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KS1 Book Topic – Do You Speak English, Moon?

The story of a little boy’s affinity with the moon, who lives so far from all his friends, opens the way to thoughtful discussions on the subject of loneliness

  • KS1 Book Topic – Do You Speak English, Moon?

From the author of the Horrid Henry series, Do You Speak English, Moon? is the story of a little boy who, whilst laying in bed one night, finds himself posing a series of questions to his lunar companion. At this moment, the boy himself is feeling lonely and the moon seems like a willing companion when the rest of the world is asleep.

First of all, the boy asks whether the moon can speak English, and without waiting for a reply, presumes the answer is yes. He then launches into his questions, the first of which are centred around his everyday life: “Do you have a bouncy bed?” and “Do you go to the park?” It is implied that the answers to these questions are in the boy’s imagination.

The questions then become more far-reaching as the boy thinks deeply about what it must really be like for the moon looking down on the world below. He asks if the moon can see the city, the sea and the highest mountain. As these questions tumble forth so the story gathers pace, building to a peak where the boy finally realises the moon can see everything. He realises, too, that he wants to be part of this experience. “Oh show me, show me!” he implores.

Drawing to a close, the mood of the story is once again reflective; the main character ponders all the friends the moon might have, likening them to the constellations. Finally, as it dawns upon him that ‘Little Bear’ is asleep, he remembers that he also should be asleep.

The book ends with the boy reassuring the solitary moon with the words, “Don’t be lonely. I’m here. Any time you want to talk.”

It is a tale in which the themes of loneliness and friendship are deeply felt. The illustrations are brightly coloured, bold and engaging and the activities emanating from the story itself could easily be differentiated to suit children across the whole of the infant age-range

1 “Do you get lonely up there, moon?”
The theme of kindness runs throughout the book and lends itself readily to classroom discussion. There are so many ways we, in our everyday lives, can show kindness – be it at school, at home or in the wider world. In this story, the main character worries that the moon might be lonely, a thought most likely brought on because he is feeling lonely. 

This can open up a discussion: have the children ever been lonely? What does it feel like? Do we know anyone who may be feeling lonely and how can we help to take away his or her loneliness? 

Aside from the practical implications of such a conversation, a simple activity for the children to do would be to write and design a card to send to someone who might be feeling sad or isolated.

2 “Do you like chocolate ice-cream?”
The boy wants to find out if the moon shares his likes and interests. The children, either individually or working in pairs, could develop their own dialogue between themselves and the moon. In pairs, one child could pretend to be the moon, whilst the other asks the questions.  Individually, they could write down their questions and answers. From a specific word-level stance,  the children could be encouraged to focus on particular ‘question’ words such as ‘why?’, ‘what?’, and ‘when?’ - not forgetting the question marks, of course! A look through the book will show that “Do you?” and “Can you?” are this author’s most frequently employed question words.

The content of the questions could cover all sorts of things, from favourite foods to favourite pastimes. The possibilities are endless. Pupils could write individual letters to the moon and perhaps children in other classes could write the replies.

3 “Can you see everything, moon?”
This question opens up a whole world of discovery. From being able to see tigers roaming the jungle, to the highest mountain peaks, the moon really does have a great view. Children could be encouraged to draw an aerial map of any of the things the moon can see; for example, a map of the city with its built-up, buzzing vibe and maze of streets – the latter offering opportunities for developing geographical skills such as giving directions and drawing to scale. The children in my current class seem particularly to enjoy drawing their own worlds and imaginary cities, something I have tried to incorporate under the heading of geography. They can be encouraged to think about what buildings they would find in the city. One of the illustrations in the book shows some city buildings with all sorts of interesting things in the windows (plus the obligatory cat prowling across the rooftops). 

The children can be encouraged to cast their imaginations further afield and imagine some very unusual and exciting worlds that perhaps only the moon can see – a world made of candy or chocolate, perhaps? Of course, following on from the creation of imaginary worlds there is always the possibility of story writing, with the children’s characters having adventures in these places.

By contrast, the children could draw (or interpret through any other artistic and creative medium) the moon’s view of the mountains, the jungle and the oceans; and this in turn could lead to finding out more about these places. 

The idea could be posed that, if the moon had access to a computer, he could write a very interesting blog, letting us know all the latest comings and goings from his lofty vantage point.  Perhaps this could be a writing topic for the children; they could write the moon’s blog for him, telling the world all about what the tigers are doing in the jungle, what it’s like to look down upon the mountains, glimpse beneath the sea or even what happened the day aliens landed on its surface.

4 “Do you have lots of friends, moon?”
The moon’s friends are the constellations. It is an exciting in space with companions such as Pegasus and Pluto. Perhaps the children could write a story about a visit to the moon, and the adventures they might have. Imagine sliding down a moonbeam or soaring through the skies on Pegasus? Perhaps the moon has made friends with aliens from unknown planets? What would they look like?  How would they speak? What would they eat? 

The night sky also opens up many opportunities for researching the planets and constellations, as well as lending itself to creative expression through artwork and music. For example, the children could draw their own imagined constellations, along with creating the ‘sounds of space’ with musical instruments. Individual planets could be designed by the children using a variety of art techniques such as marbling, collage or – if feeling particularly adventurous – 3D planets made from papier mache could constructed and suspended from the ceiling. 

A wall display could be given over to a whole new galaxy the children have invented, along with spaceships, aliens and anything else they may want to add. Rockets labelled with the numbers in multiplication tables would add a mathematical touch, and finding out about the moon landings brings in an historical element.

5 “But they’re all so far away.”
The boy’s realisation that the moon’s friends are so far away brings into focus the theme of loneliness that underpins this story. The illustration in the book that accompanies the above quotation shows all the boy’s friends playing and having fun together while the moon looks on. The children could draw and write about their own friends and the kinds of things they enjoy doing with them.

There is also the possibility of delving a little deeper into the nature of friendship and how it is the very antithesis of loneliness. The question can be posed: “What makes a good friend?” The final pages of the book serve to heighten the idea of friendship and, on the penultimate page, this theme comes full circle as the boy reassures the moon that, no matter what, he will always be there for him.

6 “Do you pretend you’re a crocodile?”
There is an amusing moment in the story when the boy wonders whether moon ever plays make-believe games. Make-believe is so much a part of every child’s experience that all young people will identify with it. The engaging illustration of the little boy sailing in his imaginary pirate ship simply serves to reinforce the idea that role-play and make-believe should be an integral part of every infant’s day.

Children are naturally good at creating their own role-play scenarios and don’t need much encouragement - but in relation to this theme they can become astronauts for the day and build their own spacecraft from all manner of boxes (big enough to crawl inside, of course) and ‘junk’ material. From my experience, it is often the simplest, most stripped back play environments that have the greatest educational value and encourage the highest level of imaginative input from the children. Therefore, allowing them the freedom to turn a large box into a spaceship with plenty of paper, crayons, scissors and glue on hand (for such necessary additions as the control panels) opens the door to some serious role-playing. 

Turning part of the classroom into a lunar module or moon buggy requires greater teacher input, but involving children in the design provides a design and technology project, as well as a designated area for role-play.

Lunar modules

A related story that deals with the idea of forging a friendship with the moon is Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch. Here the main character is keen to buy a birthday present for the moon.
The story of Lin Yi’s Lantern by Brenda Williams and Benjamin Lacombe is a beautifully narrated and exquisitely illustrated tale of a young Chinese boy preparing for the moon festival. This story, which includes information about the legend of the moon fairy, opens up yet another angle of study concerning the moon – how people in other countries relate to it and the legends that have built up around it.

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