Viking Longship discussion guide

Authors: Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom


Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Suggested ages: 7 - 9


The authors introduce us to a range of characters, including a warrior, pirate and priest, who sail in a beautiful longship called The Sea Dragon to Lindisfarne. From here, we are transported back to the 9th century and the land of the Vikings. After a devastating storm, Viking Longship continues the story of Grimm, a young warrior, who buys and fixes the broken ship and sets sail in search of adventure, battles and treasure. The story follows Grimm's progress as he invades England with his band of grizzly warriors and then creates a farm settlement where his family can live peacefully.

Reasons for selection:

The style of this book is informative, yet entertaining and quirky. Informal sketches, scribbly handwriting, burnt pages, axe marks and splatters of blood lend an authentic touch to the story. There’s even a recipe for Viking bread!  Each section has a clear title, a short synopsis and more detailed notes and information at the bottom of each page. The colourful illustrations are energetic, fresh and humorous and work beautifully alongside an engaging narrative and lively characters. Children will enjoy learning about skilful ship builders, battles, gods and everyday life in Jorvik. The ending of the story is particularly touching and will ensure young readers will want to continue their research into this exciting period in history.

About the authors:

Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom have won numerous awards for their wonderful picture information books, which include the English Association Award and Smarties Silver Award.

Their most recent books include: The Beatles, Roman Fort, What Mr Darwin Saw and Secrets of Stonehenge. They have four sons and live in the North of England and Sweden.

Discussion Points

Before Reading

Cover the title of the book. Ask the children what they think the title might be and why. Reveal the title.

Follow-up prompts might include:

  • What kind of book do you think this is and why?
  • Does this book look different to other non-fiction books you’ve read?
  • How is it different? How is it similar?
  • What do you already know about the Vikings?

First Encounters

Circle Map: Before reading Viking Longship, write down everything you think you know about the Vikings in a circle. Write where you learned this information in the rectangle. Share your ideas with your partner and add any new ideas to your diagram.

Allow some time for the children to explore the book. 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.

You may wish to discuss the context of this book further with your children by looking at:

  • Where the Vikings came from
  • When they lived
  • Homes, clothing, food, roles in society, art, culture
  • Language, Old Norse, runes

Returning to the text

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 they are encouraged to look closely at the pictures and discuss their ideas.


  • What does the word ‘Viking’ mean?
  • What was ‘hack silver’?
  • What is a sacrifice? Does the word have more than one meaning?
  • What does the verb ‘spilling’ imply in the sentence: “The Sea Dragon is one of many longships dragged up on the sandy shore, spilling out men, supplies, weapons and horses.”
  • What is a ‘vindeye’?
  • What does the adjective ‘rusty’ suggest in the sentence:“Grim and his followers grab rusty weapons.”

Looking Questions (literal)

You could develop the children’s skimming and note-taking skills by giving them photocopies of the relevant pages and asking them to highlight key facts, figures and information. Questions might include:

  • Where did the Vikings come from? (page 6)
  • What are the names of Grim’s children? (page 7)
  • When did the invade Lindisfarne? (page 10)
  • What might a Viking’s sea chest contain? (page 13)
  • What were Frey, Odin and Thor the gods of? (page 19)
  • Can you name any other groups of people that lived in Britain during this time? (page 20)

Encourage the children to find information in the book about aspects of Viking life that interests them.

Clue Questions (inference and deduction)

  • How do you think the crew of sailors felt during the storm? (page 12-13)
  • Why do you think the Vikings had colourful shields in battle? (page 16)
  • Can you describe Viking beliefs about healing and medicine? (page 23)
  • Why do you think people came to Jorvik to trade? (page 24)
  • Why do you think Grim put away his swords and shield? (page 25)
  • What do you think Grim is thinking and feeling on page 35? Use thought bubble shaped post-its to write on and have the children place them in their copy of the book.

Thinking Questions (evaluative and responsive)

  • Women had more rights in Viking times than they do today. Do you agree?
  • The Vikings were nothing more than savage and brutal barbarians. Do you agree?
  • If you were a Viking, what would you be buried with and why?
  • Which age group do you think this book is aimed at? Why do you think that?

Do you think the authors use layout and design successfully to engage their audience? Give reasons for your answer. Children could use tracing paper to map out the structure of their favourite page and use it as a prompt to discuss the pictures, use of colour, themes, layout and design.

After Reading – Themes and Cross-curricular links

History Detectives

Display a range of artefacts including jewellery, swords, helmets. The following website link has a good collection of pictures of artefacts:

Ask the children to discuss what they think the objects were, who wore or used them, how they were made, what they are made of and what they tell us about life in Viking times.

Freeze frame and drama

Look again at the section ‘Storm at Sea’.  This informative story provides an excellent basis for dramatic improvisation and theatre. Can they create a piece to perform to an audience? They could include:

  • mime and movement
  • freeze frames
  • music and sound effects
  • words and phrases taken from the story

Ancient Runes

Challenge the children to write a secret message in Ancient Runes!


Give the children a range of resources so they can research some of the Viking gods mentioned in the story, including Frey, Odin and Thor. Can they create their own Viking Gods Top Trumps game, using and applying the information they have retrieved?

Viking longboats

Allow the children time to look at images of Viking longboats and discuss their shape, design and purpose. Encourage the children to design and make their own Viking longboat using card, drinking straws, felt for the sails and coloured pens or paint. They may wish to make helmets and shields too! Can the children find out about other modes of transport and travel throughout history?

Discussion guide written by Ian Eagleton

Copyright Just Imagine Story Centre Ltd 2016

All Rights Reserved

You may print and use this guide for education purposes. You may not reproduce it in whole or in part in any other format without permission.

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