Cloud Busting

About the Author

Malorie Blackman, author of Cloud Busting, has written over sixty books and is acknowledged as one of today’s most imaginative and convincing writers for young readers. She has been awarded numerous prizes for her work, including the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award. Malorie has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. In 2005 she was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her contribution to children’s books, and in 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature. She has been described by The Times as ‘a national treasure’. Malorie Blackman was the Children’s Laureate 2013–15.

About the Book

Despite his Mum’s insistence, Sam doesn’t want to be friends with Davey, he thinks Davey’s a first class, grade A, top of the dung heap moron. But one day Davey saves Sam’s life and a bond is formed between them. Sam is still embarrassed to be seen with Davey, but little by little he has to admit, when it’s just the two of them, Davey is a lot of fun. But then something terrible happens to Davey…

This short verse novel is powerful, moving and thought provoking. It deals with issues that are relevant to children’s lives and will stimulate discussion about important themes and issues. Written in verse,  Cloud Busting provides an opportunity for readers to consider the relationship between form and content, and its impact on the reader.

Before Reading

Malorie Blackman

  • Ask the children if they have heard of Malorie Blackman.
  • What do they know about her?
  • Do they know any other books that she has written?
  • Provide some supplementary information e.g. her role as Children’s Laureate, books turned into plays by the RSC etc.
  • Make a collection of Malorie Blackman’s books in the class book corner.

Novels in verse

Explain that Cloud Busting is a novel written in verse.

  • Have they come across any others?
  • Make a collection of age-appropriate verse novels for the class bookcornere.g. Sharon Creech Love that Dog and Hate that Cat.

First encounters

Show the front cover and briefly talk about what you see.

  • What do you think this story will be about?
  • Briefly scan the contents page. Do the chapter titles give any clues as to what the story might be about?
  • Read the dedication – what could Fizzy Feet refer to? And could ‘Dare to be different’ give some of what this book might be about?
  • Look at the picture at the beginning of chapter 1. What first impression do you form of this character? Can you tell how he is feeling?

 

During Reading

It is important to allow the children to experience the story without too many interuptions. You may want to select some chapters or passages for close reading. You may also want to re-read some chapters after reading them aloud to the class, or allow the children time to read and process the story independently.

Provide opportunities for children to discuss their first responses to the story, to raise questions and to make connections with their own experiences. The following prompts are intended to support deeper reading and analysis after an initial exploratory discussion. Use those that best suit your needs and the children in your class.

Mr Mackie Said

Read or read read the chapter aloud to the children.

  • What do you notice about the way this chapter is set out?
  • How easy or difficult do you find it to read?
  • What impression do you form of Mr Mackie from this chapter? Encourage the children to use evidence from the text to support their thinking.
  • How do the children’s views of poetry differ from Mr Mackie’s? In pairs, find three quotations to show what the children think and three quotations to show what Mr Mackie thinks.
The children’s views of poetry Mr Mackie’s views of poetry
  • What are your views about poetry? What sorts of poetry do you enjoy? Make a collection of poetry books avilable for browsing and encourage regular sharing of favourites
  • What do you think Mum means when she says, ‘You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry?’
  • How do you think Davey is? And where do you think he might have gone?

 

What’s In a Name?

Text to world discussion: There’s a saying, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.’ Discuss with a partner what this means, and whether you agree or disagree. You could do this before or after reading the chapter.

What impression do you have of Davey, after reading this chapter?

What impression have you formed of the narrator?

Facing the Truth – with Haikus

Now that you have read a few chapters, what do you notice about the way this story is written. How is it different to other stories that you have read? Introduce the term verse novel and make some age appropriate examples such as Sharon Creech, Love that Dog, Sharon Creech Hate that Cat available for independent reading.

What impression do you form of Alex in this chapter.

