Fox prints

By Vita Forest

Have you read Margaret Wild’s Fox?  It is a searing tale of friendship, jealousy, temptation, grief and loss.  Did I mention it’s a children’s picture book?

My class has been examining it closely.  Noticing the similes, the use of present tense, the metaphors, the personification, the colours used by the illustrator Ron Brooks, the layout of the pages and the unusual scratchy lettering.

This week,  after a boring old handwriting lesson (“check your pencil grip, stay on the lines, sit up straight, trace slowly and carefully, form your letters in just the right way”) we changed gear to explore how Ron Brooks’ lettering contributed to the story.

He experimented and took some time to get it just right.  Brooks ended up writing the text by hand and using his left hand (he is right handed), hacking out the words, tracing some of the letters over and over, writing them down and then up the sides of pages, on diagonals, in capitals (screaming).  In short, breaking all the handwriting rules.

We looked at the book again and focused on the writing, looking not at what it said but how it said it.  The kids had a play on little whiteboards, swapping their usual writing hands, using capitals where they should have used lowercase, reversing their letters, looking away when they wrote, turning their boards upside down, writing over and over in the same space.  Then they chose a piece of coloured paper, a handful of oil pastels and went away to make their marks as one of the three characters – half-blind, trusting Dog, griefing, wary Magpie or sly, jealous, lonely Fox.  The stipulation – they could only write the name of their character, nothing more, nothing less.

Miss Sadie, rather cheeky and daring, stared me in the face and screwed up her paper into a ball.  I stared back at her and said, “Yes!  If you are Fox, that might be just what you would do.”  (They have witnessed one of their classmates do this same action on a rather regular basis when he is distressed and in the midst of a meltdown).  Suddenly, there was scrunching, there was ripping, there was smudging, there was scraping.  Some of them wrote their character’s name just once, others repeated the lines over and over and over again.

Another happy accident occurred when I handed out some black mounting paper that I had cut in half to what I thought was a good size to frame their work.  It turned out it was too small.  “Stick it on an angle,” I advised.  And the artworks looked better than they would have with a neat black border.

The next day, we sat in a circle and held up the artworks for others to see.  The students went around the circle and explained what they did, how they did it and why.  Amongst the “I did it coz that’s what I felt like” there were some gems.  Kelly left space around Magpie’s name because she was left all alone.   Sharni wrote Dog’s name without looking at the paper because Dog was blind and Lana ripped away a piece of Fox’s signature because his heart was broken in two.

Don’t tell me kids can’t understand difficult stories…

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This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

DISCUSSING our writing and having a good laugh with my Writers’ Circle pals

READING

  • Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

CATCHING up with all sorts of friends during the school holidays – lovely to see you all!

SKETCHING at Carriageworks and enjoying the warmth of the winter sunshine

DOING a whole bunch of ‘Life Admin’ chores

VISITING

  • Manly with Briony
  • Carriageworks, Redfern

INDULGING in a few mornings of sleeping in

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  • The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

VISITING Balmoral Beach for some sketching on a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

WATCHING The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 – OMG!!!!

HAVING a very interesting discussion at Writers’ Circle about how we each write and edit and generally fit writing into life.

DOING a whole bunch of yoga.

SEEING our performance through fresh eyes at the dress rehearsal in front of the whole school (it went well – phew!)

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING school reports!

READING

  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (just devouring this one, instead of writing reports…)

ATTENDING my Writers’ Circle and getting lots of good writing advice.

SEEING a bit more of Vivid at Chatswood.

CATCHING up with Saskia at one of our favourite cosy restaurants with flowers and lettuce in vases on the table.

FINALIZING costumes for our performance group

RUGGING up as winter arrives in Sydney

MAKING a herd of Ann Wood horses with a group of Year 3 and Year 4 students

EATING lots of soup

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING school reports!

READING Fire by Kristin Cashore

WATCHING Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock with the kids (Max is studying it at school)  Wow!  Is it our new favourite Hitchcock??

VISITING Vivid in Chatswood with the kids and enjoying the atmosphere while eating a gelato from Gelateria Gondola (the best).  We liked all the music-making, interactive fun.  No doubt we’ll get to the city sometime too.

SKETCHING with my niece Pippi in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney.  Then we went

LOOKING in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Pippi’s first visit.  Her verdict – “There were lots of butts, some of them were quite detailed…”)

PLANTING some lovely things on my balconies after being inspired by our apartment’s gardener

UPDATING our block’s garden.

LOOKING forward to seeing it all in bloom.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung
  • The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

WATCHING

  • The Good Fight
  • our apartment’s garden get transformed

ATTENDING my writers circle where we were

RELOCATING to a nearby food court when the library fire alarm went off and

RECITING poetry at a shared table with a stranger eating his dinner in our midst and

FINDING out later that the drama at the library was all due to a woman in a bathroom at a restaurant

DOUSING herself with an aerosol perfume…

RESTING and RECOVERING over the weekend with the flu or some such

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung

WATCHING Jasper Jones with my kids

KNITTING a tea cosy from some lovely wool from lovely Sui-Sui.

COPING with a sudden switch to proper autumnal weather (quite a shock I have to say).

COOKING a big pot of Albruzze soup

MAKING a gift for a friend with a big birthday coming up…

HOPING to get back to some writing next week