The Leading Magazine for Primary Educators
KS2 Book Topic: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Main Subject: Lesson Plans
Author: Clare Pearson
Lost overboard, Edward Tulane begins an unpredictable adventure during which his pompous character becomes scuffed, worn and...
Meet Edward, a rather stuck-up china rabbit, full of self regard and living a life of pampered luxury. Now meet Edward, an older and wiser rabbit, who has survived many indignities, but now understands what it is to love and be loved.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is charming tale of personal growth, in which author Kate DiCamillo toys with our emotions as we slowly fall in love with her flawed central character. The elegant narrative voice will appeal to lower KS2 pupils, whilst the themes explored could also be used with upper KS2. Told with a delicate touch and infused with rich vocabulary, this text captivates the imagination of children and adults alike. It is ideal for focusing on reading skills and there are endless opportunities for writing. Going beyond the narrative will also add to comprehension and provide a doorway into Edward’s world.
1 Introducing the text
Draw children into the text by discussing what we understand by the word ‘precious’ - many first thoughts are likely to relate to monetary value. Set up a ‘think, pair, share’ activity, where children think about the meaning of the word precious on their own (perhaps 30 seconds), then explain their thoughts to a partner, before joining up with another pair to share and construct joint understanding. Now introduce a box containing something ‘very precious’. Caution the children that they will need to take extreme care when handling what they find inside. Really build up the tension here, before carefully opening the box and inviting individuals to examine the precious object.
In this case, the precious object will be a worn and tattered teddy bear or doll, possibly your own. Now explore again why this object would be considered precious. Allow the children to share examples of things that are precious to them. Beginning in this way will enable the children to more easily grasp the complex relationships that exist between Edward and the different characters he meets on his journey.
2 What’s the story?
When we first encounter Edward, he is in the possession of a girl named Abilene. Abilene adores her china friend and he is treated like a prince, joining family meals and enjoying an extensive wardrobe. Soon Edward begins his journey, as he accompanies the family on The Queen Mary to travel to London. However, during the voyage, he falls overboard and plunges to the bottom of the ocean. From here he is rescued by a fisherman, who takes him home and provides him with a new name, a new identity and a new family. Thus begins a repeating pattern, where Edward is passed from owner to owner, fitting into each new home only to be torn from it to find another. During this time, Edward’s most miraculous journey is that of selfdiscovery and, as a reader, we begin to care more deeply for him as he begins to care more deeply for others.
3 Exploring the text
Targeting vocabulary Looking to expand your pupils’ vocabulary? Despite the apparently simplistic layout and structure, the language used in this book is challenging. Pre-cueing vocabulary will aid comprehension and gives children an opportunity to reinforce reading skills.
Prepare some simple sentences on the interactive whiteboard, each sentence containing one of the words you think will be new to your pupils. Then use the pen tool to shade everything but the target word in the same colour as the background. (When you display the flipchart, the class will only see the unfamiliar word.) Together, discuss potential meanings – is it a noun? An adverb? Does it sound like any words we already know? Now use the rubber tool to reveal the surrounding words and model using the sentence to check the possible meanings. For example, you might display the word ‘jaunty’ and then reveal the sentence: ‘The prince left the castle with a jaunty walk, having rescued the princess’.
The story is written in the third person and told from Edward’s point of view. As a reader, we never find out how the loss of Edward affects the other characters. Challenge pupils to tie-up these loose threads by continuing the story from other points of view. The first to lose Edward is Abilene; his final glimpse of her is as she stands on the deck of the ship calling for him to come back. How does she feel? What does she do next? Does she try and retrieve Edward? Who does she go to for help? Does she give up hope of finding him again? The answers to these questions could be used to write either a diary entry in role as Abilene, a new part of the story, or even a newspaper report.
We encounter a diverse cast as Edward moves from home to home: an elderly fisherman and his wife who love Edward like a child; a tramp and his dog, who view Edward as a fellow traveller along life’s winding road; an old woman who uses him as a scarecrow; a young boy who knows that Edward will bring cheer to his dying sister; and Lucius Clarke, a doll shop owner who sees only the money he could make. Use information retrieval and inference skills to build up the background story of these characters. Here it might be useful to give pupils some statements about a character, for example ‘Lucius Clarke is a fair man’, then ask them to decide whether the statement is true or false and provide detail from the text to back up their opinion. The poignant illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline provide a further source of evidence. Try using Aiden Chamber’s Likes, Dislikes, Puzzles and Patterns approach to support children in discussing their responses. Once a character’s life and motivations have been explored in depth, write his or her biography.
