The Story of the Blue Planet discussion guide

Author: Andri Snær Magnason

Illustrator: Aslaug Jonsdottir

Translator: Julian Meldon D’Arcy

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Suggested age group: Year 6

Synopsis and reasons for selection

The blue planet is wild, beautiful, dangerous and exciting. It is a place where children spend their days playing, climbing, laughing, telling stories and exploring. However, it is a place so full of danger and excitement, that no adult dares to set foot on the planet. That is until one day, Mr Goodday lands on the planet. He promises the children even more fun, even more excitement and assures them he can make all their dreams come true. It won’t even cost the children that much…Just a small percentage of their youth…

What follows is an ambitious, lyrical fable about greed, friendship, sacrifice,  trust, democracy and collaboration. The Story of the Blue Planet is full of beautiful illustrations and is an eccentric, funny, charming and dark read that manages to be thought-provoking on many levels.

About the author

Andri Snaer Magnason is one of Iceland's most celebrated young writers. In 2002 ‘Love Star’ was named "Novel of the Year" by Icelandic booksellers and received the DV Literary Award and a nomination for the Icelandic Literary Prize. ‘The Story of the Blue Planet’ is now published or performed in 22 countries and was the first children's book to receive the Icelandic Literary Prize. It was also the recipient of the Janusz Korczak Honorary Award and the West Nordic Children's Book Prize.

Discussion Points

 

Before Reading

  • What is the difference between a wish and a dream? A want and a need?
  • Imagine that there any only children in the world. What would be different? What would you do? Who would decide who was in charge? Who would be in charge?

Ask the children to create a semantic map by noting down as many words associated with ‘desire’ or ‘environment’ as they can think of and then finding common connections between them.

 

During Reading

At all stages, invite the children to share their ideas and responses. Avoid asking too many leading or closed questions. The prompts 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 encouraged.

Chapter 1

Looking questions

  • What is special about the blue planet?

Clue questions

  • How does the orbit of the sun and the moon around the blue planet differ to ours?
  • What does the author mean when he says there are even strange children on the planet, ‘like the child you see in the mirror’?
  • Why are scientists not interested in the planet?
  • Does the end of the chapter make you want to read on? Why? Why not?

Thinking questions

  • What would it be like to only live with children and have no adults in charge?

 Chapter 2

Looking questions

  • Why does Brimir decide not to eat the penguins’ eggs?

Clue questions

  • Look at page 14. Why do you think the boys wipe their tracks out of the sand?
  • Look at page 17. How does the author create tension and excitement when the space craft is falling from the sky?
  • Read to the end of the chapter. What might happen next?

Thinking questions

  • It is a greater blessing to give than to receive. What does this mean? Do you agree?

Chapter 3

Looking questions

  • How does Brimir describe the space monster on page 19?

Clue questions

  • Why do you think Arnar might be called ‘the thinker’?
  • What might the two children be thinking and feeling as they search for the others?

Thinking questions

Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. Do you agree?

Chapter 4

Looking questions

  • Use the information from this chapter to record everything you’ve learned about Mr Goodday in a Bubble map. Continue to add to it as your read the story. You can use different colours on different days to show how information accumulates as we read further into the story.

Clue questions

  • Why do you think the author has changed the font for ‘cooler’ and ‘fun’?
  • Do you think the children should trust Mr Goodday? Why? Why not?

Thinking questions

  • Arnar asks, ‘Are dreams true?’ What does he mean? Do you think dreams are true?

Chapter 5

Looking questions

  • Describe the route taken by the children to reach the butterfly cave.
  • Which animals do the two children visit after they begin to fly?

Clue questions

  • What does the phrase ‘the children had butterflies in their tummies’ mean?
  • Find a phrase on page 31 that suggests the children are shocked to see Magni fly.

Thinking questions

  • Can you think of any other stories where humans fly? How does it happen? Are they sprinkled with anything?

