Values: Friendship, Patience and Courage.
This playful and memorable book is brought to life through Ben Manley's carefully-chosen words and Emma Chichester Clark's beautiful illustrations. It is on The UKLA's 3-6 Longlist for 2021 and also featured on the CILIP Kate Greenaway Longlist for 2021 and quite rightly so!
In the story, Frederick lives in a large, grand house surrounded by everything he could wish for. However, it is apparent through his body language (lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling through a pair of binoculars, for example) shows he is lonely and bored. Outside of his house, and communicating with Frederick via paper aeroplane, is Emily. Emily runs free and has a passion for adventure. The book is constructed as a series of letters between the oddly-matched pair of children and these letters perfectly show their personalities, fears and opinions. There are plenty of Values you could explore with this book, but I might start with friendship, courage and patience.
Firstly, the Value of friendship is easy to examine as the book is based on the friendship between Frederick and Emily. The two children are very different - and even the words they write and their handwriting cleverly shows this - but they maintain their friendship through letter writing to each other. Eventually, Emily is able to persuade Frederick to head outside and the two children are seen running through the autumn leaves at the end together... with a little twist on the last page!
The Value of courage is shown in this book with courage shown in different ways - physically, mentally and emotionally. Physically, the reader sees Emily climbing trees, riding her bike down hills and jumping into lakes. Frederick, on the other hand, is cautious and his letters always outline that it is 'with regret' he cannot join her for the fear that something might happen ("It is with bitter regret that I inform you I may not explore the forest today, on account that I might be remorselessly stung by hornets"). Mentally and emotionally, Frederick builds the courage to ask his mother if he can go outside at the start of the book and we see her remind him of "last time" - although the reader is not explicitly told what happened. Every time he receives a letter from Emily, he wistfully looks outside and describes what he can see (or imagine) in the first line of his reply, but it is only at the end of the book that he overcomes his fears and makes it outside to play with her.
Thirdly, the Value of patience can be seen. Emily keeps inviting and persuading Frederick outside despite his reluctance. She doesn't give up hope and finds different ways of asking him to join her. It is a lovely display of patience and of empathy for how he might be feeling. Even the birds have a go at persuading him to come outside!
The juxtaposition of inside and outside in this book is phenomenal and shed light on so many discussions for PSHE that might arise. The fact that this book was first published in 2019 makes me think of it as a strange premonition to a time where many children have been stuck inside due to Covid-19. Many children have struggled with their mental health, and in particular with anxiety, becoming nervous of the outside world and what 'might' happen in the same way that Frederick and his mother are anxious. The artwork you could gain from showing 'light' and 'dark' or anxiety/freedom are so rich. Children could think of their own ways of showing how they felt during 2020-21 and the pandemic. Maybe they were a mixture of the two characters! You could also ask them to role-play how they might persuade Frederick to step outside to play.
From an English teaching perspective, there are some beautiful descriptive lines in this book that are almost-poetic, ("The woodlark's melody floats across the shimmering sky" for example). Great for describing natural settings or creating poems! For Year 6, who look at shifts in formality, the way the two children compose their letters gives a great example of this. The changes in handwriting, the formatting (including letterheads!) and the vocabulary / turns of phrases are rich and accessible. It reminds me of Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne in this sense.
I would use this book across the primary age-range for all different subjects and for different Values; it is very adaptable. I would definitely recommend getting a copy as I believe it will be a timeless classic on your Values Bookshelf before you know it! Try getting one from an independent book seller, if possible. To follow the author Ben Manley on Twitter use @bnmnly. The illustrator, Emma Chichester Clark, is @emmachichesterc and the publisher is @TwoHootsBooks.
Other books that also explore these Values can be found on the links below: