How Caged can be used in a classroom
The third addition to our Wordless Picture Book series is Caged. We asked Lesley McFarlane, a teaching assistant, how she thinks that this wonderful book could be used in the classroom. Lesley is a mum to three grown up children and very proud grandmother to two grandsons. She has worked in primary schools for around twenty-five years, and her biggest passion has always been to help children along the road to becoming a reader! Read her fantastic blog post below!
My goodness, what a stunning cover! What colours! What a clever font! I was lulled into thinking that this was going to be a cosy story about the glorious avian beauties on the cover of this book- further buoyed by the bright yellow end papers. The story whilst magnificent, clever and important is anything but cosy!
As you enter the book, the pictures are perfectly created from simple pencil lines. The only colour on the first few grey/white pages is a little blue bird in the tree in the fore ground. This little bird watches the proceedings panning out below it. As colour starts to seep into the drawings bringing joy it brings along with it anxiety. The blue bird continues to come and go as it builds its nest and the two men continue to build their structure on the ground to house their caged birds. The pictures contain nothing that isn’t essential to the story this for me is part of its strength. You see the story from the same view point all the way through. One side of the page telling one tale and the other side telling another. Each page made me really think and up through my thoughts bubbled lots of questions.
The crescendo really took my breath away. It is beautifully ironic. The movement and energy created in a 2D drawing is astounding, and if you buy this book for no other reason then this page is worth it!
This brilliant book could be used for reception to year six in my opinion – in fact my son said it could be used into further education even to university level. He reckons the political references to left and right wing could be explored. The left side of the page having a more natural system contrasting with the right side of the page where capitalism uses up natural resources and eventually collapsing in upon itself and trapping its creators inside- a bit deep for me!
If I were to use this book with a group of children I would give some just part of the page to look at and give others the other half of the page. A quick discussion about what they see, what they think might happen and how they feel about it would not take too long as there is nothing else happening to detract from the main narrative (Although, there are two different tales being told and lots of little touches to make you wonder, it is not over complicated.) we would then look at the page as a whole and discuss how or if it changes their minds. Children, I feel, need to be taught how to talk about how things are inferred in a story whether that story is told through text or pictures. “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk,” as Britton said. Books of this quality provide exquisite opportunities to eke out that high level talk that paves the way to thorough investigations of texts. Careful questioning and delicate scaffolding of the forming of thoughts into words are part of the tool kit of those who work with children and pay dividends when the rewards are reaped as the child steps on in their reading journey.
I think if I was using this with younger children I would use this beauty as a talk stimulus. I may well link it to other books like: The Big Bird Spot, Matt Sewell, Secrets of the Rainforest, Brown and Nassner, A Day on Our Blue Planet, in the Rainforest, Ella Bailley, RSPBs First Book of Birds. These could give rise to expanded discussions about where the exotic birds have come from or about where the story is set. For older children I would use all the above, but perhaps also introduce:
Magnificent Birds, Narissa Togo, Birds and Their Feathers, Britta Teckentrup, A World of Birds, Vicky Woodgate. These should help to expand knowledge and vocabulary so that when students are asked to do any descriptive writing they will have an extensive armoury of knowledge to draw on. These books have so much information to draw on that the discussion points and information gathering opportunities are many! A Nest is Noisy, and An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts may also be useful to use when extending use of Caged to inspire other writing opportunities.
Of course, the moral that you don’t have to be big, strong or beautiful to effect change is a theme that must be touched upon. The concept of freedom varies from person to person, country to country, continent to continent and when I looked at this book initially I kept thinking that I must go back and revisit Chris Riddell’s Little Book of Big Freedoms.
If I’m honest, you would be missing the point if you did not use this gorgeous, clever book as a stimulus to think about, talk about and generally ponder the ecological and ethical impact of the message it carries. The Paperbag Prince, The Great Kapok Tree, The Tin Forest, perhaps The Blue Planet are amongst many books that would help explore sustainability topics further. The Little book of Thunks may also provide some deep thinking by posing some questions that develop philosophical thinking where everyone’s answer is valid.
Caged is beautiful, clever, thoughtful and exquisitely executed. I look forward to lots of conversations with the children I work with and my own grandsons about this absolutely wonderful book.
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- Watch the brilliant book trailer for Caged
- Meet the mind behind Caged: watch an interview with creator Duncan Annand
- Read the highlights of our wordless picture book campaign
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