Getting out of the house without leaving the sofa

Last week, I encouraged you all to get out of the house - away from screens and in pursuit of nature. This week, continuing on the theme of the great outdoors, I bring you seven fantastic fiction books with significant parts of the narrative taking part outside.

Reading is an essential part of your child’s education. It’s an easy way to broaden vocabulary, improve creative writing and help a child to reach their academic potential.

When children read, they pick up tips and ideas on how to write. In fact, most writers learn to write first of all by reading and then putting what they’ve learned to the test in their writing. When your child is reading aloud to you, or you to them, pay attention to the words; they should look at the magic of the techniques and learn to 'magpie'.

Good writing comes from good reading.


In The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a peace-loving hobbit called Bilbo embarks on a strange and magical adventure through woods and mountains to find treasure. Tolkien writes of “boulders … galloping down the mountain-sides let loose by the mid-day sun upon the snow”. He describes, “dancing and broken reflections of clouds and stars on the sliding surface of a dim sheet of water”. These are wonderful examples of how literary techniques can be used to great effect to create vivid descriptions. 

Learn to love language. Tell stories. Here are seven of the books my children have recommended for inspiration:

Brendon Chase - BB

Three brothers run away from home to live like Robin Hood and his merry men, deep in the forest of Brendon Chase. They make their camp in an ancient oak tree and live like outlaws, loving the dangers and excitements of their wild surroundings.

Beowulf - Michael Morpurgo

In fifth-century Denmark, a murderous monster stalks the night and only the great prince of the Geats has the strength and courage to defeat him. Beowulf's terrifying quest to destroy Grendel, the foul fiend, a hideous sea-hag and a monstrous fire-dragon is the oldest surviving epic in British literature. And Michael Morporgu makes it accessible to younger readers.

The Wolf Wilder - Katherine Rundell

Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves.  In the days before the Russian Revolution, twelve-year-old Feodora sets out to rescue her mother when the Tsar's Imperial Army imprisons her for teaching tamed wolves to fend for themselves.

VIII - H.M. Castor

Destined for greatness - tormented by demons. VIII (Eight) is the untold story of Henry VIII, a gripping examination of why he turned from a charismatic teenager to the cruel tyrant he became in later life. Wonderful descriptive passages take you back in time, painting a picture of life along the Thames in sixteenth century London.

Walkabout - James Vance Marshall

Mary and her young brother Peter are the only survivors of an air crash in the middle of the Australian outback. Facing death from exhaustion and starvation, they meet an Aboriginal boy who helps them to survive and guides them along their long journey. But a terrible misunderstanding results in a tragedy that neither Mary nor Peter will ever forget . . .

The Dreamsnatcher - Abi Elphinstone

Twelve-year-old Moll lives in a gypsy camp in the Ancientwood.  She has no parents but the gypsies’ extended family take care of her. Be thrown into a world of magic and adventure.

I am David - Anne Holm

David escapes from the concentration camp where he has spent his entire life and flees across Europe. He has never been able to experience nature first hand so we see his introduction to the world. Sea, mountains and flowers, the colours of Italy, the taste of fruit, people laughing and smiling - all of these things are new to David. He learns that his polite manner, his haunted eyes and his thin features are strange to other people. He must learn to fend for himself in this strange new world.


That's all for now. More ideas and Gems of Wisdom available on the website.


P.S. I took this picture in IKEA! Who's the man behind me? An unsuspecting member of the public. Answers on a postcard please!

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