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

READING

  • Men explain things to me by Rebecca Solnit
  • Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

WRITING Tai-chi and Tennis rackets

MAKING a collage of a Christmas Island crab on a grand scale with my class

LEARNING about the migration of the crabs

WATCHING Casablanca with my kids

WALKING and TALKING with Saskia on a cold windy winter’s evening

SLEEPING in as it’s now the holidays

PLANNING the next term and the big trip

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

  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • Tom Appleby Convict Boy by Jacki French with my class

RETURNING to school after the holidays

DECORATING the back wall of my classroom with a forest of multicoloured trees and hand- drawn ships of the First Fleet

GETTING the kids in the performance group to try on some of the costumes

WATCHING The Handmaid’s Tale Series 2

ATTENDING my Writers Circle and discussing a chapter of my novel

PICNICKING at Cremorne Point with Sui-Sui and Alessandro

WAKING early on Sunday morning and painting a drawing ifThe Grounds of the City with watercolours

VISITING Barangaroo with Molly and Pippi for The Finders Keepers Market

DISCUSSING with an artist at the market how you have to be bold and brave to use watercolour (she was!)

SITTING with the sun on my back on the sandstone slabs of Barangaroo and

TAKING a photo for some young lovers as they posed on the Rocks with Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop

THINKING about a new poem

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (but only a little bit because I have been)

WRITING

VISITING

  • The Grounds of the City with Max and Lucy (Steampunk meets Fantastic Beasts Oh and the food was delicious!)
  • The Anzac Bridge on Anzac Day (Lucy and I (and Max and Briony for a bit) walked from St Leonards to Rozelle following part of the route of The 7 Bridges walk with a few adjustments.
  • lovely work colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  • Gelateria Gondola for the most sensational choc-orange gelato…

WATCHING

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society with Betty (very lovely).
  • Sami in Paradise at Belvoir St Theatre (it’s been a while since I’ve seen something from this fantastic company – absolutely brilliant!)

ATTENDING an Open Mic Night with my Writers’ Circle group (we all read from our novels) and Sui-Sui and Alessandro.  Very inspiring!

SEWING costumes

GETTING ready to return to school tomorrow…

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Homework Sentences

READING The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

ATTENDING

  • many many meetings on many many topics
  • Book club at Vastra’s.

WATCHING The Fugitive

ANNOUNCING which kids made it into our performance group (let the complaints begin…)

MEETING Sui-Sui in Newtown for a spot of brekkie, a long chat about my novel (getting pretty close) and some browsing in book shops.

ENJOYING some cooler weather

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

Jurassic Plastic, Sydney Town Hall

READING Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

WRITING Creatures of Kiama Part 1

VISITING

Jurassic Plastic

  • Hiroshi Fuji’s Jurassic Plastic, part of the Sydney Festival 2018.
  • school for a planning day… trying to stay calm and keep the holiday feeling
  • The Australian Maritime Museum for some sketching

Mokuy by Nawurapu Wununmurra, part of the the Gapu-Monuk Saltwater Jouney to the Sea Country exhibition

SWIMMING at Balmoral Beach

CRAMMING in lots of last minute holiday jobs

ADDING watercolour to some Kiama sketches

TRYING to stay cool