The Green Ship discussion guide




Author: Quentin Blake

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

Publisher:Random House

SynopsisTwo children find the Green Ship when they climb over the wall into what is more like a forest than a garden. The ship has bushes for bows and stern and its funnels are trees; a small garden shed on an ancient stump is the wheel house and in command of the ship is the owner of the garden, old Mrs Tredegar. Throughout the summer she and the Bosun and the two children sail the Seven Seas visiting exotic faraway places and having wonderful adventures

Reasons for selection: The Green Ship is a thematically rich picture book which captures both adult and child perspectives on the same narrative making it an interesting text to read and revisit with children (and adults) of different ages. There are interesting counterpoints in the text and illustration. Quentin Blake's use of frame, double page spread and colour impacts on the emotional response and provides an opportunity to discuss the visual literacy that we bring to bear on reading picture books.

Discussion points

Before reading:

Talk about the cover: (Note: the back and front covers create one image). Invite the children to talk about some of the following. Keep the discussion informal and exploratory.:

  • Where do you think this story is set?
  • What time of year do you think it is?
  • How many characters can we see.
  • Who you think they are?
  • Do they know each other?
  • What do you think they might be doing in this forest?
  • What has just happened?
  • Why do you think there is a Green Ship in the middle of the forest> Isn't that rather strange?
  • What do you imagine will happen next?

During reading:

First reading - read the story

You may want to ask:

  • Who is telling the story? How do you know?
  • Who do you think the man in uniform in the photo in the 'brown wooden frame' might be? Suggest that reading on might provide information to confirm or challenge their predictions.
  • Discuss the children's first responses. Did they like the story?

    Re-read with an opportunity to look more closely at how the text and illustrations work together.

    • Look at the way the illustrations help to tell the story and to keep things moving at a pace. The two framed pictures 'The trees were huge and covered with ivy' and 'We pushed aside a screen of branches' show the children moving through the forest. They are showing action. The page ends '.. saw something absolutely astonishing' Making the reader breathe in with anticipation as to what they will find on the next page. Then you turn the page and on the double page spread we have a picture of a big ship. The text says,  'bushes had been cut into the shape of the bows and stern, and two trees trimmed to look like funnels. On either side of these were two tall thin trees, with not many branches that were obviously meant to be the masts.'
      • Does anyone know what the different parts of the ship are? (show bow, stern, funnel, masts, wheelhouse).
      • What do you imagine the children were thinking when they saw the ship for the first time?
    • How would you describe Mrs Tredegar? What clues are there in the text and illustrations.
      • For instance, when she says 'Shall we clap them in irons?' Does she meant to do exactly what the words say?
      • What clues to her character do we get from her clothing?
    • On the page facing the text 'It seemed as though we were heading southward through tropical seas', there is a sequence of three framed pictures.
      • What is happening in these pictures.
      • Why do the colours change?
    • When the rain comes, Mrs Tredegar takes the wheel and says 'Steer into the eye of the storm'.
      • What does that mean?
      • Why do you think she says, 'What would the captain have done?' and later, 'The captain would have been proud of you.'?
    • When you turn the page, there is another double page spread with the storm appoaching.
      • What do you notice about the way Quentin Blake has made this picture?  
      • What colours can you see?
      • How does it make you feel when you see this picture?
    • Turn the page again. Now there is a hurricane raging. Ask the children to compare the two pictures.
      • What similarities and differences do you notice?
      • How has this picture been made?
    • What do you think about the last two double page spreads.
      • Things seem to change after the storm. What sort of changes do you think have taken place?
      • Do you think this is a sad or a happy ending to the story? Why do you think that? Encourage the children to express their views as there is no right or wrong answer. On the one hand, you may feel that the past has been lost and can never be regained, although there will always be memories. On the other hand you may feel that the trees are returning to their natural state and this is positive and optimistic.

    After reading:

    Have you ever played imaginary games like the children in this story? You may want to record write your story and keep it in a memory box.


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