Cross-curricular planning and ideas linked to Sandra Dieckman’s wonderful book ‘Leaf’.
Please do leave a comment if you have used this book in your own classroom! I’d love to hear how!
‘Leaf’ by Sandra Dieckman
Published by: Flying Eye Books
From the back of the book:
When a polar bear washes up on the edge of the wild wood, the other animals fear and avoid him. Then one day, they watch as he attempts something incredible…
Gentle highlighting the plight of polar bears in today’s changing climate, Sandra Dieckmann’s debut picture book is a heart-warming tale about helping outsiders.
Every now and then you find a book that makes you gasp and smile and wonder. ‘Leaf’ by Sandra Dieckmann is one such book – enchanting and heart-warming. It is a moving, colourful, thoughtful tale about a strange white creature that arrives at the edge of the wild wood. He is vilified, ignored and mistreated by the animals – an outsider who is not to be trusted.
Then one day, the animals watch as this white beast attempts to fly over the water with wings made of colourful leaves… trying to get back home. But where is home?
This is a beautifully illustrated book, full of vibrant colours and simple, yet emotive language. It would be perfect for initiating discussion relating to global warming, displacement, exclusion, family and journeys.
Questions to explore and consider
Front page – What might this book be about? Why do you think the story is called ‘Leaf? Will it be fiction or non-fiction? What colours and patterns can you see? To which area of the front cover is your eye drawn to?
Author dedication – Look at the quote used by the author:
“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught in life.” Friedrich Schiller
What does this mean? How might this quote link in with the story? Can fairy tales tell us anything about real life? Is everything you are taught true? Have you ever learnt anything from a fairy tale?
Double spread 1 – Who can crow see? What might crow be thinking when he sees the polar bear? Why do you think the crow refers to the polar bear as a ‘strange white creature’? How might the polar bear be feeling? Why is he there? Where has he come from? Is the time of day significant? How does it affect the mood and atmosphere?
Double spread 2 – Where does the polar bear set up his home? Which word or phrase tells you that the animals were wary of the bear? Look at the illustration – what do you notice about the size of the polar bear? What animals can you see in the picture? How do the colours used to depict the bear’s cave compare to the colours used for the animals and foliage?
Double spread 3 – What does the verb ‘stomping’ suggest about how the bear is feeling? Why are the animals scared? Why do you think the bear might be collecting leaves? Find two adjectives that describe the leaves. The word ‘flee’ is closest in meaning to….? Are the animals wrong to flee from the bear?
Double spread 4 – Why do the animals name the bear Leaf? Can you think of another name for the bear? Why might the seagull think the polar bear is a ghost? What sort of voice might the badger have? Write a letter from the polar bear, persuading the other animals to let him stay. Look at the illustration – is there anything amusing or unusual occurring?
Double spread 5 – Which verb tells us that the polar bear is moving very quickly? Why might the bear be covered in leaves? Look at fox – what might he be thinking and feeling? What does his facial expression suggest to you? What colours and shapes can you see in the artwork?
Double spread 6 – Look at the illustration of the bear attempting to fly – do you feel close to the action or far away? Why do you think this might be? What do you notice about the colours used in the illustration which depicts the polar bear back in his cave? Is it different to the other illustrations and pictures? Why do you think the polar bear is living in the cave? Why doesn’t he move somewhere comfortable and bright? What do you think the crows are doing? What details in the illustration make you feel happy/sad?
Double spread 7 – How does the illustrator use the double spread page to depict the two different arguments? Who do you agree with? The crows or the other animals? How might the story change if the badger or fox decide to talk to the polar bear? The polar bear is destructive and dangerous. Do you agree? Create a freeze frame showing the different animals arguing.
Double spread 8 – How do your eyes travel across this page? What do you notice first? What do you think will happen next? What are the crows saying to the bear? Where do you think the other animals might be? Can you think of an adjective to describe the cliffs?
