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Fowl is fair;Open book

YOU'RE SOMEBODY SPECIAL , WALLIWIGS!. By Joan Rankin. Bodley Head pound;9.99

Gwynneth Bailey on the plight of a cockatoo chick brought up with much prettier hens


This rollicking read will provide lots of fun at key stage 1. Walliwigs loses two mothers and suffers for being different from his fellow creatures, but has hopes of happiness. An amusing story which covers issues including the importance of being loved for oneself. (See also Wow! It's Great Being a Duck, Bodley Head pound;9.99, another book from this authorillustrator).

How to use it


* On the first reading, cover the text on the final page. Study Mother Hen's think bubble, notice the confetti. Can children suggest suitable punchlines?

* In pairs, make up alternative "nonsense" names for Walliwigs of two, three and four syllables. Vote for the top five.

* Empathise with various characters, thinking about their points of view and feelings. For example, Walliwigs' mother, on realising the ship, her nest and offspring had sailed away? The ship's boy who had to look after Walliwigs? Aunty Beth, as she contemplated her nephew's latest gift? Professor Beak, on discovering an extraordinary bird in his neighbour's garden?

* Continue each scenario to make an extended piece of writing. Practice writing in the first person singular.

* Where is the story set? Hunt for clues, especially in the illustrations, and research using atlas and globe. Discuss findings.

* In small groups, role-play Walliwigs' clash with the hens in Aunty Beth's garden. Discuss how it feels to be different. Compare with Andersen's traditional tale, "The Ugly Duckling", and Debi Gliori's recent picture book No Matter What (Bloomsbury pound;10.99), a moving story of enduring parental love.

* Look at the special effects: different fonts, text placed upside down. Practice using speech bubbles.

* Discuss the meanings of the adjectives "heartbroken" and "inconsolable" using dictionaries.

* Professor Beak is an ornithologist (study his profile). In pairs, make up names suited to people's jobs. See Allan Ahlberg's Happy Families series (Mr Tick the Teacher and so on, Puffin pound;3.50 each).

* The Professor tells Walliwigs that he is a probosciger atenmus, a great black cockatoo. Find Latin names of common plants or creatures in reference books. Let the children roll their tongues around tyto alba (the barn owl), rattus rattus (the black rat), and troglodytes troglodytes (the wren).

* Read Quentin Blake's wonderful book Cockatoos (Red Fox pound;4.99).


* Draw up a block graph of the top five favourite names for Walliwigs (see above), then find preferences. Can children suggest other ways of presenting this data?

* Use the characters in the book in mental maths time: "Professor Beak needed two feeding bowls for each of his 25 creatures. How many did he need altogether?" * Sequence the story in time, fixing the action in daily events: On Monday, the ship sailed away, taking Walliwigs far from his Mother. On Tuesday, the ship's boy was sent up the chimney to bring him down, and so on. Discuss the time factors at the end of the story. How long passes by? A week? A month? A year?


* A pet bird, preferably a pupil's, could be brought into the classroom for short periods. Use reference books to find out more about cockatoos.

* Read My Hen is Dancing by Karen Wallace, illustrated by Anita Jeram (Walker Read and Wonder pound;6.99pound;4.99) before inviting a "domesticated" hen into the classroom. This should lead to interesting observations and inspire non-narrative writing.


* Joan Rankin's individual style of illustration is worth studying. Try using her technique of painting on wet paper, and her soft colour range. Children could try drawing in her somewhat primitive style, or catch some of the expressions on the hens' faces on the endpapers.

Gwynneth Bailey is literacy and numeracy co-ordinator at Aldborough county primary school, near Norwich

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