Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Ride-by-Nights by Walter de la Mare and illustrated by CarolinaRabei

The Ride-by-Nights is a short narrative poem by the classic author, Walter de la Mare. It describes the journey taken by group of witches as they have fun flying through the night sky, making it a perfect read for Halloween.

Not only are we told about their antics as they 'whoop and flutter' and the speed at which they fly but de la Mare also tracks their journey by making references to various constellations they pass on the way before returning home.

 It is written in rhyming couplets with a rapidly moving rhythm. The meaning of the poem is enhanced using a range of poetic devices such as the playful and mischievous noises the witches make as they 'twitter and tweet' as they fly. 

Carolina Rabei's illustrations in this picture book version of the poem offer a rich and charming parallel tale of a group of young children as they go trick or treating on Halloween. We first encounter the children as they decorate the house in preparation for the festivities. Flying high above them are the witches and in the distance is a small red fox.

On the next two page spread, we move in closer to the children's cottage and see them in their Halloween costumes as they prepare to journey into the village for their evening of fun. As they journey towards the village we are treated to pictorial representations of the mischievous and playful actions of the witches. Throughout the story, the children are totally unaware of the witches and the fox. The fox, though, is aware and watches the activities of both the children and the witches from a safe distance.

The images work alongside the written text resulting in a beautifully multi-modal text that has so much to spot and discuss. The wordless images on a number of the pages could be used as a stimulus for narrative writing. As the story itself is already there in the pictures, children can focus on developing their skills of scene setting and characterisation. 

Rabei uses a limited colour palette for her illustrations, namely different shades of purple, which are often associated with magic. The scenes are made more magical by the bright twinkling stars in the sky, especially those which form the Milky Way. The warm yellow glow of the lights from the windows contrasts sharply with the cold night sky. Likewise, the red of the witches' hair, the little girl's stockings, the older girl's outfit, the pumpkins and the front door provides a hint of danger but one which is not menacing.

The result is an enchanting picture book which can be shared over and over again by children of all ages.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-571-32422-4


Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Candle in the Dark by Adele Geras

A Candle in the Dark is an historical story set on the brink of  the Second World War.

It follows the story of two young Jewish children: refugees who came from Berlin to England on the Kindertransport after their family have been persecuted for being Jewish.

Geras, captures the fears and anxieties the two children experience whilst travelling alone on their long journey and how they acclimatize to life in a different country. During the few short months Clara and Maxi are living with their English family, they encounter preconceived stereotypical beliefs about them being Jewish and German and readers are invited to empathise with Clara as she deals with the comments made by her English hostess' best friend.

The book is truthfully grounded in historical fact and children will be able to research the events that are referred to in the novel, in particular how the Kindertransport brought almost 10 000 refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940. Another historical fact that will need to be researched is the concentration camp at Dachau, as Clara and Maxi's father has been taken there. For these reasons the book would make an excellent text to read for any class studying World War II.

Likewise, readers will learn about the Jewish religion. As we read we learn about the festival of Hannukah and the importance and significance of the Menorah.

The book is relatively short, only 78 pages long and organised into 8 short chapters. Each chapter is set during a specific date between 9th November 1938 and 20th December 1938. This makes the book ideal for guided reading. In addition to developing their comprehension skills, the book is a good stimulus for developing different types of writing. Chapters could be re-presented as diary accounts written in the first person from either Clara or Maxi's point of view: they could also be  presented as newspaper articles, particularly chapter 3 which recounts the Kindertransport journey. In chapter 4, Clara writes a letter home to her mother and again this provides a model and a stimulus for pupils to compose their own letters.

Publisher : A & C Black
Publication Date: 1995
ISBN: 0713674547