How I Met Dudley discussion guide

Author: Roger McGough

Illustrator: Chris Riddell

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Suggested age group: Year 3 and 4

Synopsis and reasons for selection

Have you ever wondered how a fridge-freezer works? Or a toaster? Or even a vacuum cleaner? In this fun book of ‘how things work’, Dudley, the techno-wizard dog, gives us the answers in an engaging, quirky manner.

Roger McGough’s delightfully inventive text and Chris Riddell’s eye-catching illustrations take children from the furthest realms of fantasy into the fascinating world of technology to discover the workings of familiar machines. Indeed, it is a witty, unusual text that offers an excellent vehicle for extending your children’s understanding of the non-fiction genre. It also offers an entertaining scaffold for your class to create their own lively, amusing explanation texts. This charming book will certainly delight again and again.

About the author and illustrator

Roger McGough lives in London and is one of Britain’s best loved poets. He also writes for the stage and television. His humorous collections of poetry include Bad, Bad Cats, You Tell Me! and ‘Sky in the Pie’.

Chris Riddell was born on 13 April 1962 and is a British illustrator, a writer of chidren’s books and a political cartooinist for The Observer. He has illustrated many of Neil Gaiman’s work, including the thrilling The Sleeper and the Spindle. He has written many children’s books as well, including the best-selling Ottoline series.

Discussion Points

Before Reading

Ask the children to look at the front cover of the book and use a post-it to record everything they see.

It would be interesting at this stage to ask the children which genre they think this book belongs to? Is it fiction? Non-fiction? How can they tell?

First Encounters

Allow some time for the children to explore the page that begins ‘I thought I knew how a toaster worked…’. You can use a paperclip to secure the pages so the children don’t read past this page. If it is possible for the children to have their own copy, they can read at their own pace and write down their responses.

  • Is there anything that puzzles them about the book?
  • Do they have any questions?
  • Is there an image they like or dislike?

Use the children’s questions to initiate a discussion – they will be more engaged if it is something they are genuinely interested in. Some questions might be answered easily, whilst others may need to be explored at a later date or after further exploration of the book.

Returning to the text

Questions to ask while reading

There are three types of question you can focus on during the exploration of this book. These are literal questions (‘looking’, e.g. When? What? Who?), inference questions (‘clue’, e.g How do you know that…?) and thinking questions (‘thinking’, e.g Do you think that…?)

At all stages, invite the children to share their ideas and responses. Avoid asking too many leading or closed questions. The prompts and activities below are merely intended to be used as supplementary questions. Please select or adapt the questions which you think are most appropriate for the children you are working with. They will ask and answer many of their own questions if they are encouraged to look closely at the pictures and discuss their ideas.

Looking questions

  • What are these texts?
  • What is their purpose?

Encourage the children to record, in note-form or pictures, the two explanations for each appliance in a table. For example:


I thought I knew how a dishwasher worked…. Dudley showed me how a dishwasher works…








Clue questions

  • How do we know they are explanation texts?
  • How do the two different explanations for each appliance differ in their layout and use of language?


Thinking questions

  1. Why do you think the author and illustrator chose to set the text and diagrams out in this manner?
  2. How is this explanation text different to others that you have read? How is it the same?
  3. Did these explanation texts make you want to find out more?
  4. Can you explain how you think another everyday appliance works as if you were Dudley and also the child in the book?


Identifying features

Give the children an envelope which contains labels for the features of an explanation text: introduction, statements in logical order, fact box, diagram, causal connectives and technical vocabulary. Ask the children to use these labels to identify the relevant features on their favourite page. The children could also use a large piece of tracing paper to draw around these features on their favourite page so they can understand the layout. This  activity is good preparation for when the children reach Year 6 and often have to locate a variety of features in their Reading SAT.

Comparing texts

Ask the children to compare this book with a traditional, explanation text.

  • Which features are similar?
  • Which features are different?
  • Which is the better text for giving the same information?
  • Why do you think this?

They can use a double bubble thinking map to record the similarities and differences

Logical order

Choose one of the explanations and cut it into sections. Give the children the pieces jumbled up.. Can they re-order the explanation text so it flows logically? Can they explain what clues they looked for in the text to help them re-order it?

How does a dishwasher work?

And that’s how a dishwasher really works.

Dishwashers can be found in many homes around Great Britain. They are used to make your dishes sparkle (without the hard work). Thought you knew how a dishwasher worked? Think again.

The cats lick all of the plates, cups and pans clean. Their tongues are rough, so make excellent cleaning tools. They happily purr to themselves as they clean, which is why you hear humming. Cats are very clever, and so they have made a deal with the government to be paid in fish every Tuesday.

When the dishes are clean, the cats leave. One cat always stays behind to sprinkle the detergent and hoover up any cat hairs, because no-one can ever know the secret of dishwashers!

Firstly, you load the dishwasher and put in a tablet. Then, you close the door and press the ‘Go’ button. This button is linked to a loud siren that can only be heard by cats. When they hear the alarm, all of the cats run to your house and enter the dishwasher through a secret flap at the back (that’s the banging you hear).


Examining language

Give the children an extract from the text, with words missing, Ask the children to re-write the text and fill in the missing words in the correct place. What clues did they look for to help them? The explanation text can link to a variety of other subjects, including Maths and History. For example:

How to multiply using the grid method

13 x 7 =

x 10 3
7 70 21 91


First             Next     Then     when    Finally    Afterwards      


Have you ever wanted to multiply large numbers easily and fluently? Well now you can, by using the grid method.

_______  partition your numbers into their tens and ones. For example, ______ you partition 13, the number will split into 10 and 3. _______ place them along the top of your grid. ______ place the remaining number (in this case a 7) in the column down the side. _______ multiply each number in the rows by each number in the column. ________ add the two numbers together, which will be your answer.

Research into everyday appliances

Encourage the children to use a graphic organiser, like the one below, to research and take notes on how another everyday appliance works. You could easily link this research to a Science topic of ‘Electricity’.


Ask the children to look at the last double page spread. Can they write two explanation texts, one from the point of view of an imaginative child and one as if they were Dudley, informing their audience:

  • How an aeroplane works
  • How bagpipes get their distinctive sound
  • How a clock ticks
  • How stars shine at night
  • How bubbles get into fizzy drinks

Pettson’s Inventions

In this tricky new app, children must help Pettson and Findus build their clever inventions! The children need to figure out which one of the objects should be included and where to put them in the machinery. They can then drag and drop the objects to their right spot and watch the invention start. Pettson’s Inventions is an app that practices logic and stimulates creativity and is a perfect stimulus to engage the children in writing their own explanation texts to describe how these wacky inventions work.

Further reading for children

There are a number of quirky, fun explanation texts written in a similar style to  Until I Met Dudley  These include, How Dinosaurs Really Work and How Pirates Really Work both by Alan Snow, ‘Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Cracking Contraptions Manual’ by Derek Smith and Graham Bleathman, Three Cheers for Inventors By Marcia Williams and The Way Things Work by David Macauley

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