Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

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Today Packing for the Journey features two stories from Dr Virginia Lowe. These wonderful anecdotes show how shared book reading enriches children’s knowledge and their ever-expanding understanding of life.

 

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I’ll tell you a story Mum’: Two children tell
by Virginia Lowe      

I kept a record of my two children’s contact with books and their responses. Rebecca is almost three years and three months older than her brother. The children’s own stories arose naturally from contact with books. These two stories demonstrate how the children use this literary material – in this case at least, one shows her scientific bent, the other works on relationships.

1. Nick the whale. One morning, Rebecca and I had a row before school – the reason for it is not recorded, but Nick disliked us arguing and was tense about it. Later he was helping me hang out the washing, as usual handing me pegs. (He was 3y1m old.) 
This time he was picking them up in his mouth because he was being alternately a shark and a whale.

       N: I’m picking them up in my mouth cos I can’t use my flippers. I’m a friendly whale.

       V: You’re clever to do that Mr Whale.

      N: Yes, I can do that ‘acouse I’m an excellent whale who can do everything that is magic. 

He talked a bit about his mother who had gone shopping underwater. Then,

        N: I’m having an argument with my mother [imaginary whale one that is].

       V: Oh yes. Do whales like arguments? [Expecting him to say that like him, they didn’t. It’s obviously different for whales]

        N: Yes. Argumenting [sic] is good for whales.

He carried the monologue on over lunch. His [whale] mother was sitting beside him.

        N: I’m sharing my food with my mother. She said to put the plate in the middle.

        V: What am I?

        N: You’re people

He carried through fairly logically, as a completely anthropomorphised whale.

        N: Do you know how we get out of the water? We use our flippers on the steps.

        N: Do you know how we wash our clothes?

        V: No.

        N: In a washing machine! [etc etc].

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Whale’s Way Written by Johanna Johnston, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.                                   Originally published in 1962

Anyway, at rest time, I fetchedWhale’s Way (Johnston) to read to him. He at once identified himself with the largest whale on the endpapers and first few pages.


        N: That’s me and that’s my mother. I’m bigger than my mother.
       N: That’s me and that’s my mother [the lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

 

 

Some pages later he chose the smaller of two on the page

        N: There’s me looking small.

        V: Do you look small because you’re further away?

        N: Yes.

        N: That’s me and that’s my mother [lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

On several pages he commented on the more distant whale as ‘that’s me looking small’ presumably to make sure that we both understood it was only through perspective that he looked smaller.

        N: I have those flukes. I swim and splash with my flukes (etc. mainly echoing the book’s text).

But the book is fairly long and very complicated, and he was restless before the end of most pages. 

        N: I’m tired of this whale book

So we stopped and he cuddled down to sleep with it clutched in his arms.

When he woke from his nap, his grandparents were visiting. I asked him if he was still a whale, he grinned and said ‘yes’ and told them with excitement –

        N: We’ve got a book about whales!

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2. A story-game from Rebecca. She was 4y 4m, and we were exploring Italy in a campervan.

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The Fairy Tale Collection selected by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, first published 1972 by Hamish Hamilton

A day of turnips inspired by ‘The Turnip’ (Tolstoy) which is in two of the collections of stories we had with us, Bamberger My First Big Story Book and Haviland The Fairy Tale Treasury.

First, in a park, by a delightful pond (Florence) – Rebecca pointed to a large clump of grass.

        R: That’s a great big turnip, Mum! There must have been a show here to grow such a big turnip (presumably she meant the biggest vegetables would be grown for and sent to agricultural shows). 

That evening, while tea was preparing, she played ‘turnips’ outside in the campsite for half an hour or so. She was pulling up clumps of grass. This is just a few jotted phrases of an interminable conversation.

    R: Look at this great big turnip, Mum! It’s so heavy, and it was hard to pull up. We’ll have turnip for supper.

   R: If I find more than four turnips I’ll invite some friends to tea (a partial quote from Potter’s The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher).

