Monday, 15 June 2015

The Great Ice-Cream Heist by Elen Caldecott

The Great Ice-Cream Heist is a fast paced adventure, full of 'edge of your seat' drama, about sticking up for your friends. The story, being action-packed, will appeal to both boys and girls and is ideal for children at Key Stage 2 who need more sustained stories.

The main protagonist, Eva, lives a quiet life with her over-protective Dad. Eva cannot read and as such is quite happy to spend her time at home with her Dad and invent adventures with him. This soon changes though when a new family move in next door. Both Eva and Jamie (the boy from next door) are 'forced' to attend  the local youth centre over the summer holidays.  They quickly become friends. But then everything goes wrong and Jamie is in trouble. Eva knows it's down to her to help him, even if it means upsetting Dad in the process. 

The Great Ice Cream Heist is a lesson about not judging people on appearances. Warm-hearted, moving and never heavy handedit approaches a range of issues including bereavement, dysfunctional families and children in care with sensitivity and directness. 

The book contains some loveable characters, in particular Eva, and as such provides an ideal text with which to study characterisation. Eva is timid and loyal and readers will witness her grow as a person: watch her get outside of her comfort zone, overcome fears, make new friends and even address her embarrassment about not being able to read. 

Teachers could use a range of drama techniques to help children empathise with Eva, such as conscience alley to consider the options Eva has and the decisions she needs to make, hot-seating to understand Shan's prejudice and how it is completely shaken by the end of the book; thought-tracking to understand and reflect upon the reasons behind Gran's actions. Elen Caldecott's brilliant writing also exemplifies how authors 'show not tell' how their characters are feeling through their dialogue and actions.

The climax of the story, is really fun, edge of your seat stuff. The pace and excitement of the drama is masterfully achieved through the use of a range of authorial devices such as short sentences, simile, dialogue, alliteration and sibilance. Coupled with this is the fact that Shan is supposed to be appearing on local radio. Teachers could use this part of the story as a springboard to a whole range of writing including the pupils writing their own exciting, dramatic chase using the devices identified in the book, a newspaper report of the incident, a television interview or even a playscript.

Poignant yet full of humour and fun, this is a carefully-balanced story with a clear message about the value of friends, family and the local community - and the importance of not judging others.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1-4088-2050-6


Friday, 5 June 2015

The Egyptian Echo written by Paul Dowsell and designed by Karen Tomlins

The Egyptian Echo provides an excellent and fun introduction to all aspects of Ancient Egyptian life. Readers will learn about the Egyptian gods; the pyramids; hieroglyphics; papyrus; different types of boats, houses and jewelery; fashion; health and medicine; art and Egyptian professions amongst other things.Each of the topics is presented in a lively, newspaper article format which is both engaging and informative. This will appeal to readers of all abilities both boys and girls. The layout, that of a newspaper, provides an accessible text, particularly for those pupils who experience difficulties in reading as each of the items is short and therefore not overwhelming for pupils who perhaps don't normally enjoy reading.

The vocabulary, being subject specific, may at times be at a level beyond which some Key Stage 2 readers can read independently. However, through guided and shared reading and the teaching of specific vocabulary this can be overcome. Presented as a newspaper, this is a good text to introduce to children, in order to develop reading for pleasure.

The book contains all the features you would expect to find in a newspaper: from news stories 'of the day' to job adverts; a problem page; adverts for a whole range of Egyptian things to buy; articles about works of art; competitions and quizzes and sports pages.This in itself provides a model text to study newspapers and journalistic writing. Pupils can compare the range of text types within the book with those in contemporary newspapers, local and national.

The news stories are also model examples. They follow the correct format and structure with an introductory paragraph of approximately 30 words, followed by subsequent paragraphs which in turn provide more detailed information. They are written in the past tense, include 'quotes' from individuals and include a summarizing statement.

Likewise, the adverts are written in the present tense, include emotive vocabulary, rhetorical questions and superlatives.

The photographs throughout the book have been sourced from the Werner Forman Archive; a highly valued resource of images valued by publishers around the world. Werner Forman was an acclaimed photographer, who began his career at the age of 14 and would be an interesting person for pupils to research before writng a biography.

Overall, the book provides a valuable resource for both the history and English curriculum at Key Stage 2.

Publisher: Usborne Books
Date of Publication: 1996
ISBN: 978074602751