Wednesday, 19 August 2015

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson and illustrated byKate Hindley

Michelle Robinson's picture book How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth is a delightfully quirky instructional text. The teacher is a freckle faced little girl. She meticulously takes us through the ten essential steps of the process. Robinson's minimal text is supported by Hindley's clever illustrations.

For teachers at Key Stage 1, this will provide a welcome alternative to the usual instructional texts that are available. It contains all the features of the genre: a goal in the form of the title; step by step instructions that are chronological in order; diagrams to support the instructions. It is also written using the imperative form of the verb 'fill', 'add', 'start', 'wash' etc. Each step also contains adjectival noun phrases, thereby providing a good model for children's own writing. The little freckled girl charmingly warns us about some of the possible difficulties we might encounter when attempting to wash our mammoth 'a mammoth's tummy is terribly tickly'.

Many of the steps are accompanied by illustrations and diagrams to exemplify the instruction. For example step 1 'fill the bath' is supported by 2 diagrams on what appear to be post-it notes Fig. 1: Empty and Fig. 2: Full. Others are humorous drawings depicting how the reader might get their mammoth into the bath.

When the little girl shampoos the mammoth's hair, she can't help but experiment with a range of hair dos for her mammoth and these are delightfully illustrated in the form of eight square frames. Hindley portrays how the mammoth reacts to this pampering session through the use of facial expression: from closed contented eyes, to wide startled eyes. We learn of the mammoth's emotions by paying careful attention to the illustrations throughout the whole of the picture book.

The end papers determine the actual beginning of the story and the end. At the beginning the little girl is playing with a bright blue star patterned ball and at the end after successfully washing her mammoth her wellies and ball are carefully placed together. The back cover depicts a whole range of mammoth related toiletries from bubble bath to tusk whitener and these have been cleverly used to display the ISBN of the book, the price and the synopsis.

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth would be a useful and entertaining resource for any teacher who is studying instructional texts with his/her class as well as those who are investigating the Stone Age in history.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 2013
ISBN: 978-0-85707-580-2


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