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The Ark of Odessa

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By Antony Lishak — Literacy Time PLUS Writer-in-residence

This original story has been written for Literacy Time PLUS by our Writer-in-residence, Antony Lishak. Jacob, a young Jewish boy, is reading the story of Noah’s Ark while studying for his Bar Mitzvah when a strange figure appears – the original owner of the Chumash which Jacob is reading. Through Isaac’s eyes we learn about another ark – the Ark of Odessa – used by Isaac’s family to escape the Pogroms.

These teachers’ notes refer to the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 9 to 11, November 2009.

At the end is a glossary and an author’s explanation of the story meaning. Further information about the Jewish Bible is provided on the information sheet below.


Before reading

Discuss the story title. What do the children think the text will be about? Discuss what an ark is and what the children think Odessa might be. Could it be a place? Where? Is it the name of a person? Why?

Reading and responding

  • Read through the text together or in pairs, with each child reading the speech of the main characters.
  • What is the main theme of the text? Is there more than one theme?
  • How has the author created impact in the text? How does it make you feel? Does it make you think of another text that is similar? Why?
  • Discuss the vocabulary used in the information text on page 4 of the leaflet and what the words mean, referring to the glossary.
  • Are the children aware of any other examples of Jewish people being persecuted? Refer to any work on World War II in history.
  • Read the additional information about the Tenakh on the information sheet below. What other words could you add to the glossary to link to this text?

About the author

Read Antony’s online blog at or visit for more information about his books and school visits.

Follow-up activities

  • Invite the children to find out more about their ancestors and the places they came from. They could make a family tree scrapbook and present it to the class.
  • Create a graphic-led text using the speech in The Ark of Odessa. Could another character be introduced?
  • Use the dialogue and turn the story into a script to perform for the class.
  • Imagine there is a page missing from the story of Noah’s Ark in Jacob’s book. Decide whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of the story and write the missing part, adding a twist into the traditional storyline. Would you introduce any new characters?

Speaking and listening

  • Do the children believe the story of Noah’s Ark? Hold a class debate with two sides: those who believe it was real and those who think it was just a story.
  • Draw the outline of the characters of Jacob and Isaac. Around the outline, write key words describing what they are like. Use these to create a hot seat drama of the characters, with the children posing questions to ask them.
  • Discuss the environmental issues that this story addresses and link to work on climate change in geography. Work with the children to create their own news reports, using the story as stimulus, to explore what could happen in the future. Could there ever be another great flood?

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 4 through to Year 7, and to identify links with Year 5 and 6 Planning Units.

Links with ICT

  • Let the children record their performances of the story using a digital camera. Alternatively, they could record freeze-frames of the different scenes from the text.
  • Use the internet to find out more about the story of Noah’s Ark and to try to gather information to prove whether or not it ever existed.
  • Use the internet to find out more about the treatment of Jews in Odessa in the 19th century.


Share the play performances. Discuss how this helped the children to explore and understand the story more and comment on any dramatic devices.