|Recommended Reads||Download PDF|
|Julie McAdam is a Lecturer in Children’s Literature and Literacies at the University of Glasgow. She is interested in the ways in which children’s literature can be thought of as a mirror, window and door to the world (Sims Bishop 1997). She has published on using picturebooks to engage learners in intercultural literacy and is interested in supporting teachers to use multimodal, multilingual and multicultural literature in their classrooms. http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/education/staff/juliemcadam|
Pichon, Liz (2011). The Brilliant World of Tom Gates. London: Scholastic.
Recommended by Piri Leeck
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (2011) is the Roald Dahl Funny Prize award-winning graphic novel by Liz Pichon, and similar in style to Babymouse and Wimpy Kid. The book tells the story of a young boy called Tom who has to face ludicrous situations trying to manage his everyday struggles in school and at home. The 239 pages of the novel cover the highlights of Tom’s first term in grade five. It is the story of a boy who struggles to impress his crush, avoid homework and follow his dreams – to start a famous band. He faces the typical problems many children his age are familiar with: embarrassing parents, annoying classmates, teachers and siblings, too much school when other things are more important – in Tom’s case drawing and singing in his own band.
The graphic novel is well suited for lower grades in secondary school, as it relates to the realities of students of that age group, even if the events recounted in the book are highly caricatured. Though the book is written for native speakers of Tom’s age, and the language of the book is thus more difficult than books typically read in ELT classrooms in lower grades, the style of the novel helps to bridge the potential gap between age appropriateness and language appropriateness. Most of the pages of this graphic novel consist of more text than pictures, but when these occur they are either complete comic-like illustrations, or drawings of single elements right next to/ above/ below the words they refer to (beady eyes, moustache, vanilla wafers, etc.) and thus support understanding. The text uses different fonts and font sizes for different emotions and speakers, follows different directions (e.g. ‘Here’s Snakey!’ is written like a wriggling snake), includes [End of Page 67] imitations of different text types (chat, letters, notes, magazine covers, etc.) and there are seldom more than fifteen lines on one page. Since the text is much shorter than a monomodal novel and has many visual items supporting understanding, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates is certainly motivating to read even for students who otherwise do not like reading or have difficulties with longer texts. If the whole book seems too much to use at school, single episodes like the camping trip disaster (pp.16-27) can be used as well.
|Piri Leeck (PhD) has taught English courses at a mixed-age group elementary school and several universities and is currently a staff member of the Münster University TEFL team. Her research interests include a wide variety of fields, such as portfolio work, learner autonomy and storytelling, as well as how to teach grammar to very young learners.|
Davies, Benji (2015). Grandad’s Island. London: Simon and Schuster.
Recommended by Tatia Gruenbaum
Grandad’s Island is the story of a little boy called Syd, whose Grandad lives in a house at the bottom of the garden. Syd and his grandfather are very close and one day he finds his Grandad in the attic, waiting for him to embark on a journey by ship. They travel the oceans and finally arrive on a tropical island. They set out to discover the colourful and charming island and Grandad decides it is the perfect place to stay. He hugs Syd and assures him that he will not be lonely. And so all by himself, Syd mounts the ship and bravely sails through storms before reaching his home safely. The [End of Page 68] next day, he returns to his Grandad’s house. It is unchanged, except that Grandad is not there. Instead, there is an envelope waiting for Syd with a picture of his Grandad inside.
The illustrations in this book are so detailed and vibrant that they entice children to look closely, discuss what they can see and simply imagine. Many pages can be selected in order to focus on themed vocabulary, for example, or past tenses or reported speech. Children can work on expanding the given dialogues but also on creating new ones by adding characters that Syd and his Grandad meet on the island. This picturebook offers a number of cross-curricular links to subjects such as geography, biology and art. The sensitivity between Syd and his Grandad and how it develops throughout the story can be linked especially well to music. Finally, Grandad’s Island can open up class discussions about memories, emotions but also about loss. As it is not clearly stated, children can speculate what happened to Grandad, and while some will have experienced the loss of a grandparent, others might not, and so many different ideas will be shared.
When I selected this book for a workshop with student teachers, my own father had recently passed away. And so I hoped that student teachers would become aware of how Grandad’s Island could support not only my children but also other children whose grandparents had passed away or who were no longer living nearby.
|Tatia Gruenbaum is a Lecturer at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda (NL) and a PhD Student at University College London Institute of Education. Her research is centred on the use of picturebooks as a tool in primary teacher education in the Netherlands. Tatia Gruenbaum is also the founder of a successful not-for-profit English children’s book project called The Little English Library. This Dutch primary school project was a finalist at the School Library Association Inspiration Awards 2015 and the British Council ELTons 2016 Awards.|
[End of Page 69]