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Happy World Teachers’ Day!

Apparently, today is World Teachers’ Day, so make sure you’re extra nice to them!

This is a perfect opportunity to look at the best and worst teachers in children’s books.

The first lovely teacher that springs to my mind is Miss Honey (even her name is gorgeous) from Roald Dahl’s Matilda (incidentally my favourite book by the master storyteller). She’s kind, she’s patient, and she even has a fantastic way of spelling the word ‘difficulty’.

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Of course, her arch enemy is the dreaded Miss Trunchbull – the child-hating, child-swinging bully who locks people up in the Chokey if they dare do anything to annoy her. Why she ever became a headmistress, I’ll never know.

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When I asked the children for some examples of teachers from the books they’d read, the staffroom from Hogwarts immediately came to mind – here are a few examples:

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They all look remarkably different to all of us here at St Michael’s! And we teach more mundane subjects such as English, maths, science, art, etc rather than the weird and wonderful subjects covered in the syllabus in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Gillian Cross’s The Demon Headmaster certainly lives up to his name. Ruled by a desire to take over the world, he hides his bright green eyes under sunglasses until he’s ready to hypnotise his victims (pupils) with their piercing glare.

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One of my favourite depictions of how a child sees his or her teachers is in Peter Brown’s hilarious picture book My Teacher is Monster:

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This book deals with the embarrassing scenario of meeting your teacher outside of school boundaries. It always makes me chuckle how very little children assume we sort of stay here all the time, as in this book:

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… and they can’t quite take it in when they see us in other surroundings (though I must say all of the St Michael’s children I’ve seen have always been chatty and friendly!). Bobby in this book thinks his teacher is a monster because all she does is yell at the class to be quiet and take away their paper airplanes.

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When he sees her sitting in the park one day, the sense of awkwardness leaps off the page:

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Neither one seems terribly happy to see the other but it all comes out OK in the end.

Teachers are perfect characters for children’s literature though. They are:

  • authority figures who need to have their eyes opened to the evils of the school
  • symbols of an adult world that seeks to thwart the best intentions of a child
  • a perfect target for practical jokes (see Enid Blyton’s boarding school stories, and the havoc the girls wreak on the Mamzelles in particular)

Admittedly, the rebellion mainly comes later in books aimed at older children – in picture books, a more friendly, nurturing soul is encountered, else no one would turn up – they’d be scared rigid.

So who are your favourite teachers in children’s books? Friend or foe? Ally or enemy? Let me know!

 

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It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day, and I’m pretty excited about it. I love poetry, from the dreaminess of the Romantics to the silliness of Spike Milligan and Edward Lear.

Children love poetry, too, particularly poems that rhyme. In fact, sometimes we have to gently encourage them not to always write a poem around the rhyme as it can sound a little forced! That was why last week’s read of Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake’ was so great – the children learned that there are other ways of writing poetry and it can be just as effective! (The children are STILL begging me to read that book this week.)

However, rhyme is important in other ways. It helps children learn the rhythm and cadence of language and it’s also wonderful for helping with their prediction skills. Yesterday, I introduced our new Reception children to the delights of Peter Bently’s Dustbin Dad and, even though none of them had read it before, they accurately guessed the end rhymes much of the time (and had a great laugh in doing so).

Poems are a wonderful way to share emotions with children, too. Sadness, silliness, happiness and joy can be found everywhere in children’s poetry, as can wonder at the natural world and consolation when times are tough. Pop into our library and take a look at our poetry collection and tell me your favourites!

I’ll leave you now with some poems and excerpts to enjoy. Happy National Poetry Day!

A lovely, hilarious rhyming couplet from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Nursery Rhymes (Little Red, in case you didn’t know!)

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From Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech

And finally, one of my all-time favourites:

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Welcome to the new term!

We’re a couple of weeks in to our new school term and the Library has been really busy! We’ve had new books and a new time slot for children and adults to come in after school on a Wednesday to see the library and share books. Yesterday, we had several children proudly showing what the Library has to offer to their adults and it was so lovely to see how they knew where everything was! Thank you to everyone who came in and I look forward to seeing more of you in the weeks to come.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been sharing some funny books together. Last week, to coincide with Roald Dahl Day, we started reading the new edition of Billy and the Minpins, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake.

