Pony trek to the stars;Open Book
Kevin Harcombe looks at how this magical, healing story of a moonlit night can be used in different ways.
Liz Rosenberg's book The Carousel tells the story of two sisters drawn to the park one winter's evening by memories of their late mother. There the girls see the broken carousel horses come to life and they are taken on a magical ride.
How to use it
* Focus on description relating to all the senses. One of the most moving lines in the story ("She smelled like new-mown grass and my mother's old wool coat") comes from the memory of a smell. Children will have their own examples of "evocative smells" - insist on tasteful responses!
* List the similes used by the author - can the children suggest alternatives?
* Ask the children to describe the mother based on both fact and inference from the text.
* Who is narrating the story? Rewrite the last page from the father's point of view.
* How does the author convey the girls' different characters? Note how few sentences she takes to do it. The children may pick up on the (unusual) fact that no character in the book is given a personal name - just sister, mother or father.
* Ask pupils to write sentences describing a familiar daylight setting as it might look after darkness has fallen (perhaps a street, a shop, a railway station or the school itself).
* Compare this book with Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley (Andersen pound;9.99), which also deals with how we remember those dear to us.
* Compare ways in which people of different faiths remember and honour the dead.
* Children can edit a short passage from the book on the computer screen (replacing the author's adverbs or adjectives with their own) by highlighting words and overtyping.
* Discuss some of the sensuous imagery used in the book. Ask children to rank the five senses in order of importance - can the class reach a consensus?
* We hear sounds when objects vibrate but vibrations are not always visible - try putting seeds on a drum then tapping it, or lightly holding paper against a plucked guitar string.
* We see because light enters our eyes; how can the children use mirrors to reflect light over distance? Design and make a simple periscope. Explain how the light is reflected to reach our eyes using diagrams.
Music and Dance
* Debussy's "Claire de Lune" is used to calm the carousel horses. Using pitched instruments, compose your own calming music. Concentrate on timbre (the particular "voice quality" of an instrument) and tempo. Can the children use terms such as "timbre" and "tempo" to explain why "Claire de Lune" or Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" would be more likely to have a calming effect than Offenbach's "CanCan" (or some thrash metal)? Children will enjoy responding to all these pieces through movement.
Kevin Harcombe is headteacher of Orchard Lea junior school in Fareham, Hants.