Monthly Archives: June 2020

Miss Knapman – There’s a boy in the Girls’ Bathroom

There’s a boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar

I chose this from the year 6 library because it is by the same author as Holes. The title or the front cover didn’t really appeal to me so I thought I could use it as one of my reading challenges. As I enjoyed Holes, there was a good chance I would enjoy this book too. It is a quick and easy read about a boy finding his place in school with the help of the school counsellor and a new friend. It does have some funny parts… but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Holes.

Miss Knapman

Epilogue: The Only Girl in School

“And the winner is….drum roll please….number 314!”

Frankie, like every other former pupil, had automatically clapped her hands against her thighs as soon as Mrs Butterworth gave the signal. Some habits were hard to break, and any raffle following the boring bits of assembly had always been greeted with uncontained excitement. She looked at her ticket. 515. Not even close. The chocolate hamper had escaped her, as it had for her entire primary school life. Frankie screwed the ticket up, and catching Mrs Butterworth’s glance, took the wise decision to put it in her pocket rather than dropping it on the floor. Some habits needed to be broken to avoid unwanted attention, and Frankie was always a good learner.

Speech upon speech had led to this finale. Frankie had attended many retirement assemblies as a child at the school, and was always surprised that no one ever had a bad word to say about people. At sixteen, she was practically an adult, and with that came a healthy level of suspicion that life was not always rosy, and not everyone would be sadly missed when they stopped pacing the school corridors. When she received the invitation, she had half-expected that this would be yet another retirement – that of Mrs B, who had no hair undyed or wrinkle lifted, and was surely due for some long months travelling in a camper van or pruning roses or something – whatever old people got up to. But no, and the celebration wasn’t even for a particular person, but for the school itself. Fifty years in operation, and still going strong.

As she had been getting ready for the event and wondering if there was a dress code which would eliminate her slightly ripped but highly prized jeans, Frankie couldn’t stop her mind wandering to the memory of those first days at school. For her, there were two distinct categories: her own water-splashing and hand-holding days of Reception, and the time that she was truly the only girl in school, and Billy was the only boy. In six years though, the second memory had remained hers alone, because despite her yearning to share the heady madness of what had happened with whoever was available to share a passing interest, she just had to keep the adventure firmly in lockdown. Never once did she contemplate that she imagined what happened, because her imagination, though prone to spiral, could never have come up with anything quite so crazy. But Frankie knew that sharing too much could escalate to her lying on a couch somewhere, describing her childhood to a psychiatrist. So although she didn’t think of Spike and Billy every day, they were never too far from her thoughts – ready to be triggered by the sight of an excitable dog, or a tall thin boy with a worried face.

Now, she clapped politely for the winner of the hamper – a year five child who Frankie didn’t recognise, as a whole generation of newcomers had taken over her old stamping ground. She had been surprised that there was actually room for children in the hall, as the adults associated with the school’s history packed the room to capacity, shoulder to shoulder with barely room to extend arms for applause. Social distancing had thankfully become a phrase of the past, although sometimes Frankie longed for the space away from crowds that the brief age of lockdown allowed.
With a final speech from her former head teacher, the event drew to a close, and as the last clap of the day resounded around the hall, Frankie reflected on her contribution to the morning: reading the poem which she had written soon after lockdown, about her experience of being the only girl in school back in 2020. She had been nervous, mainly because she feared the cruel smirks of her old classmates in the audience; after all she hadn’t been given the chance to edit the piece, and the sixteen year old Frankie was not immune to the embarrassment of reading aloud her unpolished nine year old efforts. But they had been kind, and perhaps a little bit moved, judging by the nods and smiles she caught when she dared to look up. Frankie could see some of them now among the faces of the young and the old, as everyone prepared to leave. There were waves to one another, but no desperate rush to reunite – after all, she would see a few at school later on, and the rest on the social media platforms she intended to access for gossip this evening. So although she continued to scour the hall for faces of the past, picking out some of the old teachers who had left long ago for ‘pastures new’ as Mrs Butterworth would say, Frankie was not particularly eager to enter into any catch-up conversations.
And then she saw him.

