Returning to Upper Key Stage Two after a stint in Early Years, I was keen to update my knowledge of fabulous children’s books that were not only appealing and engaging to read but that were also well crafted. I wanted books that were rich in both vocabulary and sentence structure – and stories that had meaty themes to discuss. Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart did not disappoint and already I am excited about a wealth of writing opportunities it presents.
Cogheart is a triumph. Its heroes will grab children’s imaginations and they will wish to be either the brave and feisty Lily or the gentle son of a watchmaker, Robert. They will fall in love with the ‘mechs’ – who are written with warmth and genius – and won’t be disappointed with the dark malice of the villains of the book. The many twists and turns make this a brilliant read-out-loud adventure, which, set against the back drop of the Industrial Revolution of Victorian Britain will make for a wonderful English unit.
I’ve included an initial mind map including incidental writing opportunities as the novel develops. I intend to revisit the diary entries regularly from the perspectives of different characters – the adventures come thick and fast, and as the plot twists, there is much to explore! There are also plentiful opportunities for newspaper reports (eg Airship crashes into Big Ben!)
Topic work will more than likely link to Victorian Britain and an exploration of inventions and The Great Exhibition of 1851 would be of interest. It is the ‘mechs’ in the novel that really grab my interest, and did so for my children too. I think exploring this angle will both excite and engage a class and we could go in all kinds of directions, including designing our own mechanimal, which would lead beautifully to both explanations and creating adverts. A quick side step to Wallace and Gromit’s cracking contraptions may be in order…
Thinking about the ‘Mechs’ may also lead to some rich and deep discussion about how they are treated and if they have feelings. Growing up in the 1980s, it immediately made Jonny5 from ‘Short Circuit’ spring to mind and more recent links to the Iron Giant, Wall E or even the droids in Star Wars could be made for some Visual Literacy to further stimulate fabulously deep discussion and reaching questions.
Having recently absorbed @Mr_P_Hillips’ blog about teaching vocabulary, I was keen to read Cogheart not only with writing ideas in mind, but also explicit opportunities for vocabulary instruction. This means knowing exactly which rich words would be arising in order to explore and exploit them. I therefore noted any unusual, interesting or challenging words that would add to a typical Year Five’s vocabulary. Bunzl provided an abundance of descriptive gems to choose from! I intend to use these in daily word sessions – it just makes sense to choose words that the children will then hear later that day in our daily reading!
Obviously, I won’t use all of the words and some may not be suitable for your class – but I thought including the list here may be worthwhile to provide choice and suggestions. You will also note that some of the words are duplicated and this was deliberate – revisiting and hearing vocabulary in different contexts is essential.
Prologue: bristled juddered tarnished silhouetted
Chp1 poised dubious precarious putrid sneer haughty dismembered
Chp2 murky fiendish derelict ferociously
Chp 3 resembled perilously vague irrespective nimble strewn
Chp 4 miscreants exuberant trundle expansive obscured melodious sprawling
Chp 5 hybrid revulsion primitive fused ungraspable skeletal pondered
Chp 6 fused prising furrowed juddered
Chp 7 corrode brimmed contraption muffling
Chp 8 traipsed silhouetted involuntarily incensed mangy
Chp 9 Dawdling scant lingered
Chp 10 erratically fragment
Chp 11 acrid encrusted beckoning sauntered distorted divulge
Chp 12 brim vagabond
Chp 13 groggily nimble engulf frantic apex protruding
Chp 14 stealth derelict copse seeped
Chp 15 ominously gnawed scant
Chp 16 distinct assertive juddered ravenously
Chp 17 loomed taut interior pursuers extinguished derelict hubbub dithering
Chp 18 encrusted slunk distaste ushering dour overwhelmingly dredged
Chp 19 tarnish fractured anguished embedded exasperated obscured
Chp 20 subterranean clinically motley-looking lurched flanked lolling calcified
Chp 21 jostled crevice slaloming tethered
Chp 22 winced lolled fragment
Chp 23 suffuse tessellating persistent functioning skewing abyss flailing shards rallied inquisitive prestigious veritable
Chp 24 accustomed flailing writhed careened debris juddering fumbled
Chp 25 pulsed hunkered myriad gargantuan teetering abyss nimbly lolloped haltingly
Ch 26 incongruous reverie grudgingly morbid slathered pristine resonant burden
So, there it is.
The first of the many children’s books that I have devoured this Summer that not only makes it to the box of books that I will recommend and lend to my class, but that I will also use as a stimulus for a wonderful English unit. I can’t wait. Thank you Peter Bunzl – I look forward to Moonlocket, Cogheart’s sequel.