    R: Look at them on the scales. See how heavy the big one is? (One in each hand, arms  straight, bigger one low, smaller high)

Later:
     R: Now I’ve got two little turnips and one big one. Nick will have a little one, and I will have a little one, and you and Daddy shall share the great big one.

      R: Three of them are boiled now. I can’t wait to eat them.

    R: I’ve planted some more of that brand of turnip. They’ll be ready in the morning. They’re the sort that grow overnight. I hope they’re as nice as the ones we’ve just eaten.

As might be expected, this one is now a scientist (a permaculture one) and the other a teacher, coping with relationships all the time.

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Dr Virginia Lowe has been a Judge for the Children’s Book Council’sBook of the Year Award and Convenor for the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators. She is now an honorary life member of the CBCA (Vic) and recipient of the Leila St John medal from them for services to children’s literature in Victoria. She has taught children’s literature, English and creative writing at university. She is a published poet (her latest, with her husband John, is published by the Melbourne Poets Union, Lines Between), and has also written extensively on children and books with some forty academic articles and a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in Books for Keeps  http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/. Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell was published by Routledge (London, 2006).

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Virginia Lowe’s book  Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell is based on a reading journal of over 5000 hand written pages in which she recorded all the books read to her two children and their responses to them. 

Links:

https://createakidsbook.com.au

http://www.shelleychappell.com/blog/introducing-virginia-lowe

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/virginia-lowe

https://monash.academia.edu/VirginiaLowe

Lucas and Jack – Teacher notes

Teacher Notes
by Janet McLean 

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Written by: Ellie Royce
Illustrated by: Andrew McLean

Every week Lucas’ mum visits Great Grandpop at the nursing home. And every week Lucas waits for her outside. Waiting, for Lucas, is boring. Then one day he meets Jack. Jack is tricky and Jack is fun, and he is a great storyteller. He understands how Lucas is feeling – ‘Not much to do in there with all the oldies, I suppose’. To help pass the time he tells Lucas stories about himself and other residents of the nursing home. Lucas & Jack is a great book for introducing young children to the idea that old people can be fun and that deep down we have more in common than we think. More importantly Lucas & Jack encourages children to ask questions, be curious, imaginative and empathetic.

WRITING & LANGUAGE

Ellie Royce has written a moving, understated story that invites us to see others differently and recognise the bonds we have in common.

Lucas, one of the main characters, is introduced on the first page of the book. Ellie reveals Lucas’ problem – he is bored. Then, throughout the rest of the story Ellie reveals how the other main character, Jack, helps Lucas to look at his world differently.

Ellie uses time-shift to move the story from the present to the past. The present: (Jack) points to someone in the distance, ‘And over there, what do you see?’ Jack asks. ‘An even older lady,’ I reply. – letting us know what Lucas sees. The past: ‘I see Evelyn. A girl who loved ballet so much, she once danced for the Queen of England.’  – revealing what Jack knows and recalls.

Ellie uses dialogue to develop the characters’ personalities and to move the story forward – for example, Jack’s dry sense of humour. When telling Lucas about Evelyn he says, ‘She still has her favourite red ballet shoes under her bed. Says she never knows when she might need them.’

Lucas is gradually drawn into Jack’s stories, and wants to know more about Jack. He asks Jack, ‘Do you hate being old?’ and he learns he and Jack have something in common – a border collie dog. The next time Lucas visits the nursing home he brings his dog, plays a game of cards, and wonders about Great Grandpop, ‘Pop, before you were old, what did you do?’ Great Grandpop tells him a story about when he was a boy ‘I was about eight when I drove a cart and delivered ice for pocket money.’ This simple sentence captures how vastly different life was between then and now. Lucas wants to know more about Great Grandpop and he is eager to come back next week to hear more stories.

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At the end of the story Lucas has a new friend, and through Jack’s stories he has learned a way to find out – ask questions, listen, explore, and imagine.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Andrew McLean created the illustrations for this book by making rough drawings with charcoal and watercolour on paper then photographing them and scanning them onto an iPad.  Then on the iPad he coloured the drawings using an illustrating app: Sketch Club.

