Poles, Places and Proper-Good Books!

Books, and by that I mean great-quality, well-written (and illustrated) books, can fire up children’s imaginations; stir up enthusiasm and questions; and follow their interests. Books are proper good!!!!

This joyous bundle of boss (yes, I’m a scouser!) books will do all of the above. So let’s jump right in…


We start with a story – always a great place to start -‘Poles Apart’ by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis. The Pilchard-Browns venture further than they intended, landing at the North Pole and meeting a Polar bear. I love this bear! I just love his sunny disposition. 

“Don’t think of it as a mistake. Think of it as a big adventure.”

What an opportune monument to consider what we do when things go belly up! This is a lovely moment to step into the character’s shoes. Contrast how they might feel about the situation and consider which character children would be most like. At this point, I’d have lots of open discussion, but also give children sentence starters and structures to support them in articulating their thoughts. Model to children how to tap into their own own experiences. We’ve all taken a wrong turn, haven’t we?! Come on, who shouts at the Sat Nav?! (I do and we call her Jane!)

An added bonus with many Nosy Crow books is the audio version of the story, located with the QR code at he front of the book. This is great for young readers so they can read along, especially those who aren’t as confident.

Well, off go the family on their adventure, as they make their way back to the South Pole, and here’s where our book hopping fun begins.  On their journey home, the Pilchard-Browns journey through different countries. On a second or third read, you can pause on each country and really explore the page. What can children see? Do they recognise any features, icons, landmarks? Do they have any questions?


First destination is America. Lots of clues to spot on this page to identify where they are: I heart NY bag, 5th Ave sign, yellow taxis, the American flag…. You could cover the text and let children make considered guesses to where the Pilchard-Browns are. Encourage their articulation with sentence starters: ‘I think they are in ……………. , because I can see………………….’

Another bit of interest is the dialogue. Two things: we get a gut-reaction or summary from those who speak, and we get a bit of the language or dialect from the given place. Can children summarise the place in one word? Or give them a bank of words to choose from. Which are appropriate and which don’t work: a great chance to share some new vocabulary. Then the language and dialect. You could look at well known or typical expressions for the given place, and when we venture to non-English speaking countries, you could explore how to say simple words and phrases. This book might be great at this point:


So we know they’ve landed in America, so how can we find out some more? Bring on the books:

I am a huge fan of Lots by Marc Martin. It’s just a book I could (and I do with my 4 year old) pore over for again and again. It’s just so enticing. I love the style of the illustrations, the bite-size, interesting (and sometimes humorous) facts and the variety of places within the book.


Handily, you can step right into New York City, just as penguins have done. Let the children imagine they are the Pilchard-Browns. What might they have seen? I wonder what the young penguins would’ve found intriguing? What do you think Dad would’ve said about all those food trucks?

Work with both books together. What can they see in both books? They should spot the skyscrapers, the yellow taxis and lots of people.

Next, dip into Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. This book invites you to ‘travel the globe without leaving your living room’ (or the classroom!) What a delicious atlas. The style is quirky and draws readers in to discover more.


Reading this can become a lovely little treasure hunt. Firstly, can children locate New York? Can they find items from Poles Apart and Lots on these pages? Then, is there anything new? All the time, using reading skills and gathering juicy ideas for writing.


The Earth Book by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook, is a wonderful reference book you can read from cover to cover or dip in and out at pages of interest. I’d be drawn to using three sections for this book adventure: Parade of People, Super Cities and World Wonders.

Children can discover native people, famous cities and interesting landmarks from the destinations of the Pilchard-Browns.

I just had to pop this book in, another glorious atlas. We looked at the animal adventures version in a previous blog. Pop over to the North America section and discover the Central Park spread.

Can children still spot those skyscrapers? Here, they’ll also discover other sights they may see whilst in New York. I like the animal references here, that may interest some animal lovers in your class. Using a variety of books, with differing styles and content can help ensure all readers in your class find something of interest.

It’s worth a little mention here for our June #RRBookOfTheMonth. If your little readers are more interested in the animals they may see on a destination hopping adventure, this book can give them some exciting ideas and facts.

So we’ve hopped about from yummy book to yummy book, all in relation to the Pilchard- Brown’s first destination, and the family continue on around the world. But, let’s just pause for a moment and consider the purpose and outcomes of all this lovely reading. I would very much lead the discovery for the first destination with children, giving structured activities and purposes to their reading. I would then lead this into some writing, which could take a few different forms: a diary entry from a member of the Pilchard-Brown family, a narrative piece about the ‘extra’ adventures the P-Bs had in America, a travel brochure piece…I’m sure you’d think of other options to. I’d select one outcome and really support the children in creating a great piece of writing, through in-context SPaG and text structuring. The books act as word and idea banks for content ideas.

Once you have done this cycle once, the children now growing experts in this text type, give them the choice to discover another destination of their own choosing. They can then learn from their previous attempt, but follow their own interest and add in ideas of their own. The books we’ve visited lend themselves well to this idea.

Children could choose India just like the P-Bs:

or Australia just like the P-Bs:

…or they can adventure off to any country that takes their interest. These books (and the world of course) are full of exciting places to adventure to.

So what are you waiting for? Your adventure awaits!

Now to the curriculum section:

Reading skills:



  • expressing views about stories and non-fiction;
  • looking at non-fiction structured in different ways;
  • drawing on their own and background knowledge.


  • reading for a range of purposes;
  • identifying themes and conventions across books;
  • retrieving and recording from non-fiction.



  • reading books structured in different ways:
  • reading for different purposes;
  • identifying themes and conventions across books;
  • retrieving and recording from non-fiction.
  • identifying main ideas and summarising.

Grammar Geek:


Writing for different purposes – we discussed different text outcomes previously. Be sure that children are clear on who they are writing for/to and why.

The lovely exclamation sentence could make a great appearance here. ‘What a tall building it was!’

And its friend the question sentence would be a lovely end to a diary piece. ‘What will I see tomorrow?’

Of course the glorious expanded noun phrase will be perfectly placed to showcase the wonderful sights of each country.

A focus on consistent tenses can be done through a diary entry, taking the chance to model the progressive past, too. ‘This afternoon, I went to Central Park. I was batting and pitching with the baseball team. We were having so much fun.’



Adapting style to purpose – if you choose to create diary entries, ensure to either write a great example for your pupils or share a good one from another text.

Paragraphing can be taught here at the planning stage of writing. Link in with ‘when’ fronted adverbials by writing what the child or specific Pilchard-Brown family member did at different parts of the day. Highlight how this gives text cohesion.

Including dialogue (linked to ‘Hello World’ book) is an opportunity to teach and use speech punctuation.


Discussing and recording ideas – as children visit each book, model and allow forms of note taking.

Children can assess others’ writing, judging if it gives a true sense of the place selected. Pair up pupils who selected the same country. They can share ideas and support each other’s editing and improving.

Children can extend initial ideas with a range of conjunctions.


I hope this has been useful. Please shout out with any questions or suggestions.

@Mrs_iPad_W – Your resident Reading Rocker


1 Comment

  1. Katia

    Excellent ideas! Thank you! I feel inspired to teach a good and engaging unit to my children now. Thank you. Thank you. 😃


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