adding to the list of wordless books on our texts that teach list.  Thanks @madaboutbooks for the recommendation.

The book tells the story of Fox, Chicken and Crab who open the fridge to find the cupboard bare.  Chicken and Crab then go off on a fishing trip to catch some food.  They catch a large fish, only for a cross eagle-type bird to catch hold of the fish and drag Chicken and Crab off.  They end up entangled with a nasty-looking sea-snake and escape back home.  There a big surprise awaits them and I laughed out loud when I turned to the last page and saw what they were having for tea.

The book would work particularly well with units of literacy in Yrs2 – 4 where a traditional tale is being looked at, as the story lends itself to that type of story telling.  It would fit into the capturing ideas part of a teaching sequence providing a structure for children to retell their own story.  We are in discussion about the blueprint – voyage and return or quest. It fits both and the one you would choose would be dependent upon how strongly you felt the desire was to go on a journey to solve the problem of no food .

I was delighted to see that there were  more books in the series: The Chicken Thief, Fox and Hen TogetherRooster’s Revenge  and The Treasure Thief due out at the end of this month. I am going to have to start collecting them!

Have you come across any good books recently?

The High Street by Alice Melvin

My copy of The High Street arrived on Christmas Eve so I had to wait a while to settle down and enjoy it.  I was not disappointed.  This is a book of lists (Yr1 teachers will be pleased to hear) and visits to the local shops.

This book is the antonym of cumulative – I am not sure what that is!  Decumulate?  When I looked it up it is subtractive which makes sense.  So, this book has a subtractive structure due to the fact that there is a shopping list and as Sally visits each shop she is able to cross an item off her list of 10 items.

This book would be great for anyone looking at their local environment and able to visit local shops, draw them and study what they have to sell in them.  It would also work well for Yr1 in the autumn term to go with the labels, lists and captions block of work.

Each page of the shop is folded over so that when you open it you can see the inside of the shop, both downstair and upstairs.  This will involve children in detailed drawings of the shop fronts and what they imagine to be upstairs.

This is a wonderful book that deserves to be on our texts that teach list is a model that children can innovate upon or use to invent.  For invent I was thinking of a Yr1 class I have been recently working with who have used Tell Me a Dragon as a model to write about the animals that they had visited at the zoo.  Before they went the class had drawn up a list of animals that they wanted to see.  Instead of a version of The High Street, the children could create a version called The Zoo where they cross the animals off their list once they have seen them.

If you are thinking about the things that we need to teach children prior to the Yr6 end of KS2 grammar test, this book shows the use of the possesive apostrophe well.

That aside, it is wonderful!

A new illustrator/author

I read a lot off instructions written by children and love to find different ways of presenting this writing as it can lack variety on occasions.

In fact I thought I never wanted to see another set if instructions for a cup of tea until I found Alice Melvin’s wonderful little book  Fancy a Brew? a guide to the perfect cuppa

What I love most about this book is that it is about paper folding, writing and illustrating (that’s just about everything about the book).

The book is made out of out of 2 pieces of paper folded in the middle with a cardboard cover sewn on.  The front and back cover open out to show what is needed to make the perfect cuppa, a table where you can fill in where and when you had a perfect cuppa and then at the end a tea bag stapled in to make a cuppa with.

The writing is uncomplicated and the illustrations are beautiful.  Similar illustrations could be created with a black felt pen and one other colour.

This is just a fantastic way to present your instructions.  The book reminds me of Paul Johnson’s book Literacy Through the Book Arts which is all about paper folding and pop-ups as a way to stimulate and present children’s work.

I am waiting for a copy of her latest book The High Street to arrive.  It looks like it might be a contender for our texts that teach books.

Did you get any good books for christmas?

WANTED: The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton

Followers of this blog will know only to well my penchant for a good book to use to support literacy teaching.  Well thanks to @bogchild we have a new one suitable for Yr2.

This is the story of Henry and what he wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world.  A perfect pet, of course,  in the form of a dog.

There is however a duck who wants, more than anything else in the world,  a friend.  With a little bit of disguise by the duck, the two get together and have great fun until the disguise falls off.

The book is told in three short chapters which is unusual for a picture book.  The first chapter tells about Henry and the second chapter about the duck.  The third chapter tells  what happens when they get together.  There are opportunities for creating wanted posters, adverts, labelled diagrams and non-chronological reports.  It makes a wonderful text for children to innovate upon, writing about their own perfect pet.

The second sentence in the book is wonderful and is one that is definitely worth learning and remembering and using for children to create their own version.

What Henry wanted more than anything else in the whole wide world, more than chips, more than a cowboy costume, more than an all expenses paid trip to the moon, more, even, than world peace itself, was a dog.

The blueprint of this book is rags to riches.

What is your favourite text that teaches at the moment?

Wordless picture book number 4

I have long been a fan of David Wiesner, enjoying many of his wordless picture books.  My favourite one has to be Flotsam.

In this book a boy finds a camera washed up on the beach with a film inside.  I have to say the colours on the roll of film do remind me of Kodak but I am not sure how many children in primary schools will still be familiar with the concept of film and taking the film to be developed.  The photos that are revealed tell the tales of incredible goings on under the sea.  But the last picture proves to be even more of a puzzle because it shows a girl holding a picture from the film and this image goes on and on and on.

Using a microscope these images reveal that the very first picture was taken a long time ago.  The boy continues the idea of taking a picture of himself holding the last photo and then returns the camera to the sea where it continues on its fantastical journey.  This is a wonderful book where every page is a visual delight.