Andrew’s expansive and expressive illustrations complement and enrich Ellie Royce’s subtle text. There are only two single page drawings in the book – the first and last pages. These highlight how, with Jack’s help, Lucas changes from a bored, unhappy boy, into someone who is lively and friendly.

In between these pages the full bleed, double-page spreads reveal information that is not carried in the text. Andrew uses a mix of close up and distant views, with the illustrations always focusing on the characters.  

The growing connection between Lucas and Jack is depicted through their body language and facial expressions – the way they make eye contact with each other, Jack’s wide-spread arms and kindly face, the subtle changes in Lucas’ face from downcast and gloomy to open and interested.

Lucas and Jack see things from different perspectives. Lucas sees ‘an old man in a wheelchair’ and ‘an even older lady’.  Jack knows that these people have led rich lives, and the illustrations bring his stories to life.

Alternating pages contrast the current quieter lives of the elderly residents with the stories of the the full lives they have led in the past.  Andrew has used different colour palette to contrast the present (soft warm colours) and the past  (vivid, rich and sunny)

DISCUSSION POINTS AND ACTIVITIES

This book introduces young children to themes of aging, storytelling and oral history. Lucas and Jack can be used to generate discussion and exchange of stories and ideas about family, the past, and our links with our older members of society.

  • Before reading the story to a large group of children, spend time reading with small groups. This will provide an opportunity for children to share their own responses to the story, and for educators to draw attention to how the words and the pictures work together to tell the story.           
  • As you read through the story respond the children’s spontaneous reactions – which pictures do they respond to most eagerly. Is it the pictures of the detective and the ballet dancer?
  • Ask how we can tell from the pictures that Lucas is interested in what Jack is saying.
  • Ask the children if they know anyone who is old – grandparents or great grandparents?
  • Do they know what this person does now, or did when they were younger. If they don’t know they can find out by asking the person.
  • With the children make up a list of questions they could ask.
  • Ask the children’s families to share any interesting stories about past generations.
  • Make these stories into a book.
  • Invite families if they have any souvenirs or memorabilia from the past – photos, ballet shoes, detective tools, farm implements?
  • Invite families to an event where they can talk about their souvenirs and share their stories of the past.
  • Invite other older people into your classroom to talk with the children about their past lives. You can include people from the school and local communities.
  • If possible establish a relationship with a local nursing home. Invite the residents to visit the class. Find out if you can visit the nursing home with the children. Ask these visitors to share their stories. Find out what songs they used to sing. Learn some of these and sing them with the visitors.
  • Everyone has memories and stories to share about what they have done in the past. Tell the children a story about your past. Ask them to tell a story about what they have done in the past.
  • Look at the pictures of the people in the story. Talk about how Andrew McLean made people look old – wrinkles, white hair, baldness, wheelchairs, walking sticks
  • Ask the children to draw pictures of people they know who are old. They can draw a picture of what they are like now, and one of them when they were younger.
  • Talk to the children about how colour helps set the atmosphere of a drawing. For instance compare the ‘now’ and ‘then’ pictures of Evelyn.
  • Find out more about Ellie Royce and Andrew McLean.

Palindromes and Drawings

One day O, aged 5 years, drew our house, wrote some palindromes, and had a drawing lesson.

The first drawing O did was a picture of our dog, Callan, sitting down. He showed it to Andy who did a little drawing in the corner of a sitting dog, then O had another go at grounding the feet.
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On the other side of the paper O drew a detailed picture of our house – with pitched roof, chimney, front door with transom window, decorated glass side panels, a number 2, and himself standing in the doorway. There are shrubs in the garden. The dotted line at the bottom of the page depicts the street, the solid line separates the footpath from the road, and there’s a path leading to the front door. Our car is parked in the driveway next to the house and, from the top of the gable a bird is pooping SPLAT! on the windscreen.

O signed his name and Andy told him it was a palindrome, then he wrote ‘pop’ and ‘poop’

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O carefully cut out a plain piece of paper from his drawing and, with Andy, wrote some more palindromes

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‘A Stunning New Musical for Australian Schools!

