Teachers review Greenaway shortlist

Staff at Hobayne Primary School in Hanwell, London, have reviewed the Greenaway Medal 2011 shortlist for ReadingZone.

The full Greenaway Medal Shortlist is as follows:

Farther by Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar) Ages 8+

Me and You by Anthony Browne (Corgi) Ages 5+

April Underhill, Tooth Fairy by Bob Graham (Walker Books) Ages 5+

Jim (Hilaire Belloc) by Mini Grey (Jonathan Cape) Ages 6+

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books) Ages 5+

Big Bear Little Brother by Kristin Oftedal, Carl Norac (Macmillan Children’s Books) Ages 3+

Ernest by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books) Ages 3+

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham (text), Juan Wijngaard (illus.) (Walker Books) Ages 8+

The Greenaway Medal shortlisted titles have been reviewed, below, by staff at Hobbayne Primary School, Hanwell, London

By Grahame Baker-Smith

The story, which is told through words and illustrations, considers the life of a boy as he grows and his relationship with his father. The book explores the dreams of a father, and the tragedy of having to go to war. The illustrations lead you to make implications about the time period of the story at times. The boy then becomes a father himself in time, and memories and emotions of his childhood are shared with the reader in subtle ways.

Sharing with the class:
Year four class of 30 children (aged 8-9).
The children were enamoured of the beautiful, and sometimes dramatic illustrations in the book. They asked lots of questions about the actions of the characters, as so much of the tales is told through pictures: they were keen to get inside the characters.

The children were keenly aware of the expressions on the faces of the characters and wanted to know why they were ‘sad’ and ‘lonely’. It made them want to talk about their own dreams (of the future and the night-time kind). The class understood that the book told of the boy’s relationship with his father and were, in fact, relieved that he went on to have some happiness when he had his own son.

What I think of the book.
I think this is a beautiful book and could be used for many different age levels above year four. The book explores the delicate matters of father / son relationships, and made it feel safe for the children to talk about their own dads and things they shared with them. The book has evocative language and outstanding illustrations, that provoke discussion and thought from adults and children. I loved it!

There are so many things that could be done with this text in writing, illustration and discussion:
Hot seating the father character to fond out more about before he entered the book, and after he went to war.
Exploring father son relationships through illustrations and captions
Discussions about emotions, especially in those quiet moments that we don’t necessarily call ‘happy’ or ‘sad’.
Creating our own flying machines: writing where we would fly to, as a report from when we returned, a description of what it looked like when we got there.
Inherited items: things that belonged to parents/grandparents and why they are special to us.
What we thing our own parents might have dreamed of….

Reviewed by Rebecca Holmes (Y4)

By Anthony Browne.

The book is a modern twist on the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I read the story to a class of 30 mixed ability children aged 7 and 8. The children enjoyed the story and listened carefully and studied the pictures quite closely. We used the visualiser but the children still found it quite difficult to see the details of the pictures.

The class all enjoyed the book. The children gave thoughtful answers when I posed questions to them about why one side of the book was black and white and the other side coloured. Most understood the implications this had. As stated before we all found it difficult to see details of the pictures when not reading the book as an individual. The pictures were easier to see when there were only 3 pictures to a page rather than 6.

This book fitted in well with the Literacy topic we were studying that week. As a Year group we were looking at traditional fairy tales and then looking at modern versions and in some books, how the roles of characters were reversed. So coincidently this was very relevant and current to the children.

I am not sure they would chose to read this book if it was presented to them in a bookshop or a library. As most of them are now very proficient readers their reading choice tends to be paper backs rather than picture books,

As a teacher although I found the book useful as a tool to teach the genre we were studying that particular week, although I personally wasn’t keen on the book. I found the subject matter quite dark and the pictures quite depressing.

Reviewed by Helen Proud (Y3)

By Bob Graham

This book was pitched perfectly for Year 1 (it would also work in Year 2) as they are all currently losing their teeth! It thoroughly involved them from the very start of the book. The language in the book would on the whole appeal to all children in Year 1 and 2; however, some of the story language may be over pitched for some EAL or SEN children. The book does not have a plethora of large images so it would benefit from larger pictures so all children could access the wonderful storyline. However, most children would understand and enjoy the plot.

Esme and April Underhill are the children of tooth fairies. They have been asked to undertake their first assignment as tooth fairies and their parents are very nervous! Their parents give them lots of advice, ‘you are a… a… spirit of the air. You are magic. He must never see you.’

The language is fresh and modern as mummy Underhill tells April to send a text if she needs to. This all contributes to the contemporary feel of the book and allows the children to get thoroughly wrapped up in the plot.

