Updated: Dec 30, 2019
BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today is our stop on the blog tour for The Comet and the Thief (available here) by Ruth Morgan.
Read on for a review of the book and an exclusive guest post in which the author Ruth discusses ways to use her new book in the classroom.
Reviewer: Natasha Kendrick
Trickery, sorcery and two parallel worlds fighting for freedom from evil. Kit lives in London and has very little, so relies on his quick thinking, agility and ability to get into places unseen. He finds himself meeting Lord Colewich, an evil man, who will stop at nothing to gain control of a magical land encased in a book.
Kit is entrusted with the task of stealing a missing page from a bookseller, and soon decides that Colewich is not worthy of the mystical book - so takes it for himself and leaves London seeking his fortune elsewhere. As Kit travels with a puppeteer showman, he starts to uncover the mystery of the book, but also the danger of the magic it holds within its pages. He needs to discover how to save his new companions, without being found by the evil Lord Colewich and his henchmen.
This book would be suitable for a more advanced reader due to the complexity of the story including the change of locations, characters and different languages (Italian and Welsh) used as well as the way that Kit’s journey flits between both time frames. There is dark magic involved in the story and a little violence, but a happy ending for both Kit and the village.
Suitable for Year 6+.
The Comet and the Thief: starting points for classroom activities
The Comet and the Thief is a time-travelling adventure story with multiple twists, turns and cliffhangers. It also has many jumping off points, into activities which support literacy and cross-curricular learning in the classroom.
Third person to first person re-telling
Firstly, there is the character of Kit himself. He is a thief who hates being a thief and would prefer to be an actor (even though for a while, he dreams of becoming a wheelwright like his father). He is illiterate, so wouldn’t be able to write his story for himself. Imagine Kit is dictating his biography to you and choose a scene from the story, for example when he first sees the book in Colewich’s library, the evening he ‘haunts’ Polley the bookseller or his first journey to the village to meet Zannah. Re-write that section in the first person, with Kit describing his emotions in depth.
A hot-seating drama session might be an additional stimulus for this piece of work, with pupils taking turns to be Kit and answering questions about key moments from that scene.
A map of the village
Kit becomes so familiar with Zannah’s village, he is able to see it in his mind’s eye when preparing to hunt for the magical object near the start of chapter 20 and scratches a map of it onto the bare earth for Saroni near the end of chapter 22. Listen again to these descriptions and draw your own map of the village, showing the millpond, the church and yew tree, the smithy, Zannah’s cottage, the wood and the Lady Pearl’s house. Draw a grid over the top and add grid references (letters and/or numbers). You could use this map to play a game. Write the reference of one square secretly on a piece of paper: this is where you have hidden the magical object. How many guesses will it take your friend to find it?
An exaggerated account
In the eighteenth century, news was carried backwards and forwards across the country by cattle drovers. By the time Daniel Price hears the story of what happened in Bath from another gang of drovers in chapter 19, it has become grossly exaggerated. Write this account of the scene, as though from an eye-witness who has been watching the marionette show in the Abbey Yard, exaggerating everything that happens, making the already scary scene even more terrible through choice of language.
Inventions and discoveries
At the very end of the story, Zannah’s village develops a reputation for welcoming strangers and its inhabitants are hungry for news of the outside world in 1759. Research inventions and discoveries that were made between the years 1456 and 1759. Choose six and rank them in order, to show which you think the medieval villagers would find the most surprising. Some examples might be: 1473: first European sailor crosses the equator 1492: Columbus brings news of America back to Europe
1543: Copernicus demonstrates that the planets including the Earth travel around the sun, rather than the other way around 1609: Galileo builds a telescope 1642: first mechanical calculator 1675: Anton van Leeuwenhoek observes microorganisms using a microscope 1712: first steam engine invented to pump water out of mines 1755: Invention of first artificial refrigerator.
Where would you go?
If you had the chance to travel back in time to a particular period in history, which would you choose? Write a letter or postcard back home from the place you have travelled to, describing what’s surprising and different about living in that time. How do the people there react to you? Do you make any friends? Is the twenty-first century a better time in which to live? Do you want to stay there or come home?
Write the opening scene of Zannah’s new play The Comet, which we are told in the final chapter is a comedy about ‘how a comet’s magical powers cause several characters to fall in love with unexpected people’.
A bit of fun
Kit finds his way into the book by means of a flip-animation, flipping the pages to make a stick man climb a ladder. You can investigate making a simpler animation, using a single piece of paper. Take a long rectangle of paper – half a piece of A4 cut lengthways is ideal - and fold it in half. Make two drawings on the upper and lower halves of the paper, trying to keep them the same size and in the same position. The second drawing is slightly different to the first (examples: stick man walking, jumping or skipping with a rope; face smiling and winking; dog wagging tail - best to keep it simple). Roll the upper half around a pencil from the outside edge in, so the paper remains curly and will move backwards and forwards with the aid of the pencil.
Here is a film to show how it works:
Writing The Comet and the Thief was a real blast! I hope you enjoy reading it just as much.
Ruth has been writing for children and YA for more than 20 years, everything from picture books to novels, plus many scripts for animation and radio series. She is also a part-time teacher at a local primary school - a constant source of inspiration. In the small amount of time that's left, she loves to dance, play ukulele and stargaze.
You can follow Ruth on Twitter @alienruth and Instagram ruth.morgan.ant.clancy.
Many thanks to Ruth for writing the guest post and to the publisher for inviting us to take part in the blog tour.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!