Whole Class Reading in Year 5
I visited Lavender Class this morning to join in with their Whole Class Reading session, in which the children were focussing on ‘When the Sky Falls‘ by Phil Earl.
It’s 1941 during the Second World War. While everyone else seems to be evacuated to the countryside, 12-year-old Joseph is sent from rural Yorkshire to stay with his gran’s friend, Mrs F, in the city. She’s a gruff, unfriendly woman and he’s an angry boy who kicks out at everything and feels totally abandoned.
Now Joseph also finds himself in the centre of the Blitz, where bombs rain down every night. The only thing Mrs F cares about is the rundown zoo that she owns, and particularly a huge silverback gorilla called Adonis. Adonis and Joseph at first seem to take an immediate dislike to each other but over the course of the story, their bonds deepen to a remarkable relationship.
Joseph has other battles with school, in particular bullying and his serious troubles with reading. Like so many children of his generation, his dyslexia is not recognised or understood.
This is a beautifully written historical adventure story that will take readers on a very emotional and exciting journey. The pace is fast and the feelings run high. The reader ends up fighting for Joseph and Adonis all the way – and this book is almost impossible to put down. The historical details are brilliantly researched and the basic story of Adonis and what happened to other big wild animals in zoos during the war is based on real-life events.
I watched as Ms Tomei expertly drew out the various facets of the text. She encouraged the children to read with expression and prosody. She reminded them of the importance of ‘ruler reading’ so that the children didn’t get lost in the text. I was very impressed with the Vocabulary Harvest– the text has some words that are not used in our everyday speech, such as ‘clouted’, ‘forged’ and ‘barked’ as in ‘barking orders’.
The children speculated on what it was like to pick over the ruins of a bombsite as well as developing theories as to both Mrs F’s character and that of Joseph.
All in all, a cracking read!