He was a tall thin man, whose clear awareness of his height had caused a gradual stoop over many years, convincing him that he wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. Wispy curls of amber and white hair sat on his permanently rounded shoulders, having apparently slipped over many years from the slopes of a now polished head. He was standing just over two metres away, staring over black-framed glasses at Frankie – a look she had seen from disapproving teachers on more than one occasion, but which now held no silent threat of detention, only the warmth of recognition. Billy must be sixty by now, Frankie had thought only that week, but it had never occurred to her that he would be here today.
“Billy.” It came out as a whisper, not the exclamation befitting the occasion. “Billy! Is that you?” That was better – the shock of her aging friend quickly passed as Frankie focused on his eyes – now dancing with youth. Billy approached and extended his hand, and for reasons Frankie would later question herself about, she responded with a smile and a fist. Billy laughed, a grown up deep throated chuckle, and bumped his own fist with Frankie’s. “I just knew you’d be here Frankie! I felt so proud of you standing up there, in front of everyone. I just didn’t have the nerve to do it myself!”

“ But you’re an adult Billy – I mean quite an old one now!” Frankie’s words spilled out before her brain had a chance to edit them. Familiar heat rose to her face, and she shuffled nervously. “I mean you’re not a child any more – you should feel more confident now.” Billy laughed again. “I see some things haven’t changed Frankie. You never struck me as someone who would choose her words carefully. But that’s okay. I’m sure it will happen one day! Now, have you got five minutes to tell me what you’ve been up to?”
“ Five minutes? I could probably sum it up in three! It’s been six years for me, and mainly school and stuff. But you? Well, fifty years Billy! Fifty! What’s your life been like?”
The suggestion of five minutes turned to fifteen, and as Mr Evans was keen to sweep the celebrations away, the time extended further as they walked out of school and found a bench outside the front entrance, newly installed to mark the Golden Jubilee.

There was no shortage of conversation or a single awkward pause. Billy had enjoyed his time at the school, and although not as quick to make friends as he had with Frankie, some of the friendships endured to secondary school life and beyond. He had gone to university, and although his first love had always been art, his dad had persuaded him that accountancy was a safer option and would guarantee a prosperous future. Frankie had nodded, trying not to smile as she recalled Billy’s painting of the thick-legged birds, and feeling grateful that his dad had steered him in the right direction.

“Then I married and had children of my own. Three of them – can you believe it? All grown up now of course – my youngest has just celebrated her twenty –first!” Billy’s face glowed as he spoke about his family, and his clear pride in them filled the air as he talked about their dreams and achievements. “Of course, a family’s never complete without a dog though, is it? And there have been plenty over the years. I even named one after you Frankie – I never forgot you!”
Frankie’s laughter broke through Billy’s reminiscences. “You named a dog after me? Not your first born child or anything – but your dog? Gosh, thanks Billy, I am so touched!” As his face returned to the default setting which had never been re-programmed in his lifetime, a look of worry, Billy started to apologise, but then caught the glint in Frankie’s eye, and joined her in her mischievous giggling. The sound of two overgrown children laughing together caused more than one passer-by to wonder what on earth could be so funny.
As Frankie looked up, she could see an older woman approaching them, accompanied by a small dog who was straining on his lead, his legs moving ever more rapidly and causing the woman to reluctantly break into an undignified jog. “Spike! SPIKE! Slow down!”

Billy caught sight of Frankie’s open-mouthed stare, and read her mind. “No Frankie. It’s not him. I’ve not seen our Spike since shortly after he returned my painting to you all those years ago, you know, the one that said goodbye. There have been a couple of Spikes over the years, but this one, well, he even looked like him and we couldn’t resist him when we saw him on a Facebook page, needing a home. Funny enough, it was around the time I got the invite to the celebration today. Felt like a message, but then I’ve always looked for deeper meaning that is actually there!”

