1. Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard (p.10) What else might you find in a poet’s beard? Think of some different poets – nice ones, disgusting ones, useful ones… How do the contents of their beards differ? Try making it into a list poem. Maybe it could be a shopping list of things you need to put I your beard to be a proper poet… Maybe it could be a chant the class can march round in circles to. Maybe it could be like the ‘I went to market…’ game – who can remember everything we’ve put in the beard…?

 

2. A Menagerie of Animals (p28) Try writing your own ‘riddles’. Can people guess what animal you’re describing? Try using kennings, like in the cat poem. A poem describing an animal can just be a long list of kennings, or you can mix them in with whole sentences or other descriptions. When writing a riddle remember to try to start with very general things (‘It’s a grey animal’ or ‘Meat-eater’ – things that could apply to lots of different animals) and get more specific as you go on (‘It can pick things up with its nose’ or ‘Stripey-hunter’).

 

3. The Flavour of the Night (p.34) The night doesn’t actually taste of these things, we’re using taste as a metaphor. Maybe you could try describing something else using an unusual sense. What is the smell of love? What does sadness sound like? What does Christmas taste of? What does chocolate sound like?

 

4. Lesser Known, But Not Less Important (p.54) Let’s learn about more of these ‘supernatural collectors’. First you need to find out what it collects… is it hair (perhaps from the hairbrush, or maybe from granddad’s nose)? or is it the dribble that sometimes come out your mouth when you’re asleep? Or is it the cheesy stuff from in-between your toes? And once you’ve discovered that, you can ask what sort of a creature is it? The Tooth Fairy is a Fairy. The Scab Pixie is a Pixie. The Ear-Wax Leprechaun is a Leprechaun. Is it a Saliva Gremlin? Or a Dandruff Goblin? Or an Eye-Lash Ghost? Then we can ask how it gets what it collects… does it come down the chimney like Santa, does it wait until you’ve gone to school, does it hide in the wardrobe until you start snoring…? Then we can ask what does it do with the stuff it collects…? Simply by asking these questions it’s really easy to learn about a brand new Supernatural Collector, and once you’ve learnt some facts you can write a poem or a story… perhaps a ‘Day In The Life’ or a first person ‘The thing I hate/love about my job…’

 

5. Alphapoem (p.73) Sometimes a poem is easier to write when you’ve got a frame to build it on. The alphabet is a good example. You can set a theme (food or animals, say) and try to make a complete alphabet, or you can use the alphabet like an acrostic without saying ‘A is for…’, just have each line begin with the letter in question. Other frameworks like this could include counting poems (see, The Iced Bun Song for a simple example (p.16)), either going up or down (countdown to blast off, for example), or days of the week, months of the year, and so on.

 

6. Performance A lot of the poems in the book are made for reading out loud, and not just reading aloud, but for performing. Kids can work in groups or on their own on a favourite poem and incorporate movement and gesture into their performance. Important things to bear in mind when performing a poem are: does it all have to be loud? does it all have to be fast? does it all have to be quiet? does it all have to be soft? is the voice of the poem happy? is it sad? is it scary? surprised? do I want the listeners to laugh? Examples of good performance poems include the set from p.94 onwards, but lots of the others all through the book are good for this too. Most exciting is seeing a kid or kids taking a poem that I (the poet) don’t normally perform and making it their own, showing me how to do it.

 

7. Discussion A lot of the poems are funny, silly poems, but some of them (even some funny, silly ones) might be used for discussion in class, about feelings (p.68-72?), about history (p.66), about why we write/make art (p.63), for example. You know your kids and you’ll have the better idea of what will work in your classroom, in your specific circumstances, but you may find a poem like Troll Song (p.74), which looks at a fairy tale character from a different point of view, is a good window to look through, or you might a different one works best.

 

The feature image was illustrated by the fabulous Iszi Lawrence.

– Carl is mentioned once or twice in the book, but we never meet him. What can we figure out about him from what they say? Have a go at drawing him, adding a few speech bubbles so he can tell us about himself, or even draw a comic page featuring him up to something.

– At the end of the book, Connor seems pretty excited and looking forward to high school. Write down a few rough ideas for things that might happen on his first day, then share with the class. Flesh the most interesting ones out into a simple script, then have a go at turning each into a comic page. Can they be arranged into a sequence that depicts his whole day?

– The boys bump into the two girls on the street. Chat about what the rest of their afternoon was like, and how you might make a story that featured them as the main characters.

– Do you identify with any of the characters, or have you experienced anything that they do (seeing your teacher in their regular clothes, for example!) ?

– Does it matter that nothing really happens in Playing Out? When I made it, I wanted it to be believable and convincing, so kept it a very ordinary day with no drama or excitement.

– What is the funniest animal you can think of? Why is it so funny? What about the scariest / grumpiest / saddest?

– Show what animals are saying by drawing them and adding speech bubbles (write the words first then draw the bubble shape after, so you don’t have to squash the words in).