Early on in the book Abilene begs her grandmother, Pellegrina, to tell her and Edward a bedtime story. Pellegrina’s story begins as a traditional fairytale, but takes a rather unexpected turn when, instead of a happy ending, the beautiful princess is turned into a warthog! Here an unpleasant feeling arises within us as readers - will Edward Tulane get a happy ending, given the twists and turns his own story subsequently takes? In this matter, Edward has his own suspicions. He believes Abilene’s grandmother is a witch and has a hand in his misfortunes. This episode and the overall pattern of the book lend themselves well to developing children’s story making skills. They could be challenged to:
- rewrite the ending of grandmother’s fairy tale, so that it is more to Abilene’s liking or take a well known fairy tale and change the expected ending to a darker version (sharing The Lost Happy Endings, by Carol Ann Duffy, would be supportive at this point);
- predict who will rescue Edward next and how they will treat him, perhaps creating a new chapter for the story;
- create a story map to show Edward’s journey, drawn or using illustrations taken from key moments in the book. Develop this into an oral retelling emphasising use of high quality vocabulary and detail;
- put themselves in Edward’s shoes – he wishes more than once for a set of wings so that he can make his own choices about where to travel. Get the pupils to imagine what adventures they would have if they grew wings;
- pick a toy from their own home and create a story based around the escapades it might have if it were lost (using clips from the film Toy Story, would be an excellent support here).
4 Embracing Edward’s world
The Queen Mary
Edward begins his journey by travelling on The Queen Mary passenger liner, a ship that was in service from 1936 to 1967. Use this opportunity to explore the 1930s depression era in both America and the United Kingdom. How did it affect the rich and the poor? Can clues be found in the episode Edward spends in the company of a tramp named Bull? Or when he is the much loved plaything of a child called Sarah Ruth, whose father is a broken man?
Edward loves spending time studying the stars and learns the names of some constellations. If light pollution isn’t an issue for you, consider organising a stargazing sleepover at school. Imagine the excitement the children would feel camping out in the school hall – it would certainly make their learning memorable. The BBC, has produced some excellent resources to accompany its Stargazing series and these can be found online (bbc.co.uk/tv/features /stargazing/star-guides.shtml).
Make simple peg doll versions of Edward, using felt, pipe cleaners and dolly pegs. Use the descriptions of Edward in the opening chapters to select and create an appropriately dapper outfit for him, then ask the children to keep their Edwards with them for the duration of the topic, keeping a diary to record his daily thoughts. Alternatively, wait until close to the end of the story and create a whole cast of Edwards showing his changing physical state as he journeys on. Taking the second option means you could create a large scale emotion graph, with the x axis unhappy to ecstatic and the y axis listing main events in time order. Discussion around where to place Edward at the start of the story would form an interesting debate – was he happy in his life of luxury?
5 Bringing the topic to a close
By the final chapter of the book, Edward finds himself sat on a shelf in a doll shop waiting for his happy ending. Perhaps your class could find one for him? Edward repeats to himself the mantra “Someone will come. Someone will come for you.” Will they? Who will it be?
Set up the classroom space to represent the toy shop and split children into groups to discuss responses to these questions. Then, assign a different possibility to each group to develop as a role-play. After plenty of opportunities to practice, perform the endings and decide which ending is most fitting.
Finally reveal the ending chosen by the author.
So, does Edward’s final journey lead to a miraculous happy ending? Or will he suffer the same fate as the beautiful princess who was turned into a warthog? I’m afraid you’ll have to explore this enchanting book yourself to find that out.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is available from Walker Books (walker.co.uk). It is written by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations from Bagram Ibatoulline.
- The Lost Happy Endings by Carol Ann Duffy – A fantastic tale about an evil witch who steals all the happy endings to bedtime stories. This would work really well in extending ideas around Pellegrina’s bedtime story, allowing children to write their own versions of well known stories, but twisting them to have unexpected endings.
- The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban – The story of a clockwork father and son who are thrown away, then rescued from a dustbin and repaired by a tramp. They set out on a dangerous quest for a family and a place of their own. A story for older readers, but with similar themes and definitely worth dipping into for some beautiful descriptions.