The woman was at the end of her tether as well as the lead. “Bill – take him! I’ve had enough for one day – he’s been scratching at everything from the minute you left. Almost as if –“
“- he wanted to attend this thing himself!” Billy finished his wife’s theory. “Frankie, I’d like you to meet Tina – my wife, and Spike, our new, slightly mad dog!”
Tina sat down, and extended her hand to Frankie. Frankie returned the gesture and the two shook hands. “I’ve heard all about you Frankie.” Tina looked at her knowingly, and Frankie was at once happy and envious that Billy had found someone to share their secret with. Perhaps one day, she too would be able to do the same. Further conversation was put on hold as Spike jumped up to Frankie, his small but determined body circling her lap to find a comfortable position, and finally settling where he could look her in the eye, panting eagerly as he did so.
In the hour that passed, Spike barely moved in his spot, and apart from turning his head occasionally to the sound of Billy’s voice, his eyes rarely left Frankie’s face. It could well have been her imagination that as Tina shared their phone number and address for Frankie to visit and take Spike for walks, the little dog sighed contentedly. It also didn’t seem real that when Frankie looked beyond the green to the first pale colours of an emerging rainbow, Spike followed her gaze, relaxed further into her body and uttered the first high pitched bark she had heard from him.

But as Billy and Tina waved her goodbye, leaving her to contemplate just how much trouble she would be in for being late back to school, Frankie finally knew that her imagination wasn’t running out of control. Spike turned to look back at her. Anyone else might have mistaken his jaws moving for the start of a yawn or preparation for barking at the other dogs who were being walked along the path. Only Frankie would be able to read those familiar words as they came her way.

“Later, Frankie.”

Evie – Year 5 – Arsenic for Tea

Arsenic for Tea – a Murder most unladylike mystery by Robin Stevens

This is the second book in this series that I have read and I still love them.

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are investigating another murder! This time by poison!!!!!!

I loved it. A shocking mystery story with lots of twists and turns – I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to work out puzzles/mysteries.

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Evie Yr 5

Evie – Year 5 – First Class Murder

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

This is the third book in the series and I am enjoying reading her books A LOT! My Dad has just bought me the fourth book which I will be starting later today.

It is about a murder which takes place on the Orient Express. The story was very surprising and the murderer was only found out near the end of the book. I would recommend this book to children my age.

These books even have a glossary at the end to help you understand certain words in the story because it is set a long time ago and the language can a little old fashioned.

Evie - Yr 5

Further home reading suggestions

https://www.booktrust.org.uk/books-and-reading/have-some-fun/storybooks-and-games/

Classic children’s stories such as Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy and Owl Babies. Children can watch the stories or join in with the books as they are read aloud. Remember, there is always the option to turn your speaker off so that children can read the book by themselves. Older devices may not be able to support these storybooks.

https://monkeypen.com/pages/free-childrens-books

Free downloadable children’s books in PDF format.

https://readingeggs.co.uk/free-resources/

Fiction and non-fiction ‘Comprehension Student Workbooks’ for children in Year 2 to Year 6. Each workbook contains comprehension tasks relating to short extracts.

https://sooperbooks.com/

A collection of illustrated short stories, fairy-tales, rhymes and poems that are free to view online.

https://www.storynory.com/archives/classic-authors/

Stories and poems by classic authors such as Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens. (Absolutely lovely!)

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/home-learning-hub

You can access the ‘Home Learning Hub’ part of the Twinkl site without having to register or log-in.

Age 3-5: ‘Twinkl Originals Storytime’ and ‘Share a Story’ – eBooks read aloud by teachers. Remember to pause and mute the video if you would like your child to read independently.

Age 5-7: ‘Twinkl Originals Storytime’– eBooks read aloud by teachers. ‘60-Second Reads’ – short reading comprehension tasks.

Age 7-9 and age 9-11: ‘Guided Reading’ – daily reading sessions. No printer needed as children have the option to type onto the sheet or write your answers on a piece of paper. ‘60-Second Reads’ – short reading comprehension tasks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/audio-stories/zh3t2sg

Online audio stories for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 primary school pupils. Stories cover a broad range of primary topics. They are grouped by theme and Key Stage and are typically about 5 minutes long. Ideal for fostering speaking and listening skills and stimulating children’s imaginations. New stories added week by week.

https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/elevenses/

Elevenses – daily audio instalments of David Walliams reading one of his books aloud at 11.00am Monday to Friday.