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The children enjoyed the thrill of Billy’s disobedience into the rather scarily named Forest of Sin and helpfully reminded me of its name when I kept saying Forest of Doom instead this week! Being a Dahl book, there were plenty of funny names to listen to and the excitement of a child being a bit naughty. We will keep reading this in the weeks to come.

This week, I have enjoyed reading Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake.

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If there was ever a book to be read aloud, it’s this one, with its cheeky storyline and its joyful exclamations. Nearly everyone loves chocolate cake (only one person in each group said they didn’t) and the children thought it marvellous how little Michael got up in the middle of the night to raid the cupboard. Some hid behind their books when ‘the terrible thing happened’ (no spoilers please!) although for most it was their favourite part! Naughtiness combined with cake is a perfect combination, and Rosen’s words have a natural appeal for the young.

There were plenty of belly laughs, and not just from me! And when I opened the library yesterday after school, the children made a beeline for the book – all of them – waiting in turn for their chance to show their adults what they had been reading, and begging for a second or third helping!

You can see Michael Rosen performing Chocolate Cake on YouTube here. The children loved it – it’s definitely worth a watch.

Back soon!

 

 

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Empathy – and where to read about it

Today is Empathy Day, and what better way to learn about what it is and why it is important than through children’s books?

What I love about children’s books is that they can convey very important messages and morals without sounding preachy or authoritarian. That’s a pretty impressive skill and one that perhaps isn’t always celebrated when considering the impact and effect children’s literature can have on its readers. I know of many examples of books that portray difficult emotions and conditions exceptionally well, from grief and sadness to anger and frustration. These needn’t be ‘special’ books either – ones that have been written for children dealing with bereavement or social anxiety, for example. Their strength lies in their ability to inspire or soothe, explain or question. Children learn through osmosis – they understand what’s in front of them without it having to be made explicit.

For today’s post, I will concentrate on Empathy since it’s celebrating its own special day! But I will return to other emotions soon!

Great  books for talking/learning about empathy:

The Lumberjack’s Beard and The Bear Who Stared

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Duncan Beedie’s recent creations deal with empathy in a humorous yet effective way. In The Lumberjack’s Beard, the titular lumberjack suddenly realises what effect his tree-unfriendly actions have on the environment and tries to put it right. In The Bear Who Stares, the bear doesn’t understand why everyone he meets gets angry with him… until a friendly frog sets him straight and tells him that staring isn’t the best idea when trying to get on with others. Both books have wonderful illustrations that enhance the story and which children never tire of seeing.

Dave’s Rock

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Frann Preston-Gannon’s second book featuring caveman Dave is a great look at the importance of sharing and getting along with others. In it, Dave is competing with Jon to see whose rock is better, but all it leads to is frustration and annoyance. However, in the end, the two find a way for them both to be happy, by understanding how each other feels. This makes them feel better than winning any competition.

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

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Nadia Shireen’s new book, The Cow Who Fell to Earth, takes a very bizarre situation and makes a heartwarming comedy from it. Poor Woo has landed on Earth and no one can understand a word she says. To make matters worse, the sheep assume she is a he and call her Dave. When Woo starts crying tears of sadness and frustration, the sheep work hard to make her feel better and get her back home. A hilarious and sweet book about the importance of helping others, even if they speak a different language!

Odd Dog Out

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In Rob Biddulph’s humorous story, being out of place seems like the worst thing in the world, until Odd Dog discovers that it’s kind of cool to be different. When she decides to be true to herself, she realises that plenty more dogs want to be their own dog and sets a trend. This is great for teaching children acceptance of other people’s differences and to be happy in themselves.

Mr Stink

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It’s not very nice to be stinky but there’s often a reason behind it, as Chloe discovers in David Walliams’s Mr Stink. The two characters soon forge a firm friendship based on their experiences of being bullied and misunderstood, and find ways to help each other out of sadness andloneliness.