While listening to the story, the children became noticeably tense when April said she would dive in to retrieve the tooth from the water which was a great point in the story. It was very clear that they wanted April and Esme to succeed and that they were apprehensive at this point in the story. The listeners were elated when the children had retrieved the tooth successfully and enjoyed the resolution of the two Underhill children arriving home safely.

This story could fit in with the framework unit on Stories in a familiar setting’, providing a contrast of fantastical characters in a setting they are all very accustomed to.
What if…… creative writing/ speaking and listening activity based on what would have happened if Daniel had woken up when the Underhill tooth fairies were retrieving the tooth.
Have they ever seen a tooth fairy? Leading on to an art based activity.
PSHE/ SEAL: the Underhill children helping one another. How would you help siblings/ friends when you were attempting something new?
Science: ourselves and growing. Our teeth falling out is a sign that we are growing and alive. What other signs do we get? We all move and grow etc.
D & T: create a healthy plate of food. Make fruit kebabs etc. What would keep our teeth healthy?

Overall, the children thoroughly enjoyed the book, it has a classic and timeless charm that I’m sure will be enjoyed by children for many years to come.

Reviewed by Berny McManus (Y1)

JIM (Hilaire Belloc)
By Mini Grey

Jim tells the gruesome story of a young boy who went to the zoo with his nurse. The boy runs off and is chewed to pieces by a lion. At the end, his parents mourn the son that didn’t do as he was told.

Sharing with the class
Year 2: 30 6 & 7 year olds. The children loved the bright and colourful pictures and especially enjoyed the pop-ups and secret openings on some of the pages. Most enjoyed the build up to the story but didn’t like the way he was eaten by the lion and the fact that he didn’t get rescued. Some were not happy with the tragic ending. Only a couple of boys liked the pictures of the boy being eaten but the majority found it unpleasant. They enjoyed the rhyming element of the language but most found some of the words too advanced to understand.

What I thought
The book began with great potential and the pictures and pop-ups are great to include in a book for 6/7 year olds. However I felt quite uncomfortable reading the description and showing the pictures of the boy being slowly eaten. I felt the pictures of the body being ripped into pieces, the blood, the decapitated head and the urn that was engraved with Jim’s remains were not appropriate for year 2 children. As far as language, I agreed with the children that the rhyming was fun to read but words like especial, foible, inauspicious and dainty morsel were far too advanced for them.

Children can learn from the book that it is not a good idea to leave an adult when in a public place but using the example of being caught by a lion and killed was a bit too extreme for such a serious matter. I believe the children still would have got the point if the boy had been rescued at the last minute instead.

I would mainly use the book to focus on new vocabulary, especially using the adjectives that describe the animals at the zoo. The children understood the point of not running away but I wouldn’t want to use this book to teach this. I feel it would be more appropriate for older children. In addition to the language, I would hope the children would not pick up on the capital letters used in the middle of sentences as it contradicts what I am teaching them to do in class.

Reviewed by James Fraser (Y2)

By Kristin Oftedal, Carl Norac

Big Bear Little Brother is a sweet story about a little lost boy who stumbles upon an unlikely friendship. It draws on the differences yet similarities that both characters have in a playful way. The illustrations are simple yet very effective revealing a good sense of the setting.

I read the book with my Year 1 class aged 5-6 and they were completely engulfed in the story as children are at this age. They commented on what a nice bear he was and that they wished they had a Big Bear friend like that. They also commented on the illustrations and said they were different from a lot of the other books they have read.

This lead into a discussion about what sketches are. It was nice to share this story with them as many of the books we read have already been read by some of the children so there isn't much room for predicting but this book was new to all of them!
Overall I did like the book, but I am one who likes simple, predictable, sweet children’s stories! I feel it was suitable for this age group and could also be suitable for reception aged children alike.

You could use this text in a lesson to introduce SEAL/PSHE topics on similarities, differences and friendships. Or in an art lesson in showing sketches as this is a fine example showing how the artwork is so simple yet very effective. This book could be used in literacy lessons when exploring different settings as well as geography to think about where Minik is from.

Reviewed by Nicole Gutch (Y1)

By Oliver Jeffers

The Heart and the Bottle describes the experiences and feelings a girl has in dealing with loss. It begins by introducing a young girl growing up with natural curiosity for all things around her. She suffers a loss and the story tries to convey her ensuing experience and the feelings she goes through in coping with loss. Given time and support, the girl eventually recovers from the loss.

Sharing with class
Year class, 30 eight and nine year olds. The children very much enjoyed the pictures telling the story. They took time to study them as I told the story and were eager to discuss them as we went through it. A handful of children were quick to spot the idea focusing on loss, but the majority were unable to grasp this idea without prompting. Overall, the children enjoyed the story and quickly got into the main character.