– What about the animal’s secret thoughts, things they don’t say out loud? Add a thought bubble.

– Can you invent a new animal by combining 2 or 3 others (like the Xolf in Frontiebacks)? Do some research on Mythical Creatures like the Minotaur, Centaur and Griffon.

– Come up with a silly rhyme to go with your drawing.

 

Make a list of the characters you have met so far in the book:

Jack, Huddersfield Town, Striker

Fred Bullock, Huddersfield Town, Captain

Frank Mann, Huddersfield Town (a half back, although this information is not given in the novel)

Sid Wheelhouse, Grimsby, Defender

Percy Summers, Grimsby, goalkeeper

Arthur Fairclough (name not given in the novel) Huddersfield Town ‘gaffer’

Chris Buckley, Arsenal, Captain

Henry Norris, Arsenal

 

Make notes on what the book tells us about each of these characters and use the internet to find out more. Make footballer collectors’ cards featuring each of these, following these examples.

Quiz – watch the video below first – answers below, no cheating!

Answer key HERE!


Create entry forms for the Wickedest Witch/Wizard in The World contest! Invent your name and address, fill in the name/type of your pet and their speciality spell. Then, you must write ten sentences saying why you feel you should be considered for the competition.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE TO INSPIRE YOU!

Name: Witch Bandybones.

Address: Drippy Cave, Badfinger Forest.

Name/Type of pet: Teddy the Tarantula.

Specialty spell: Making it rain treacle.

Why I should be considered: I made my own pointy hat. I have written a best selling book called Bad Spelling. I actually have good spelling. I can spell “actually.” Not many people can. Little children don’t like me. I have a very loud, scary cackle. Once, I turned my own sister into a gorse bush, which made her quite prickly. If you don’t consider me for this competition you will be very sorry. I mean it, so be warned.

 

CREATE YOUR WITCH’S CONTEST MENU!

The next step of your application is devising a menu suitable for catering the contest. Challenge yourself by using the type of vocabulary found in posh restaurants!

Example:

Starters: Lightly fried slugs drizzled with a mustard and tarragon sauce and crispy rat tails in pasta.

Main: Jellied toad legs on a bed of shredded cactus and porcupine pie with pine cone relish

Dessert: Mouse mousse with prunes and spider trifle

 

Demeter, goddess of the harvest, had a beloved daughter named Persephone. The god of the underworld, Hades, fell in love with Persephone, and took her underground to live in his kingdom with his three-headed dog Cerberus. Determined to escape back to her mother, Persephone refused to eat, until she was so hungry she ate six little pomegranate seeds.

Because Persephone had eaten the food of the underworld, it meant she had to stay there. Distraught, Demeter let the crops wilt and die. People were starving, so Demeter’s brother Zeus struck a deal between Demeter, Persephone and Hades. If Persephone would stay six months of the year as queen of the underworld, she would be released above ground for the other half of the year to see her mother.

In Greek mythology, this is why we have the four seasons. In spring and summer, Demeter is rejoicing with her daughter, and in autumn and winter, she misses Persephone and allows everything to die again.

Imagine you are Demeter, in control of the seasons, waiting to see your daughter again. Create some draft ideas using the prompts below, or any other ideas you might have. Then you can pick and choose from what you have written and and experiment with reordering your favourite lines to create your poem. Will you start with spring/summer or autumn/winter? Will your poem be first person (‘I am Demeter’), or third person (‘Demeter cried for her daughter’) or even second person (‘You watch the entrance to the underworld’)?

Think carefully about which lines/phrases would be best to start and end your poem.

Describe what life was like before Persephone was taken away. Imagine how rich and plentiful the crops were. Think about using descriptive words and similes.

You watch the entrance to the underworld: what can you see and hear? Perhaps you could use some onomatopoeia for the terrifying sounds which seep out – are there sights and smells too?

What does the world look like in autumn and winter? With your descriptive words, try to get a sense of Demeter’s loneliness and despair:

Think about the moment you spot Persephone coming out of the underworld for her annual visit. Imagine the moment in slow motion and focus on small details to bring it to life.

How are your joyous feelings reflected in the world around you?

 

My ‘Secret Self’

The idea for First Flight: Dragon Racer Book 1 came about because I was asked who my secret self was.

“I race dragons,” I told everyone. “Every night I slip out of my house, go to the dragon caves under Lambeth Town Hall in South London and find my dragon and we go racing.”

So let me ask you.

‘Who is your secret self? Are you a spy or a time traveller? Do you have any special powers like invisibility, telepathy or shape shifting? Can you fly or talk to animals? Do you like having this ability? Who else knows about it?

Introduce your secret self. Perhaps you might like to write about how you discovered your ‘secret self’. Were you bitten by a strange insect, zapped by lightning or did you receive a mysterious present or invitation?

Or perhaps you might prefer to tell the tale of one of your adventures (or mishaps).