Choosing the whole-class texts
At the heart of each Bite into Writing book is a high-quality, published text – either fiction or non-fiction – to motivate and inspire pupils to write. With so many quality children’s books currently available, our selection is informed by the following criteria:
- suitability for the target age group, including readers of different abilities, genders and backgrounds, reflecting diversity and inclusion
- potential to promote high quality discussion and exploration in the classroom, as well as inspiring and supporting a range of pupils’ writing
- scope to make connections with other published texts and/or other areas of the curriculum
- written by authors with clear credentials in terms of writing for the target age group, or exciting new authors
- potential for longevity (for example, recently published books by well-regarded authors, or books that have clearly stood the test of time)
- cost effectiveness for schools.
Whilst each quality published text has been carefully selected, teachers will naturally wish to read the book in advance.
“Quality texts underpin Bite into Writing. The materials support teachers to craft engaging reading and writing lessons. Bite into Writing guides learners through purposeful preparatory work, helping create the expertise needed by pupils to write confidently and competently.” Education Consultant and LA Lead Moderator
‘When We Were Warriors’ (published in 2019) is a collection of three short stories set during World War 2. These stories all have adventurous, feisty children featuring as the protagonists. As well as the common setting, some of the characters appear in more than one story, but in a slightly different context. This provides plenty of scope for pupils to explore the stories individually, or to make links and comparisons across the collection.
Emma Carroll is a well-known writer who has won a number of prestigious children’s book awards. Her novel ‘Letters from the Lighthouse’, published in 2017, rapidly gained popularity with young readers and teachers alike. It introduced the character of Olive, who is the intrepid heroine of ‘Olive’s Army’.
The teaching and learning activities in Bite into Writing book 1 are based on ‘Olive’s Army’ – the middle story from ‘When We Were Warriors’.
The story is set in Devon, and features a group of young evacuees as well as a host of local villagers. But it doesn’t shy away from the realities of war, and two of the characters are Jewish refugees. It’s a thrilling story, featuring a mistaken identity, a wedding in jeopardy and a foiled German invasion.
The World War Two setting links well to aspects of history that could be covered as part of the key stage 2 History programme of study in the national curriculum in England. There are also a number of other novels set during this period listed on the Curriculum links page that pupils could read to broaden their understanding, or for comparative purposes.
Above all, Emma Carroll’s writing interweaves an atmospheric mystery with an authentic, historical narrative. We loved it, and are sure that you will too.
‘Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’ (published in 2019) is an illustrated non-fiction text that documents how Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay – two men from very different backgrounds – came together to conquer the highest mountain in the world.
The text by Alexandra Stewart and the illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton work together to tell the story in a vivid and compelling way. Starting with a Foreword written by the British adventurer and explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the book takes the reader on a journey, littered with tragedy and triumph, as intrepid explorers do battle against some of the harshest elements on Earth.
As well as a thrilling account of friendship, loyalty and human endeavour, this book is filled with fascinating information – for example, about the creatures that survive on Everest’s inhospitable slopes, the challenges of climbing the world’s highest mountain, and even the legendary yeti! It contains a variety of text types and has many interesting presentational features to explore. As well as different types of map, diagrams and annotated pictures, there are also family trees, a survival guide and part of a newspaper front page.
A highly engaging read, accompanied by captivating illustrations, we believe that ‘Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’ will inspire all young readers.
‘Otters’ Moon’ (published in 2020) by Susanna Bailey is a novel featuring two young protagonists – Luke and Meg – who form an unlikely friendship while Luke is holidaying on a remote Scottish island with his mother. Together, they rescue an orphaned otter pup, with the intention of releasing it back into the wild once it is able to survive.
Both Luke and Meg are experiencing challenges in their home lives: Luke is finding it difficult to manage his feelings about his father’s new family, and his mother is suffering from what the reader eventually understands to be depression. Meg, on the other hand, has lost both of her parents in a tragic accident, and lives in an old boathouse with her grandfather, whose memory is becoming increasingly confused. The children’s difficulties are carefully and sensitively handled throughout the novel, which concludes on a life-affirming and optimistic note.
On one level, ‘Otters’ Moon’ is an adventure story about two children who rescue a wild creature in order to restore it to its natural habitat. However, it is also an absorbing mystery story, with the portentous ‘Otters’ Moon’ that creates peculiar and dangerous weather conditions at sea, claiming the lives of Meg’s parents and putting Luke’s own life in danger. There are various themes to explore, not least Meg’s concern and care for the natural environment as well as the impact of family break-up and mental health. But above all, it is a story about friendship, and the healing power of nature. The beauty of the book is that it can be explored on each of these levels.
Written in the first person through the eyes of Luke, this contemporary narrative is rich in language: the author’s beautifully crafted prose captures the brooding atmosphere of the island and creates an evocative sense of place. A hugely uplifting story that never patronises its readers, we believe that ‘Otters’ Moon’ has the potential to become a ‘must-read’ classic in upper key stage 2.