Matilda

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On a similar theme of not belonging, Roald Dahl introduces us to Matilda, a clever young girl who seems to have been born into the wrong family. Preferring books to television and education to laziness, Matilda finally finds a kindred spirit in Miss Honey, who turns out to be the niece of the very wicked Miss Trunchbull. Even though life becomes very difficult for the two, the fact that they have found each other makes it much more bearable.

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Happy Roald Dahl Day!

We’re only in our second week back at school and already we have something to celebrate:

 

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If one of the most popular and well-loved storytellers of all time were still alive, he would have been 100 today, and the whole country (and beyond) is celebrating!

We’ve currently been running a survey to see which of his books is the most popular amongst our pupils. We’re still awaiting a few results but The BFG is in the lead by a fair amount, possibly influenced by the new Steven Speilberg film, followed by Matilda, then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Roald Dahl remains a huge favourite in St Michael’s Library so we’re all excited to be talking about him and making things in his honour. For a start, we’ve created this wall display:

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The little test tubes and jars will be full of dreams soon!

The children also spent much of last week inventing their own candy or drawing their own Roald Dahl character.

Candy creations

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Sara (top left) created The Dancing Twirl (ingredients: sugar, music, fizz and ice cream), which makes you dance perfectly forever.

Arfah (top middle) did a Chewy Mug (ingredients: sucker, Mars, Snickers, Bounty, Twix and M&Ms) which is a sweet and yummy mess.

Sabeen (top right) created The Bouncy Castle Everlasting Jelly Kingdom of Chocolate, Including Boiled See-through Sweets (ingredients obvious).

Sahar (middle left) invented a Giant Chocolate Rainbow Bird Head (ingredients include chocolate, flavoured with orange, peach, blackberry, blueberry and lime but NO BIRDS).

Dexter (middle middle) designed a chocolate bar full of things guaranteed to make your teeth ache (ingredients: Gummie bears, marshmallows, chocolate cookies, strawberry lollies, white chocolate, dark chocolate, Haribos and fruit). Maybe we should call it Dentist’s Nightmare!

Harvey (middle right) rather likes the traditional chocolate bar, so decided to create his own Milky Way with lots of nuts.

Ethan (bottom left) made a very interesting but perhaps dangerous concoction called An Exploding Sprinkles, Lumpy-Bumpy, Triple Dipple, Chocolate Bomb.

Thomas (bottom middle) named his creation the Gob Grower, which gets biger and bigger the more you suck it!

Lily (bottom right) created her own Crunch, made from boiled sweets in the middle and first layers, biscuit crumble (second layer), and chocolate on the third layer and outside.

Crazy Characters

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Unfortunately, my collage-maker has turned some of these the wrong way around (!) but I will talk you through them.

The large image on the top left is The Rotsome Trunchbull

The top right image is The Snoozing Gloop

The middle right drawing is The Frightsome Roly-Poly

The bottom right picture is The Squibbling Crabcruncher

The bottom middle creation is The Frightsome Bootboggler

The bottom left drawing is The Snodsin Twit.

We got these fantastic names from the Roald Dahl name generator. It caused great amusement as everyone came up to find out who they would be in a book (you take the first letter of your first name and the first letter of your second name and match them up to the names in the two columns). One person got The Vermicious Knid, which pleased me!

Cake sale!

There will be a Cake Sale in Year 3 at the end of the school day, with all proceeds going to Roald Dahl’s charity, so do pop along and buy a cake! Just look at some of the mouthwatering ones we’ve had in so far:

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This clever chocolate creation contains Nishnobblers from The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me.

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These cupcakes are based on George’s Marvellous Medicine!

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This is an amazing tortoise based on … Esio Trot.

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These are Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delights!

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This wonderful creation is based on the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Family.

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Mmm, Crocodile Tongue Cupcakes, from The Enormous Crocodile.

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This really is a Fantastic Mr Fox!

 

Which is your favourite Roald Dahl book?

Who is your favourite character?