I love the fantastical side of the book with the sea creatures taking part in human activities, sitting on the sofa reading or flying in a balloon of puffer fish.  But I am also interested in the theme of eyes and lenses that runs through the book.  It reminds me of The Viewer by Shaun Tan Gary Crew and another book about the Kraken which escapes me at the moment.

There are several ways in which this book could be used.  It could be used as for children to retell the story adding text or it could be innovated upon.  If children took the underlying story: something is found on the beach, it reveals something unexpected, it is returned to the sea then there are lots of ways in which a similar story could be developed especially if children are taken down to the beach to see what they can find on shore.  The book could be used to develop the idea of character through showing not telling.  ‘What do we know about the boy?’  would make a great investigation for children as there are many clues to be interpreted.  There is also something interesting to be studied in the framing of the pictures.   I particularly like the six small frames that show the boy’s boredom/excitement whilst waiting the hour for the pictures to be printed.

Another possible way to use the book is to take the idea from Houghton Mifflin and create a promotional video for the book.  A tool such as Photostory would be ideal.

This book would work well with almost any unit of literacy in KS2.  Obvious links are imaginary worlds and familiar settings but if you like the book you will make it work anywhere!

Have you used this book in literacy?  If so, how?

Wordless picture book number 3

When Night Didn’t Come by Poly Bernatene is a wordless picture book which offers a considerable level of challenge to read as well as being a visual feast.

The story tells of a village when the sun goes down and the panic when the moon doesn’t rise.  There are wonderful pictures of the mechanics of making the moon rise with villagers pulling up large bags of stars and throwing them into the sky.

The colours used in the pictures are rich with glowing oranges set against darker blues, greens and purples giving a slightly theatrical, if not magical feel to the story.  It is this element that reminds me of Leon and The Place Between by Grahame Baker-Smith.  In fact it would be wonderful if children could tell the story of night not coming in the style of Leon and The Place Between.  The language in that book is rich in patterning with a magical air about it.

I think this book would be most suitable for Yr4 children, particularly the imaginary worlds/fanstasy unit of literacy.  Wonderful!


Wordless picture book number 2

Fans of wordless picture books will be familiar with Jeannie Baker’s work;  Window, Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Home.  The book of hers that I would most like to use in a literacy sequence is Mirror which I think fits very well with the Yr5 literacy unit stories from other cultures.

The book opens out to show two stories, one on either side of the cover.  Each book tells us the story of a child and their family, one living in Australia and one living in Morocco.    I think the book works best if you turn the pages of each story at the same time and read the two stories together comparing and contrasting what you can see and what you understand.

The images are created in Baker’s normal style, collage, and are packed full of detail that takes a while to observe fully.  The stories do cross when the Moroccan father travels into the market to sell a carpet and then the carpet is collected and placed in the Sydney home.  A way, I suppose, of asking us to consider where the things we buy come from and that we are linked in all sorts of ways.  It would be a great discussion with children to consider all the different ways that the title Mirror is reflected in the book.

There are several websites with teaching ideas for using this book.  Walker Books has a set of activities which are worth dipping into, particularly as they were drawn up with Jeannie Baker.  I would use the book to retell one of the stories but I would ask children to tell it in the style of The Day of Ahmed’s  Secret by Florence Perry Heide and Judith Heide Gillilan.  The writing in this book is rich with description and quite lyrical.  Whenever I have used this book with children they are always really surprised by the secret, it being such an every day act in their own lives.

A trio of christmas books

I have long enjoyed Carol Ann Duffy’s work, a fact which was brought home to me when I read her  poem Achillles about David Beckham.  I loved the way that she brought popular culture and laureate work together.  Something she has continued to do.  I hope that I am to receive her latest book The Bees for christmas.  I have dropped enough hints!

What I do have however, is copies of the little christmas books that she has written and I have collected over the last three years.

The first of the trio that I bought was Mrs Scrooge.  This is an uptodate version of the story with Mrs Scrooge googling information about the way that turkeys are reared for the christmas feast.  It also contains credit cards, protests and developers.

Up the echoing stairs to slippers, simple supper, candles, cocoa, cat, went Mrs Scrooge: not scared, but oddly comforted at glimpsing Scrooge’s knockered face.

The language rolls and trips off the tongue, rich with alliteration and assonance.  Christmas past, present and future arrive to show Mrs Scrooge the life she has had, has and will have with a happy ending of family near by and developers thwarted.

Posy Simmonds provides the illustrations and they mirror the warmth, detail and emotion.

Another Night Before Christmas is illustrated by Rob Ryan: he of the wonderful paper cutting.   This is the story of a little girl trying to stay awake to see if Santa is real.

The hushed street was in darkness.  Snow duveted the cars – a stray cat had embroidered each roof with its paws.

An owl on an aerial had planets for eyes.  The child at the window stared up at the sky.

I an not quite sure how you pronounce ‘duveted’ but I do love the way that christmas is described; the flirting of the tree in flickers of green and crimson, the reindeer whose breath chiffoned out into the cold and the aeroplanes that sped to the east and the west like a pulled cracker. There are again references to contemporary life with the droning motorways, people in blankets with nowhere to go, cashpoints glowing like icons of light and the satellite filming famine and greed.  The story is however timeless.

The Christmas Truce tells the story of the football match on the 25th December 1914 when war was suspended and Christmas spread.

So Christmas dawned, wrapped in mist, to open itself and offer the day like a gift for Harry, Hugo, Hermann, Henry, Heinz….. with whistles, waves, cheers, shouts, laughs.

The illustrations by David Roberts are so evocative showing a  devastated waste land of spiky shapes and  red cold noses and cheeks.

These books would make fantastic stocking filler.  Let’s hope there will be many more.

Happy Christmas!