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Never clone alone

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. By Ted Dewan. Doubleday. Pounds 9.99 Picture Corgi. Pounds 4.99. Cassette Corgi Audio Pounds 4.99.

Bill Laar on how to use an entertaining story of mystery and magic across the curriculum

Children will devour Ted Dewan's retelling of The Sorcerer's Apprentice at a sitting. The characters are powerful and memorably realised; naturalistic dialogue crackles between the "magician" (here portrayed as an inventor), his robot apprentice, and the out-of-control mechanical clones the robot makes of himself.

Dewan's magnificent artwork takes the reader into the inventor's claustrophobic, ramshackle world and creates an illusion of something sinister happening. The book teems with incidents that will generate inquiry, speculation and debate.

Inventors and inventions

You can use the book to investigate a variety of themes without diminishing the power of the story. For instance; you can examine what inventors do and why they are important, and look at inventions in the home. Ask pupils what three key inventions they would take to a desert island with them and why. Then ask them to pick five inventions that have changed the world and say why. You can also categorise and define good and unwholesome inventions, research a great female inventor, a great modern inventor and one from the past.


Have a look at real robots and the work they do in hospitals, factories and bomb disposal. You can also:

* Compare the account of the assembling of the robot apprentice with the description of how Ted Hughes's Iron Man (Faber Pounds 4.99) reconstructs himself.

* Write a story about a robot who helps a child tackle bullies.

* Write a radio play about a group of mutinous toys who decide to break out of their toy shop.

* Devise an adventure for the robot to be presented as a radio play or a short story.

The Sorcerer and the literacy hour

Sensitively treated, the book will contribute to National Literacy Strategy work.

Word level

* Recognise common letter strings in the text and build word families from them, such as "oo" (for example, "stood", "wooden", "school") and "-tion" endings (such as "fraction" and "station").

* Build and spell words from others in the text that have similar patterns and meanings ("electric", "electricity", "electrical", "electrician").

* Construct and build new words by analogy with other known words (such as "wheel", "steel" and "feel").

* Recognise and spell regular verb endings; recognise and spell irregular tense changes; recognise and spell two-syllable words containing double consonants; read and spell from the text medium-frequency words; recognise other common letter strings and check critical features such as shape and length; extend vocabulary by noting and interpreting unusual words.

* Identify words in the story that are in a language other than English and find their meaning.

Sentence level

* Identify words that go against the general narrative rule of past tense and decide why the author used them.

* Identify the punctuation form constantly used by the author to suggest that time is passing.

Text level

You can read the story as a class or in groups and then:

* Explore and map the narrative order: introduction; dramatic development; climax; resolution.

* Investigate settings and characters. What can be deduced about the environment and the people who live there? Write brief character descriptions of the inventor and the apprentice, based on textual information and clues.

* Find and read another version of the story - for example "Strega Nonna" by Tomi de Paola.

* Discover whether the music notation, to which the robots duplicate, can be played. Listen to Dewan's tape that comes with the book.

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