Chapter 6

Looking questions

  • What does Goodday want in return for helping the children fly at night?

Clue questions

  • What effect does the constant sunlight have on the planet?
  • What might Goodday be thinking and feeling as he nails the sun into place?

Thinking questions

  • If there was no sunshine, what would happen to our planet?

Chapter 7

Looking questions

  • What does Goodday think the clouds look like?
  • What does Goodday send to get rid of the clouds?

Clue questions

  • How has the children’s attitude towards rain, and the island in general, changed?
  • What might the strange smell be that is wafting around the planet?

Thinking questions

  • The children are giving away more than their youth. Do you agree with this statement?

Chapter 8

Looking questions

  • Look at page 46. What does the ‘stink’ smell of?
  • Why have the children stopped having baths?

Clue questions

  • How does Goodday feel about the waterfall? Can you find examples to support your ideas?

Thinking questions

  • What would it be like if you couldn’t hold hands with someone or hug them?

 

Chapter 9

Looking questions

  • What stops Arnar from winning the competition?
  • How does Hulda use the wishing stone in the flying competition?

Clue questions

  • How has the arrival of Goodday affected Brimir and Hulda’s relationship? Give examples.

Thinking questions

  • Everyone is good at something. Do you agree?
  • Competition is a part of life and Goodday is right to introduce an edge of competitiveness into the children’s word. Discuss.

Chapter 10

Looking questions

  • What do the trees look like in the forest?
  • At the end of the chapter, which animal does Brimir bump into?

Clue questions

  • Look at page 58. What might Hulda really be thinking and feeling as Brimir sets out into the forest?

Thinking questions

  • What is the purpose of the rhyme on page 59?

Chapter 11

Looking questions

  • What do the bears due once a year when the butterflies take flight?

Clue questions

  • Why do you think the author has used the term ‘plastic’ children to describe the two friends?

Thinking questions

  • How are the two friends dealing with the situation? Is Brimir right to say that Goodday always saves the day? What would you do in the same situation?

Chapter 12

Looking questions

  • What is the name of the spider that threatens to eat the children?

Clue questions

  • How has the lack of sunlight affected the spiders?

Thinking questions

  • The spiders have every right to hunt and eat the children. Do you agree?

Chapter 13

Looking questions

  • How does the ‘Teflon wonder stuff’ save the children?

Clue questions

  • Look at page 71. What might the lion be thinking and feeling when the children threaten him?

Thinking questions

  • How would you survive in the forest? What would you do for food and shelter?
  • Are the children right to treat the animals in this way?

Chapter 14

Looking questions

  • What does the hyena bring back for the two children?

Clue questions

  • What might Brimir and Hulda be thinking and feeling as they follow Darrow through the forest?
  • Look at page 73. Why has the author written ‘circleaftercircleaftercircle’ without any spacing? What effect does it have?

Thinking questions

  • What lesson might the hyena be trying to teach the two children?

Chapter 15

Looking questions

  • What nicknames are given to Hulda and Brimir by the ghost children?
  • What food are the children given by the ghost children for their journey?

Clue questions

  • What do you think an ‘ode’ might be? Use clues from page 79 to help you.
  • What might Hulda and Brimir be thinking and feeling when the ghost children tell them their forest is dying?
  • Why do you think the children’s hair is turning grey?

Thinking questions

  • If Hulda and Brimir hadn’t lied to the ghost children they would never have escaped. It was the right thing to do. Do you agree?

Chapter 16

Looking questions

  • What happens to the hot air balloon at the beginning of the chapter?

Clue questions

  • Look at the way the text is set out on page 89. What effect does it have on the reader? How might the children be laughing?
  • Can you think of any other words (synonyms) that mean the same as ‘remorse’?

Thinking questions

  • Do you think Goodday’s jokes are funny? Why might the children be laughing?

Chapter 17

Looking questions

  • What does Brimir suggest they should do to help the ghost children? How do the children react to the suggestion?