What I thought about the book
This book deals with a sensitive and serious topic in a gentle way. It introduces loss in an abstract way, and this seems to soften the impact of the story sufficiently without burdening the children too heavily with the natural emotions associated with loss. The pictures and scenes are excellent; it is well illustrated. The text and language were straightforward. Perhaps the text size could be larger, especially for sitting on the carpet while the teacher is reading it.

I would use this book as a support resource to explore the ideas around loss. I wouldn't use it as a lead in to the topic as its message is not clear enough to the children in my year group, although children in Y5 or 6 may get the message more easily. But where the topic is well established it could be used to explore the related experiences and emotions. I would do some paired and group talking based on questions around what children think is happening in the story, looking for children's interpretation of what is happening.

Reviewed by Tim O'Sullivan (Y4)

By Catherine Rayner

This book offers:
The introduction of an animal with which most Reception children are not familiar. Beautiful illustrations that really bring the story to life. Not too much writing, which lends itself to lots of discussion about the drawings. The theme was easily accessible to all the children in the classroom and used wonderful alliteration to emphasise the problem that the moose was having fitting into the book.

By the middle of the book the animals were presented with the problem and set out to solve it by themselves. This promoted predications from the children as to what the animals could do to solve this problem. The ending was fabulous and the children loved the fact that the book really got bigger so that the moose could fit into it.

Teaching links:
Discussing alliteration, a way to solve a problems with a friend, feelings of disappointment and joy (as part of SEAL topic “Good To Be Me”).

Children’s responses:
The children were enthralled by the look of the book. The bright orange cover, the great drawings and the different sized print to illustrate the meaning of some of the words. They really empathised with the moose and the raccoon and were desperate for them to find a way out of their problem. They connected emotionally with the story and all cheered at the last page.

Other ideas:
Further work on alliteration. Links into our topic “Traditional Tales” so could do some role play or problem solving like the characters.
Non-fiction research about moose.
Numeracy looking at big, small, large, estimating.

Reviewed by Melanie Yudolph (YR)

By Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illus by Juan Wijngaard

Cloud Tea Monkeys is a heart warming story that takes its origins from ancient Himalayan legends. The tale is a familiar one of an underdog who is recognised and rewarded, and whose own tragic circumstances become blessed instead. The main character (a little girl named Tashi), is endearing and kind, and the Overseer character has delicious traits of the revolting 'baddie'. The illustrations enhance the tale and the Authors' Note at the end gives the story a hint of credibility for us today, despite the fact that it is clearly fiction.

What the children thought:
The story was shared with a Year Six Reading group over two days.
The children loved the story and were really taken with the rich descriptions, similes and metaphors. They laughed out loud at the illustrations which are enchanting, and they wanted to study the pictures for some time, recalling the words used to describe the characters. They were engrossed in the story which was read over two days and they wanted to know if Monkeys could really behave like they did in the story.
They were genuinely caught up by the magic, tragedy and satisfying conclusion of the story (as was I).

What did I think of the story:
I loved this story. It has all the essential ingredients of a good legend: a bit of magic (that you could imagine to be possible), a poor child who is good, but hard done by in life, a disgusting baddie, a rich and awesome (though not handsome) hero, and a happy ending. The illustrations were breathtaking, and I could not stop looking at them myself, imagining my own child in those poses and with those expressions, they were so characterful. I would recommend this for bedtime reading from children aged 6 up to 12. Something for everyone. Who doesn't like a good legend?

Further teaching points:
The book is full of the most amazing descriptions and similes. These could be used easily by children to base their own descriptions and similes on, considering characters from other stories, or people they know.
The story could be unpicked for it's traditional ingredients (underdog, baddie and hero and magic of course) and used to write their own.
The legend has its roots in the Himalayan region, and could be used to compare legends from other countries, considering if they have the same 'ingredients' or not.
Lots of opportunities for speaking and listening with hot seating any of the characters, even giving a voice to the Chief Monkey (Rajah).
There is, of course, the character at the end, only alluded to (the 'Empress of All the Known World and Other Bits That Have Not Been Discovered Yet) who could be used to write a whole new story from, or the story from her perspective.
And finally, the Authors' Note opens the door to many other possibilities of study based on non-fiction (plantations, overseers, the story of tea, how precious these common goods once were, Fair Trade and so on)

What a pleasure to read! I highly recommend it!
Reviewed by Maria Barnes (Y6)

01/04/2011Teachers review Greenaway shortlist

Add Your comment