This great resource for children aged  5 – 12 years blends songs, drama, comedy

“Award winning author Phil Cummings and renowned composer/songwriter Glyn Lehmann launch their new musical Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape.

Written for performers aged 5-12 years, this work is full of songs, drama, comedy, action and even a rap. This work celebrates difference and explores themes of resilience, perseverance, resourcefulness, artistic endeavour, empathy, acceptance and recycling!

The story revolves around Arlie Abbstock who lives in a small medieval village. The other children like to play with swords and battle axes but Arlie likes to stitch and weave and sew. When the king is captured by a dragon, and the bumbling knights fail to rescue him… Arlie has a plan of his own.”

Available Now at: www.songlibrary.net/Arlie-Abbstock

Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape

…a magical, medieval musical script and lyrics by Phil Cummings

music by Glyn Lehmann
There’s a terrible dragon, a kidnapped king, a feisty queen, a plucky princess, bumbling knights…and then there’s Arlie Abbstock.
Arlie Abbstock and The Incredible Cape

Arlie isn’t like the other children; while they play with swords and battle axes, he likes to stitch and weave and sew. When the dragon kidnaps the king, the knights attempt his rescue but return blackened and defeated.

Who will save the king now?

With help from the princess, Arlie puts his plan into action by doing what he does best. Teased by the other children and scorned by the knights, Arlie surprises them all; proving that friendship and a little self-belief go a long way.

Drama, comedy, songs, rap and much more!
For performers aged 5-12 years.

Duration: approximately 40 minutes

MORE INFORMATION
Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape celebrates difference and explores themes of resilience, perseverance, resourcefulness, artistic endeavour, empathy, acceptance… and recycling!

Key aspects:

  • 19 speaking parts and chorus opportunities in which many children can participate.
  • Easy, flexible costuming options with opportunities for recycling.
  • Staging suggestions for do-it-yourself stage design and props.
  • Parts included for beginner recorder and ukulele players.
  • As well as the obvious benefits of being involved in a school production there are a number of themes that may be expanded upon in the classroom. We have provided suggestions in the accompanying materials.

We hope you enjoy teaching, learning and exploring our new musical.

Phil and Glyn

Pirates – part 2

I do not ask the children to stop thinking about play. Our contract reads more like this: if you will keep trying to explain yourselves I will keep trying to help you think about the problems you need to solve.

Vivian Gussin Paley (1981) Wally’s Stories

 The pirates nudging each other

When Richard told me his next story Ned was sitting next to him.
‘I’m going to do a play,’ said Richard.
‘There’s only two people. Ned, do you want to be in my play?”
Ned didn’t answer.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Silence
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Nothing.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
‘Maybe’. Continue reading

Pirates – Part 1

Nudging Ned

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For many weeks Ned and Richard were playing pirates together. The day Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank, Ned’, things changed. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house, shouting. ‘I’m the captain, Richard!’.

Ned refused to be in Richard’s story – the one where Richard was the captain. I had been watching this drama unfolding, aware that Ned always assumed the role of captain, and that Richard was getting a bit sick of being the pirate who always ended up in the shark-infested water.

I couldn’t help them work it out that day. I tried to help them find other ways to tell their stories.
‘You could paint or draw a picture about your pirate story.’
‘I can’t paint a pirate.’
‘You could each tell me the story that you’re thinking about, and I could write it down, and we could act it out at mat time.’

Richard was the first one to tell me a story.

‘There’s only Ned and Richard. There’s only two people. It’s about Ned and Richard. Ned and Richard fight with the swords and I’m the goodie and Ned is the baddie. There was a sea and I pushed him into the sea and I made him walk the plank.’

At mat time, Richard asked Ned to be the pirate who walked the plank. Ned shook his head, ‘No’, so Richard chose someone else. Ned wasn’t ready to take on that role – not in dramatic storyplay, and not as a character in Richard’s story. He as watched another child acted his part – a baddie being pushed into the sea. Continue reading