What a treat today to have teacher Hazel Pinner in #TheRealm to talk about how she has been using the picture book NEN AND THE LONELY FISHERMAN in her classroom!
‘Hopeful’, ‘kind,’ ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ are just a few of the words used by my current class to sum up Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by James Mayhew and published by Owlet Press.
I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to share this thought-provoking and magical book with a number of classes across a range of primary year groups recently. It is remarkably versatile and offers options to engage and link to many curriculum areas, as well as provide the opening for rich discussions on a range of topics.
While providing music cover to a number of classes I have made use of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman to provide opportunities for pupils to work in groups to create soundscapes that reflected different scenes in the book, drawing on the emotions of the characters and the clues in James captivating illustrations.
While on supply I was also able to link it to other expressive arts, using drama techniques and roleplay to delve deeper in to the characters through hot-seating and using freeze frames to discuss aspects of the story. These tied closely to discussions around identity, health and wellbeing, as well as child-parent relationships.
Five weeks into our school year and this is a book I see read by pupils in the class every week in our reading area, with them pouring over the illustrations and loving turning the book round to dive deep beneath the waves to the ocean’s depths.
For me the richest use of this story in class is as a discussion starter. Pupils have taken up the themes of climate emergency and plastic pollution, empathising with Pelagois as he warns Nen of the danger’s humans can pose for the creatures who live in our oceans. Mental health and wellbeing have been expanded on, as one pupil put it ‘they were lonely and needed someone to listen to them.’ Pupils from five to ten years old have all been clearly able to identify and to empathise with the emotions of the characters and to share in Nen and Ernests happiness at their new relationship. For one activity pupils drew a scene from the book and taking inspiration from one of the pages, hid words describing the emotions the characters were feeling in their drawings. A simple way for them to identify and relate to a range of emotions, using the book to engage in that learning.
Throughout this I haven’t purposefully mentioned anything of the LGBTQ+ theme represented in the book, partially because it can be read without addressing that aspect if you wish. For myself it has been inspiring to have pupils identify the potential for a romantic relationship between the two. When asking one class what they had noticed about the book that was different to many they had read one response was ‘well if they are gay then they might be falling in love.’ Queue some giggles from a class of eight-year-olds, quickly quieted by a child speaking up with ‘what’s funny? My sister has a girlfriend, it doesn’t matter who you love.’ This led to links to ‘that’s why Nen song is a rainbow, because of Pride,’ and being able to see a relationship that reflects those of people in their live, representation really does matter! The number of boys who loved that it was a Merman, and not a Mermaid was also telling, with large concepts around expected gendered behaviours beginning to be considered by some pupils as well.
I feel that in many ways I have only scratched the surface at how I can use this beautiful and complex book in class, and look forward to sharing more ideas and work involving Nen and Ernest for a long time to come.