https://www.puffinschools.co.uk/resource-categories/videos-storytime/

A selection of videos featuring some familiar faces reading a collection of popular children’s books.

https://authorfy.com/masterclasses/

Register to find author videos, book extracts and cross-curricular schemes of work based on different children’s books. Lots of new titles along with some old favourites. Suitable for children in Key Stages 1 and 2.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDe74j1F52zQaZ2YA5xcdyOlR2yH73Rb9

Storytime with Nick; films of well-loved stories read by Nick Cannon, a trained actor, teacher and storyteller. A new story is added to the YouTube channel at 2pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Suitable for Nursery, Reception and KS1 children.

https://www.worldbookday.com/online-masterclasses/

Inspiring films, writing tips and creative resources for aspiring authors and illustrators of all ages. Includes workshops run by the writers such as Matt Haig and Cressida Cowell.

Part 17: The Only Girl in School

Miss Williams stared at Frankie with all the disbelief she could manage to fit on her face. “What am I doing here? Err, that’s a fine question coming from you young lady – where have you been?”
Frankie stared back, partly because she was trying to figure out just where to begin, and partly because she was deciding whether or not it was a good idea to say anything at all. “Just….out,” she replied in a small voice, choosing to keep the longer version to herself.

“Well, come in now. You know, this really isn’t acceptable Frankie. I know you’ve had more freedom than usual with all this business, but as far as I was concerned, you were sorting out your artwork in the corridor, and then you were just …gone!”

Frankie stepped through the door, quickly looking around and taking in the surroundings. Yes, this was definitely the school she left behind in 2020 – not a floral curtain or swirling mustard yellow carpet in sight. “Sorry, Miss Williams. I didn’t mean to make you worry – I was just out looking for…a dog. Yes, I thought I heard a dog barking.”
“A dog? How would a dog have got into the school? It must be from one of the houses, Frankie. There was nothing to look for and no excuse to disappear for the last ten minutes! You know you have to stay in sight if you want to be trusted!”

Frankie felt herself staring again, but this time, although her eyes were wide, her mouth was firmly closed. Ten minutes. All of that in ten minutes. There were no answers that could satisfy the questions she had. Come to think of it, she didn’t even have the questions yet – just a big cluster of question marks which she imagined were circling her head like curious vultures. All she could do was apologise again, (a follow up was always a good idea), hang her head in obvious shame, and wait for Miss Williams to forgive her and move on.
“Ok Frankie. Well let’s say no more about it for now, but this cannot happen again. Right, back to class with you, come along.”

Frankie’s feet trudged back towards the year six classroom, behind Miss Williams and her determined strides. Clearly, for the teacher, normal service had been resumed, and the next decision would be whether to set story writing, arithmetic or design of a handwashing poster. Frankie was in no mood for any of the options, and Harry’s face, as he looked up from his grammar and punctuation worksheet, reflected the same. “Where have you been?” he whispered, pleased for any distraction from subordinate conjunctions. “I’ll tell you later,” Frankie replied. But as Harry returned to his work, after pointing to the blank sheet waiting for Frankie’s responses, she knew that she wouldn’t. As she went in for a full deep sigh, she caught herself just in time and decided instead to flash a broad smile as she looked towards Miss Williams for approval. “Ooh! Fronted adverbials! I remember them!” Right answer, she thought, as Miss Williams returned the smile before busying herself with the afternoon’s flipchart agenda.

“Where’s Miss Coghlan gone?” Frankie asked within twenty seconds of her plan to keep her head down and do her work. “Disinfecting the whiteboards,” came the reply. The sigh could be suppressed no longer. Normal service had well and truly been resumed.

The day passed without a single other remarkable event. Sandwiches were eaten, footballs kicked, and hands were washed, washed and washed again. As the latest Disney offering was downloaded, Miss Coghlan, smelling faintly of Dettol and liquid soap, made a reappearance carrying an enormous bowl of popcorn, and a smile to match its size. “Get your popcorn here you lucky, lucky people! It’s show time!” Frankie grinned, despite her best efforts to remain gloomy, but as she thought about her own recent and more spectacular show time, the corners of her mouth dropped once again. She couldn’t share a single part of her story with a single person, and by far the most important thing that she was desperate to describe, was how much she missed Spike and Billy. At several points in the day, she had looked across the playground, along the Woodland Walk and, through each window, the huge expanse of the field. But the small black dog and the tall thin boy of her imagination, failed to appear anywhere except the privacy of her own head.

