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Henrietta Argent

Working with the extract

Before your pupils start their own writing, read and discuss this piece written by one of last year's primary-age winners. Help your pupils to understand the linguistic features which make this a successful piece of autobiographical writing. Autobiography is a story about the writer based on fact, on real experience, on memories.

* The main character is the writer so it is written in the first person

* It shows the writer's feelings, thoughts, reactions, beliefs

* The story is about key incidents - people, places, events - in the writer's life

Talk about memory and what triggers it and how writers need to use their imagination to bring their memories alive for the reader. Planning the structure of the piece, what its focus will be and careful selection of descriptive words are the key stylistic elements.

This engaging piece is about a person who meant a lot to the writer. She starts by talking about memory and what triggers memories before she describes her own recollections of a particular person. This develops into a specific memory of a specific incident. Make sure children appreciate the structure of this piece, how the writer has been selective to create a well balanced and well structured piece. As the writing develops the reader goes on learning about both the writer and Grandma Pam. It is not clear until the final paragraph that Grandma Pam is no longer alive and that memories are all that the writer has left.

The final paragraph is very positive with the play on words in the last sentence cleverly rounding off the piece and linking back to the beginning.

Suggestions for writing

Write about a person who has meant a lot to you and given you many happy memories. This may be someone who has died or moved away or it may be someone who was important to you when you were younger.

Holiday memories, as here and in a later piece "Scaring the Family", are often very vivid although they are not always related specifically to a person; the trigger could be the place or a specific event. Write about a vivid holiday memory.

About the author

Henrietta says that her gran, who died a few years ago, was "a really strong influence. Mints were her cure for everything." Henrietta wants to be "a vet who writes animal stories, like James Herriot". She has a cocker spaniel called Sinbad and four fish, and enjoys reading stories about the war, such as Goodnight Mr Tom, by Michelle Magorian, and books by Robert Westall and Judith Kerr, but finds time to play the piano and the Hammond organ.

Henrietta's teacher, Jonathan Brough, uses Write Away to introduce autobiographical writing, including books by Floella Benjamin, Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith. He believes in discovering "what's important in education, not just testing".

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