for choosing the book:
Mairi Hedderwick is one of the very few Scottish picture-book authors
of outstanding literary merit whose books have a recognisably Scottish
setting. The feelings and the themes in the book are universal, yet the
stories spring from events and situations that are firmly local. The pictures
are rich in the detail of everyday life, and give the stories a depth
of perspective and an impact that fascinate children and hold their attention
very powerfully; they are the oxygen that supports the life of the stories.
This book has been chosen partly because of these qualities, but also
partly because its theme - change - offers a great opportunity for teachers
to explore one of the most important facts of life. It is also particularly
interesting because, while in all the other titles in the series Katie
Morag has been the central, troubled character who needed help, in this
one it is she whose sympathy and concern help to support Grannie Island
and the Ferryman in their time of trouble. This is an interesting and
valuable development of the traditional child's role. Katie Morag is beginning
to have a place in the community, and it is possible for someone else,
even an adult, to be the centre of concern.
A new pier is being built on the island of Struay (a fictitious island
somewhere in the Hebrides.) The weekly boat from the mainland has always
unloaded its passengers and cargo into the ferryboat, which then landed
them at The Jetty. The new pier will change all that. The boat will come
three times a week now, alongside the pier, bringing tourists and much
more trade. Nothing will ever be the same again, and Katie Morag's Grannie
and the Ferryman are very depressed. But change can bring gain as well
as loss, and they begin to see that the new pier is not going to be such
a bad thing. After all, now they will be able to take all the new visitors
out in the ferryboat to show them the delights of Struay. and tell them
about the old ways of life!
for use in school:
(If there is only one copy of the book, this activity can be done by two,
or perhaps three children at a time, working with the teacher. If there
are enough copies, however, the activity is probably best done with a
small group of 5-10 children.)
(a) First the children can explore the island. The end-papers are an outstanding
feature of the Katie Morag books - each book in the series begins with
a full two-page opening panorama of the Isle of Struay, showing the houses
of all the characters, and all the features referred to in the stories.
These main items are all labelled, but the panorama is full of additional
detail of the islanders' everyday life. The children can identify these,
but anything that they do not recognise can be discussed.
(b) The children can also explore the pictures. Another of the outstanding
features of the Katie Morag books is the vivid life conveyed by the detail
in the pictures. However many times one 'reads' one of these pictures,
one always seems to find something new in it. Every opening, and every
single page, offer many opportunities for talk, and often for discussion.
At the simplest level there is recognition and identification of objects,
situations, labels on tins and boxes, and foods etc... All of these provide
chances for making links between the life in the pictures, especially
the domestic ones, and the children's own lives - 'What do you think is
in that cake? How do you know? Do you ever have chocolate cake? What is
your favourite cake?' There is also a lot of implied information in the
pictures, calling for interpretation and inference, speculation and hypothesis.
These frequently give rise to discussion, and inevitably lead the children
to draw upon their own experiences, creating very powerful links that
help to bring the book to life for the children.
To construct their model of the village and the bay, the children can
use the end paper panorama as a guide and plan, as well as occasional
glimpses of various places from other angles, seen in some of the pictures.
The model can be made to almost any convenient scale from match-box size
houses to shoe box ones. In addition, the children can make movable cut-out
figures of the various characters in the story. These should be capable
of standing up.
There are two potentially very valuable learning processes involved. The
first lies in the extensive and possibly quite complex language interactions
that are likely to occur as the children work out how they will make the
various items, where they should stand, and all the other practical details.
A second learning opportunity is offered by labelling. The characters
can be rearranged limitlessly to represent not only the events of the
story, but new incidents invented by the children themselves. Descriptive
and explanatory labels can be made for the individual characters eg 'Grannie
Island is sad.' 'Katie Morag found a blue rope.' If the children are more
ambitious they might make narrative labels eg 'Grannie Island and The
Ferryman rescued the hut.' (NB Blue or green tissue paper is ideal for
the sea. It can be quite flat (dead calm) or slightly rumpled (normal
waves) or heavily rumpled (storm).
Once the basic model has been made, different groups of children could
be given the opportunity to use it to depict an incident of their own
choosing, either from the story or invented by themselves. The labelling,
perhaps with the teacher's help, would also be the children's responsibility.
If the children are working in their mother-tongue, this activity will
provide opportunities for purposive language interaction, for writing
and for reading (especially for guidance in writing the labels/captions).
If they are using English as a second language, the activity will provide
strong motivation for scanning the text for appropriate words and sentences
with which to write the labels and the captions.
3. ORAL RESEARCH
(Talking to older relatives and neighbours)
The theme of Katie Morag and the New Pier is change. For Katie
Morag the new pier is exciting; the boat from the mainland will now be
able to come right inshore to the village. The villagers are excited because
now the boat will come three times a week, and will bring lots of visitors.
But for Grannie Island it means the end of the ferryboat and the old ways.
Once they have heard or read the story (or both) and have discussed it
- especially the different ways in which the new pier will affect people's
lives on the island, the children could be asked to talk to their parents
and grandparents and older neighbours to ask them about changes that have
happened since they were children.
In preparation, the children should discuss what kinds of things it would
be interesting to find out about, and what kinds of questions they could
ask. Do they themselves know about anything that is changing (or has changed)?
Has it affected them or anyone they know? They could rehearse their questions
Once they have quizzed their relatives, they could report back any information
they have discovered. It is likely that several children will have learned
about the same changes, though their relatives' attitudes to the changes
may not have been the same. Such reporting back, and possible contrasts
and comparisons are likely to prove very interesting indeed. The children
are also, in a sense, finding out about recent history at first hand,
and they will be having to use language for very specific and clearly
Discuss the issues raised in this book alongside those in Kan du Vissla
literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières available