Author: Simon James
Publisher: Walker Books
Synopsis: A small girl writes to Greenpeace requesting information on whales as she has seen one in her pond. The response from Greenpeace informs Emily that whales, in fact, do not live in ponds but in salt water. Emily is unde- terred and, after having put salt in her pond, writes back asking further questions. The responses continue to be factual but Emily’s devotion to her whale, Arthur, continues despite being ‘forcefully’told that it cannot be a blue whale.that she has seen in her pond. Finally, Arthur disappears from Emily’s pond and her sadness is evident as she sits alone huddled on her bed. However, her last letter to Greenpeace reveals that Emily has, once again seen Arthur, this time at the seaside, where he let her stroke his head and shared her sandwich.
Reasons for selection: Suitable for use at both Key Stages 1 and 2, although the following suggestions would be appropriate for Key Stage 2. It is a book which raises issues for discussion, presented in a distinctive format with language use varied according to purpose, audience and nature of the writer. There are numerous opportunities for developing children’s skills of inference and deduction and as it is a picture book, it also offers opportunities to develop aspects of visual literacy. The discussion topics suggested address aspects of the PSHCE curriculum. This book is suited to group and guided reading.
Before reading:Find out what the children already know about Greenpeace and the organisation's activities. You may want to set this as homework.
The website and libraries are useful sources of information www.greenpeace.org.uk .You might focus the children’s research by asking them to find answers to specific questions.
During reading:After a first reading, invite pupils to share their first responses to the story. Ask each child in the group to offer an initial response before commenting on their ideas. If working with the whole class ask them to share their responses in pairs.
- Why do you think Emily was convinced there was a whale in her pond?
- What evidence is there in the book that she was intrigued by whales?
- Guide pupils to consider how the pictures and words work together to develop the story. For example, explore the fact that Emily is portrayed alone.
- Why do we only see father’s legs and no mother?
- What effect would this have on Emily?
- What do you think the author might be trying to convey?
- What would the recipients of Emily’s letters at Greenpeace have thought?
- How do we know?
- Discuss the different tones of letters – what does this tell us?
- Invite children to draw on their own experience of formal and informal language use.
- What do you think happened to Arthur?
- Are we to believe that he was found at the sea- side?
- How old do you think Emily is? Why do you think that?
- Compare this book to ‘My Friend Whale’by the same author.
- Are there any similarities?
- Also consider what is unique to each book.
- Make a table showing the similarities and differences between the two books
- Do you know any other books that have a similar subject or theme?
- What do we learn about Blue Whales from this story?
- Compare with factual information in 'My Friend Whale and investigate the different ways that the information is presented in each book (i.e. narrative non-fiction).
- Guide the children to distinguish between fact and opinion. Use a range of information sources including the internet to find out about other aspects Blue Whales.
- Refining a response to character - using teacher in role, invite the children to 'hot-seat' Emily or Emily’s dad.
- After demonstrating the technique, encourage different children to take the ‘hotseat’ and discuss different interpretations. Deepen the response by posing thought-provoking questions, as appropriate.
- Discuss whether Emily and the boy in 'My Friend Whale' would have told their friends about their adventures?
- If so, improvise in small groups what they might have said and how their friends might have responded.