Clue questions

  • What does the verb ‘brayed’ (page 92) suggest about Goodday and the way he behaves and speaks?

Thinking questions

  • We all have a responsibility to help others in need. Discuss.

Chapter 18

Looking questions

  • What does Goodday suggest people should pay with if they want to see the butterflies?

Clue questions

  • How does Goodday convince the children he is right? Think about his language. Can you give examples from the text?

Thinking questions

  • Does anyone ‘own’ the land or planet you live on?
  • Who owns the sun?
  • When you can’t agree on a decision, a vote is the best way to solve the problem. Do you agree?

Chapter 19

Looking questions

  • How many children vote against Brimir and Hulda?

Clue questions

  • What might the two friends be thinking and feeling when the result of the voting is revealed?

Thinking questions

  • You don’t have to understand how the world works, just believe in and trust the people in charge. Do you agree with this statement? Discuss your ideas with a partner.
  • What do you think of Goodday’s idea to help the children on the other side of the planet? Is he being kind? How does it reflect the way charities are set up today?

Chapter 20

Looking questions

  • What is the cost of making a bomb? What might this symbolise?

Clue questions

  • What do you think the author feels about war and fighting? Use evidence from the chapter to support your ideas.
  • Where do you think the crates, food and blankets have come from?

Thinking questions

  • The majority always knows best. What does this mean? Do you agree?

Chapter 21

Looking questions

  • What have the children from the other side of the planet sent? Why?
  • What does Goodday plan to do with all the youth he has stolen?

Clue questions

  • What is Goodday’s reaction to the children’s gifts? What does it tell you about him?

Thinking questions

  • Youth is more precious than gold and diamonds. What does this mean? What is the author trying to say about childhood?
  • All of the problems caused are due to the children’s stupidity and greediness. No one else is to blame. Do you agree?

Chapter 22

Looking questions

  • What will happen to Brimir when he receives a stone heart?

Clue questions

  • What might Brimir be thinking and feeling as he lies down on the operating table?

Thinking questions

  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • Has Bremir made the right decision?

Chapter 23

Looking questions

  • What does Goodday dream of?

Clue questions

  • Why are the children amazed and shocked when they find out about Goodday’s dream?

Thinking questions

  • What would you do to solve the problem?
  • A king is just like a monkey in a cage. What does this mean? How does it apply to the story?

Chapter 24

Looking questions

  • How do the children get their youth back?

Clue questions

  • What might Goodday be thinking and feeling when he learns he can be king?
  • How do you think the author wants us to feel towards Goodday?

Thinking questions

  • What do you think Goodday has learned by the end of the story?
  • What have the children learned?

 

After Reading – Themes and Cross-curricular links

Themes

Make a set of theme cards and ask the children to discuss in pairs or small groups. which do they think are most important to The Blue Planet.

 

Being entertained is more important than being aware

 

 

Modern day living focuses too much on possessions, greed and quick-fixes

You should only help people if they can give you something back in return

No one owns our planet, our animals or our environment

 

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

 

Youth is wasted on the young

Sending to food, blanket and shoes to those in need doesn’t really help them or solve the root of the problem

 

Make a change

Ask the children to write a letter to their local councillor about a change they would like to make in the community or to the local environment. Why is the issue important to them? How is it affecting their local community? What changes would they like to see?

Art and DT

Use mixed media and materials to create a collage of the blue planet. You could use ModRoc to create a 3D model of the planet too.

They’ve paved paradise

Listen to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Try performing it too. How do the words and themes in the song apply to this story?

Write an advert

Can you write an advert trying to persuade people to buy ‘Butterfly powder’ or ‘Teflon wonder stuff’? Try and use adjectives, alliteration and a question!

Compare and contrast

Use a ‘double bubble map’ to compare and contrast our world with the blue planet. How are they similar? How are they different? Encourage the children to use language and examples from the text.

 

 

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