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Teaching notes

Fantasy and reality

Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with a short extract which suggests some aspect of the boy being a spy.JAsk them to consider the idea of fantasy and reality in the extract they have been given. They are to produce two still images, merging after holding the first one for a few seconds into the second image. The first should suggest an image of the boy as a spy, while the second should show what might be portrayed about the boy in reality. The students merge from the "fantasy" to the "real" image, with all groups remaining in the frozen "real" image at the end. Give each group two cards and ask them to write down one or two words from the text that describe, or suggest, the fantasy and the reality.

Place two hoops on the floor. Ask the pupils to place their words in the relevant hoop: fantasy; reality

Using the idea of a Venn diagram, ask the students if any of the words can be placed in the overlapping space. How does the writer use this idea of both fantasy and reality throughout the work?

Placing the writer and reader

Select one of the "still pictures" and ask the pupils to freeze while you read out the word they have chosen from the text. Ask, or choose, another pupil to be the "writer". Ask the pupils to place the writer in the picture where they think she should be. Is the writer in the same position as the girl or do they have a different perspective? Ask other pupils whether they agree with this positioning and get them to move the writer to where they feel she is best placed. The pupils might use various criteria for this, including the writer's distance from certain characters, the events, the reader's view, whether autobiographical writing means that the writer and narrator cannot be separated. The reader should be placed in the picture in the same way and evidence from the text used to support the pupils'


Writing - making the everyday significant

Encourage the pupils to use the idea of imagination and reality to explore an important person in their own lives - mother as superhero, father as explorer, gran as soapstar. Similar opening and closing sentences to those used in this piece can be developed to provide an additional framework.

About the author

Meg Rosoff was born in Boston but now lives in London. Her first book for young people, How I Live Now (Penguin), an exciting tale of love and war, earlier this year won the Branford Boase Award for a first novel for young people.

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