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  • Heather McQuillan

Until you know the whole story....

For many years I created teacher notes to accompany texts I was using with my classes, whether they were read-alouds or class sets, so it was a thrill to be able to do the same for my own book, Avis and the Promise of Dragons. You are able to download the notes from The Cuba Press website.

In the teacher notes I wanted to emphasis the ethical dilemmas that Avis faces, in order to encourage discussion and help children consider their own 'moral compass'. I also wanted to highlight some of the themes behind the fantasy- truth, integrity, promises and secrets. i was delighted that Rachel Moore of The Sapling -picked up on these underlying themes in her review this week. READ IT ALL HERE

Throughout the book, Avis finds herself in some particularly tight spots and makes some dodgy decisions so I was also delighted to be able to borrow an idea from Steven Layne and his book In Defence of Read-Aloud. This sequencing teaching point requires the teacher to stop at a moment of crisis for the protagonist and ask the listeners or readers "How did they get into this situation? Retrace the steps that brought them to this moment."

In the following section Steven references The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin ( 2006) in which the protagonist Matt finds himself pointing a gun at his mother :

" Understanding the correct sequence helps us this climactic moment in the story. I am going to point out that it is, in fact, the skill of sequencing that helps us evaluate the situation more objectively. This is real teaching- pointing out to the students that someone simply happening upon this situation might believe that Matt is the one who is crazy; however, if you know the sequence of events that led him to this moment, your comprehension of the situation is quite different. The next step is to take this conversation into real life, reminding students that every sensational story they hear on the news or see happening in the school corridor has a sequence of events behind it. Until you know the whole story, you really don't know the story at all."

If you like that little taster from Steven Layne then read his book! I've been privileged to hear him speak twice now and he writes like he speaks, with humour and heart and some great common sense.

Then out of the blue I was sent some gorgeous letters from some young readers Avis advising as to what to do in one of her most desperate moments.... should she lock Drake in with the dragon or not?

Thanks to Sarah and her class at St Leonards School in Dunedin. This was a particularly tricky problem to solve in the story so I love that you had different ideas.

If your readers want to send me letters or questions then I'd love to read and respond :)

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