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The planet gods

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By Brenda Williamspoet

Use a beautiful picture book to combine space with storytelling

Illustration of a Moon

The Planet Gods by Jacqueline Mitton and Christina Balit (Frances Lincoln, £6.99 PB) is a beautifully blended story of facts and legends about our solar system. It will easily satisfy the needs of a child’s enquiring search for truth about our planets, while simultaneously offering a delightful and lyrical exploration of the myths surrounding them. Each planet is personified as a legendary god and narrated in the first person, giving it a voice that encourages children to empathise with its characteristics and understand its place in the solar system.

Activities

  1. Exploring the book
  2. Creating a kenning
  3. Solar system summit
  4. Calligram creation
  5. The Moon
  6. Articulating choices

If your class love learning about space and the planets, don’t forget you can also check out this month’s creative topic on space!

1. Exploring the book

Discuss how expressive and descriptive language is used to create the personality and mood of each planet (the Moon’s narration is available on the first of ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets ‘The Moon’). For example, the strength of the Sun is implied by words such as ‘massive’. Its power is emphasised by the phrase: ‘I sit unmoved at the heart of my kingdom’. The legend of the god Mercury reflects the speed at which it travels, and the fluidity of its text in words and phrases such as: ‘I dash around’, ‘fleet-footed’ and ‘nimble’ encapsulate a vivid sense of movement.

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2. Creating a kenning

A kenning is a poem that lists short descriptions of an object without naming it, as is shown in the poem ‘I am the Sun’ (available on the second of ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets ‘I am the Sun’). Read this together and discuss how accurately it describes the Sun. Show the Poster, ‘The Moon God’, and reread its accompanying text (see the first of ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets ‘The Moon’) before exploring and listing different ways to describe the Moon, perhaps as the fabled god Selene, or as a planet. For example: ‘Earth hugger’, ‘Tide tugger’. Use the poem ‘I am the Sun’ as a model to create a kenning about the Moon.

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3. Solar system summit

Invite older children to role play the different gods portrayed in The Planet Gods. They should first investigate how a god is presented in the text and then assume its character and position in the solar system. Ask the children to imagine that the gods are grumbling, and will put their points across at a summit meeting. Perhaps some planets are complaining of the heat and want to move. Maybe the Moon wants to change places with the Earth. Write a class or small group playscript before acting out the summit. Later, you could video the drama for analysis.

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4. Calligram creation

The poem ‘Yes, but…’ (available on the third of ‘The moon gods’ activity sheet ‘Yes, but…’) is in the form of a calligram and describes the way the solar system was created. It is a non-rhyming poem that relies on its formation and font to represent the actions of words for its impact. Read it together using voices that capture the word shapes and sizes. Its last lines pose a fundamental question that should generate debate about the unknowns of space.

Invite the children to browse through The Planet Gods looking for words or phrases to model their own calligram on – creating lists, scattered words or pictures, using coloured pens or computer fonts.

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5. The Moon

Read the poem ‘Mysterious Moon’ (available on the fourth of ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets ‘Mysterious Moon’) using two voices – one group reading the italicised verses, and another the bold. Consider the poem’s form, looking at the repetitive beginning words, ‘Each’ and ‘You’, and the change in rhyming pattern for the two styles of verse created within the poem.

Compare the poem with the Poster, ‘The Moon God’ and the text from The Planet Gods (the Moon’s narration is available on the first of ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets ‘The Moon’) selecting similarities and differences. Ask the children to identify the metaphors in the poem (a sleeping beauty: a lighthouse on the sea). Can they create any others?

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6. Articulating choices

Discuss the lyrical style of The Planet Gods encouraging the children to ‘feel’ the poetry in the words. Reread the three poems (available on ‘The planet gods’ activity sheets 2-4) and consider their different styles before inviting the children to express their responses to them

The planet gods

The Planet Gods

The Planet Gods by Jacqueline Mitton and Christina Balit (Frances Lincoln, £6.99 PB) is available to buy now.

World Book Day logo 2009

World Book Day

Using The Planet Gods to inspire creativity is a great way to celebrate books on World Book Day. Don’t forget to enter your class into our exclusive WBD creative writing competition!

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