Kensuke’s Kingdom

I feel as though I have been absent from the blogging world for weeks and even though it hasn’t been that long, it has been a while since my last post which can only mean one thing…school has started again! The past week and a half have been a whirlwind of new classes, planning and remembering how to talk in front of a group of teenagers. Sadly this has left me very little time for reading and even less time for reading books unrelated to school. To Bed with Grand Music has been placed on the desk to finish when I have a moment. Instead I have been juggling three books for school, one of which, Kensuke’s Kingdom, I have just finished.

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Michael’s family have always loved sailing, but when two unexpected redundancies left them with no income and no ties, they decided to pool their money and spend some time travelling around the world. An ideal dream, until Michael (and his dog Stella) mysteriously disappear the night before his 12th birthday. Thrown overboard in the dead of the night, he fears for his life, but when he wakes up he is on a beautiful desert island. Worried about how he will fend for himself, Michael isn’t sure he will survive for long, however soon a secret island occupant starts leaving food for him and Stella. Michael soon meets Kensuke and a touching friendship develops.

I am teaching this to a particularly weak class, and it was met with groans of ‘we did this in primary school’ curse you primary school! However it is a new read for me and I doubt they really remember it, so I am sticking with my guns, it just means I need to be more inventive when teaching it. I personally enjoyed the story. There were moments when I was scared, especially for more Stella the dog, and moments when I was touched. I loved the back story of how Kensuke came to live on this deserted island and found his reasons for staying particularly poignant. Sometimes the unknown can be scary and I imagine that as we get older we lose that fearless can do attitude of youth. The postscript offered a lovely ‘what if’ moment of reflection that I won’t spoil.

A short and sweet post, hopefully soon I will be back into a school routine and have more reading time. For now it is on to the next school book: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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Private Peaceful

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Private Peaceful is a book that was recommended to me by one of my Year 7 classes; children’s fiction isn’t a huge interest of mine so I was grateful for any suggestions. We have our own school blog that I have just begun, so far only this class use it as they are my guinea pigs, so it was helpful to have many great reads from the class itself so I could put the list on the blog for when they are feeling stuck for inspiration.

Private Peaceful follows the lives of two brothers, Charlie and Tommo Peaceful. We first meet the brothers before the First World War shortly after the death of their father and read about their experiences of country life in the early twentieth century, experiencing poaching, school, work and, of course, falling in love. As was common of the time, the Peaceful family work and live on an estate, and when the Colonel insists that Charlie Peaceful must go and fight in France, his younger brother lies abut is age and joins him, taking us on an adventure across the haunting battlefields of the First World War.

Since my Masters I have developed a huge interest in literature of, surrounding, about the First World War; for me it is a truly tragic, yet hopelessly romantic period in British history that offers so much opportunity and inspiration for both authors and readers alike. My reading of this period has often centred on adult fiction (bar War Horse), so this was certainly a refreshing and new take on my favourite area of history.

The novel is split into chapters, the titles of which are a countdown of time, instantly creating a sense of impending doom and tension. The chapters are told in dual narratives; the first few paragraphs detail what is happening at hat particular time, each chapter offering a few more clues as to what the mystery is and the rest of the chapter tells the story of the Peaceful brothers throughout their lives and what led them to the battlefields. I found this style of narrative confusing at first, primarily because I’m too impatient and wanted to know the mystery right away. About halfway through the novel I thought I had it sussed and then another unexpected twist threw me off track, making this a highly recommended read from my point of view, so a big thank you to my class for suggesting it.