As the end credits rolled and the last strains of the film’s music faded, so did the longest school day of Frankie’s life. “Time to clear up! Everyone wash your hands and then gather your things together for home time.” Miss Williams took up her usual spot for door watch as the children followed her instructions, and Frankie took one last opportunity to look for Spike as she wandered up the corridor to the toilets. No sign. No surprise. The school was depressingly quiet and still.

As she returned to the classroom, Miss Williams called Frankie over. The teachers were sorting through the children’s work, and Miss Williams held out a sheet of paper for Frankie to collect. “Your mum’s going to love your picture, Frankie. It will be great to have this on display but first let your mum see what a budding artist you are!”
Frankie looked at her rainbow picture. It already seemed faded, as if all elements of magic had evaporated and blown across the field, never to be at her fingertips again. Her fingers traced the arcs of colour and her eyes searched for Spike’s image.

But he wasn’t there. In his place sat a smudged unicorn, looking almost embarrassed to be on the paper – waiting to be replaced by something more real, more meaningful.

Spike was gone – just as he had disappeared from Billy’s picture. If there was one thing that Frankie had learned from this, it was that if Spike vanished from a picture, he was well and truly gone. Was he with Billy now? Racing round, trying to work out which century to inhabit, who to keep happy? Did he feel guilty, and if he did, would he return? So many questions, but just as before, Frankie realised that no answers would ever be forthcoming, and maybe it was better to accept that as a fact, and start to cherish the very precious memory of Spike and Billy, however short-lived their friendship had been. She smiled, her mind made up, and just as she was about to remember her manners and thank Miss Williams for her compliment, the teacher called both her and the boys over to the art table. “No name! You know that’s my pet hate children – thank goodness there’s only three of you!”

She held up a large picture so the children could work out which one of them was responsible for its creation. All of them duly approached to take a closer look.

The first thing to jump off the page for Frankie was a small white house, nestling in bluish green hills. The next thing, or rather things, was a series of odd looking birds, pecking at the ground. But the final thing Frankie’s eyes took in, sitting amongst a scattered range of dogs painted in all shapes and sizes, was a small spikey ball of dog-shaped fur, his eyes dancing as Miss Williams waved the picture in front of the children. Beside him was a tall thin boy, spindly legs planted in deep grass, one arm at his side and the other reaching above his head, two wavy lines carefully pencilled in, signalling movement.

“Spike and Billy,” Frankie whispered, her heart almost beating out of her chest.

“Sorry Frankie, what was that?” Miss Williams looked at Frankie and then at the picture. “Ah! I wondered where your little dog had gone! It’s been a long day, but I could have sworn he was on that first one you did. Well this is a lovely one too, but please remember to sign your work like every good artist!”

Just as Frankie was about to tell Miss Williams that it wasn’t her work – not her dogs, her rainbow, her funny looking birds and out of place eagle, but the work of the first boy to ever paint a picture or walk through the school’s classrooms, a thought stopped her. This picture did not appear by accident. This picture had been delivered for a reason, and its message was simple. Spike and Billy were waving goodbye.

“I will, Miss Williams, thank you.” Frankie took the picture, her eyes never leaving her friends’ faces, even as they blurred out of focus as the tears welled. “Frankie, are you alright?” came the concerned voice of her teacher. But the words were all but drowned out by the rising giggles of the only girl in school, as she hugged the picture to herself and nodded her reassurances back to Miss Williams.

The circle of hope was complete once again.

Mrs Calbreath – Various Books

I am so very excited to tell you all about the books I am reading…I can’t put them down! There are 4 books in the series and I’ve already read two!

They are all stories about a group of children who belong to a running club. They all have different personalities and very interesting stories to tell. I have just started book three today called Sunny and it’s already a fab read. I do hope you’re all enjoying your reading as much as me at the moment.

Mrs Calbreath Kestrels