Shhh! discussion guide



Author: Sally Grindley

Illustrator: Peter Utton

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books

Synopsis: Shhh! You are about to enter a giant's castle. Can you get through the book without waking up the enormous scary giant? What will you do if he wakes up? Why shut the book of course! Shhh! is based loosely on Jack and the Beanstalk and physically involves the child in narrative and adventure. Lift-up flaps cleverly offer reassurance to the intruder until they reach the final pages.

Reasons for selection: This is an interactive book based on Jack and the Beanstalk that works well as a group or whole class read. Readers are invited to collude with the narrator in the invasion of the giant’s castle. Suspense is built through the narrator’s exhortation to be quiet,  the clever flaps and dramatic turns of the page. There’s a final surprise, making this a good story for thinking about how suspense is built and broken with the surprise or shock which writers (and film makers) often employ. The story invites an expressive reading, which can be modelled through group reading and then practised and enacted by children in pairs or small groups. It also includes a direct address from the narrator to the reader, which can be discussed explicitly with some readers. Reading a book with flaps together also provides an opportunity to talk about careful book handling so that the book can be enjoyed many times by lots of readers.

Before reading

Have available a sack of props with some outsized objects e.g. a very big pair of glasses (from joke shops) a large pair of socks, an extra large cup or bowl. Ask the children to feel the objects inside the sack and guess what they might be. Who could these objects belong to?

  • Briefly talk about any stories that the children have read or heard that feature giants.
  • What do they know about giants from these stories?
  • Ask, do we know any giant words? (e.g. huge, enormous, gigantic, massive)

Introduce the book….

  •  ‘This book is called Shhh! Hmmm that’s an unusual title. I wonder if there are any clues on the cover as to why it might be called that?’
  • After a brief discussion… ‘let’s read on and find out’.

During reading:


Read the beginning ot the story ‘Shh’ ‘ you are about to enter...’

  • Who might be visiting the castle?
  • Why do you think they would go there?

Read the story up to the page featuring the door to the castle.

  • Pause to think what might be on the other side of the door.
  • Take suggestions from the children and open the flap.
  • What do you notice?
  • Where do you think we must go next? There’s a door leading to some stairs; perhaps we have to climb the stairs.?

Read the pages which show the cat and the rat sleeping.

  • Why are they so sleepy? (making inferences - does it have anything to do with the piles of food scattered on the floor)

Read the pages with the hen and stop at the kitchen where the giant’s wife is cooking.

  • What do you notice in this picture?
  • Encourage speculation,  I wonder what the giant’s wife is cooking?

Carry on reading to the part of the story featuring Giant’s bedroom.

  • What game is being played here?
  • Do you know the names of any of the chess pieces?
  • Can you see the giant sleeping?

The story invites the children to shout ‘Boo!’ very loudly. Do this and this and then turn the page.

  • What room do you think we are in now?
  • How can you tell?

After peeking through the final flap, read the story to the end.

After reading:

  • Ask the children how the story made them feel? Was it frightening? funny? exciting?
  • Did they feel different things at different points in the story?
  • Who was telling the story? (the narrator isn't named and this is open to interpretation. However, there is an elf peeping through the floorboards in the giant's bedroom, perhaps he is the narrator?).
  • Mention that stories have different kinds of narrators, sometimes it can be a character from the story.
  • Have you noticed how the narrator of this story seems to be talking  directly to you?

What do you think might happen next?

  • Use a storytelling circle to continue the tale.
  • Children could write a continuation of the story.

Rereading: invite the children to reread the story in pairs.

  • Remind them how you read the story with expression to build the suspense.
  • Some parts were read quietly and slowly other parts were read quickly and there was a loud part at the end.

Enacting the story: allocate parts to different members of the group: mouse, cat, hen, giant’s wife, giant and the intruder. Have the child taking the part of the intruder tie jingle bells around their ankles (or something that makes a noise when moved). As you tell the story, they must walk past each character without making a noise so as not to disturb them and alert the giant.

Draw a plan of the castle and use it to support a retelling of the story to another group or the class.



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