Double spread 9 – How has the illustrator shown the movement of the water? What do you think has happened to the bear? Why do you think he has jumped from the cliff? Explain what the crows are thinking and feeling. Can you summarise what has happened in the story up to this point?
Double spread 10 – Can you explain the phrase ‘the sea spat him out’? What impression does this give you of the sea? How do the colours used reflect the nature of the sea? Would the illustration have been as impactful if the sea colour was a light, sparkling blue? Find one adjective used to describe the crows. How would the story have changed if the crows had spoken to him at the beginning, when he arrived? What might the polar bear be thinking and feeling?
Double spread 11 – Why do you think the ice is melting? Where are Leaf’s family? Explain what the animals have learnt about how to treat others. How do you think the crows will help Leaf? Look at the illustration of Leaf and his family – what is happening here? Is he drifting away from them? Is it a flashback? Or is he being reunited with them? Who do you think decides that they should help Leaf?
Double spread 12 – How are the crows helping Leaf? Imagine you are Leaf, saying goodbye to all the animals – what might you say? Do you think Leaf has forgiven the animals for being so mean to him? What do you think the moral is this story is? Does this story remind you of anything? Is this story a fairytale? Do you think Leaf will be reunited with his family? Why do you think the author created this book?
The Bigger Questions
Is there a difference between a home and a house?
What does it mean to be lonely?
Should we trust strangers?
Was it a good idea for the crows to help the polar bear return home?
Humans are destroying the environment. Discuss.
Why not try using a ‘double bubble map’ (Hyerle) to compare and contrast this story with ‘Journey’ by Francesca Sanna or ‘Beegu’ by Alexis Deacon? How are the stories similar? How are they different? What themes do they share in common? Which did you prefer and why? Put the names of the stories in the central two bubbles. In the circles that link to both central bubbles, note the similarities between the stories. The circles that link to only one central bubble are for you to record the differences between the stories.
As Writers we will….
Write a non-chronological report about a polar bear. Can you include reference to its appearance, habitat, diet and adaptations?
Write a diary entry, imagining you are Leaf. Can you retell how you were split up from your family? How did you feel when you arrived at the wild woods?
Try to write your own cinquain poem based on this book. A cinquain is a non-rhyming poem with five lines. Each line has a set number of syllables:
Line 1 – 2 syllables
Line 2 – 4 syllables
Line 3 – 6 syllables
Line 4 – 8 syllables
Line 5 – 2 syllables
Strange, startling thing
Drifts to the wild woods
Lost and far from home but ignored
As Geographers we will…
Explore the impact of global warming on the environment, animals and habitats around the world. Hold a class debate – should we change and mend our ways to reduce the effects of global warming or continue as we are?
Create a map of the places mentioned and depicted in the story – the wild woods, the lake, the sea, the cave, the polar bear’s original home. Perhaps you could refer to the compass points to direct a partner around your map?
As Historians we will…
Read the story of Icarus and Daedalus, the inventor and architect who used bird feathers to create wings so he could escape from King Minos’s prison. Explore the themes, characters and storyline.
As Musicians we will…
Look at one of the illustrations. Can you work in a group to create a soundscape for that illustration? What noises might you hear? What mood will you try and create? Can you use your body to create percussion and rhythm?
As Artists we will…
How have these illustration been made:
- pen and ink
- water colours
How does the artwork make you feel? Why do you think you feel like this?
Does the colour, texture, form or theme of the illustrations affect your mood?
Can you recreate your favourite illustration using only a black fine line pen? Try to focus only on pattern and line.
Look at Henri Rousseau’s piece of artwork called ‘Surprised!’ How is the artwork in this story similar to this painting? How is it different? Can you recreate Rousseau’s painting using oil pastels?
Leaf attempts to use leaves to make wings, so he can fly back to his family. Can you design, plan, make and evaluate a new contraption to help Leaf travel back to his family? Perhaps he will fly through the air? Or travel over the sea?