Questionning: what questions do you have at this point in the story? Conduct a quescussion. Invite the children to call out questions – rapid fire. As they do list the questions on the IWB or a large sheet of paper. Only questions are allowed, no statements. If a statement is given, everyone shouts,’ statemen’ and it is reframed as a question before being added to the list. Don’t stop to ponder answers, just write out the questions as quickly as you can. Once the suggestions have been exhausted. Examine the list together. Group the questions. Are there some questions that you could talk about now? Are there some that you think will be answered later in the story? Are there some questions that you think will not be answered? Keep the questions to refer to as you read on. Periodically write notes next to the questions, if you think you have been able to answer, or partially answer them.

Descriptions

What does the narrator feel about his class mates?

Alicia calls Davey, ‘Dave’ rather than ‘Fizzy Feet’. What does this tell us about her?

Poems Posted Around the School

This chapter illustrates behavious that is similar to cyberbullying, which may impact on children’s lives.

Cyberbullying involves using technology to bully people. It can include texting, instant messaging, and posting on social media and gaming websites. Even if you’re not the one who started the bullying, you become part of it when you laugh at a message that could be hurtful or threatening to someone else, or forward it on.

Childnet international has advice for teachers on how to handle this sensitive subject http://www.childnet.com/teachers-and-professionals

Take the opportunity to discuss the issue, how to protect yourself from cyberbullying and what to do if you are a victim of bullying behaviour. Discuss the similarities and differences between this and Davey’s situtation.

Discuss bullying in more general terms what motivates people to bully? What might it feel like to be bullied? How can schools help to stop bullying?

Is it possible to be both bullied and a bully? Make the point the bullying is a type of behaviour rather than a person.

Putting the Boot In

What does ‘putting the boot in’ mean? Explain that this is an idiom and isn’t meant literally. Note: when you put the boot in it means you make a bad situation worse. It comes from the idea of kicking someone when they are already knowcked to the ground. Sometimes people say ‘stick the boot in’ instead. Do the children know any other idioms – popular sayings where the meaning cannot be derived from the individual words? Some examples include:

  • Pop your head round the door
  • At the drop of a hat
  • The ball is in your court
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover
  • Bite of more than you can chew

Discuss the literal meaning and then they way n which the idioms are used.

Vocabulary: what does ‘despised’ mean? What synonyms are there for this word (e.g. hate, loathe, detest). What antonyms are there for ‘despised’? (e.g. love, admire, treasure).

Meekling – can you work out from the context of the poem what a meekling is? Discuss with a partner. Do you recognise any words within the word (the children may or may not know the word meek).

Calligrams: do you think the inclusion of a calligram or shape poem adds to the meaning expressed by the words in the poem?

Standing Proud

Does this poem give us any clues as to why the bully is so angry with Davey? Why do you think some people behave like this?

What does he mean when he says, ‘a smile that just had to be wiped away‘?

What do you think about the way Davey responds to the bully?

The Truth Hurts

‘The class bully The class moron. The class idiot. His name was Sam. In case you haven’t already guessed, I am Sam. Sam is me I’m the one who made Davey’s life a misery.’

  • Discuss Sam’s character with the class.
  • Is he bullying Davey? In what way?
  • How does he feel about his own actions in this chapter?

Refer to the earlier discussion about idioms (Putting the Boot In).  Can you find other examples of idioms in this chapter? (‘cards on the table’, ‘get it off my chest’). Discuss the literal meanings and the usage.

Setting the Scene

Up to this point, all the chapters have focussed on the narrator’s feelings about Davey. How is this chapter different. What does ‘setting the scene‘ mean? Make the point that perhaps this chapter is setting us up for something big or important in the next chapter.

Maps of Action and Life

This chapter is a pivotal point in the story.

What changes take place in this chapter?

In pairs, highlight some words and phrases that show how Sam feels about this incident. (e.g. ;the thundering of my heart‘, ‘I felt so strange‘, ‘Why did he do it?‘, ‘I’M ALIVE‘). Discuss the range of emotions that Sam goes through.

Share and record the children;s ideas:

Evidence Feelings
Why did he do it? Confused.

Why do think this chapter ends with ‘And ran to school away from him‘?

Discuss how the weather helps to create a mood/atmosphere in this chapter

  • drizzle
  • shiny like pearls
  • sunlit air
  • muted rainbow

You may want to introduce the term, ‘pathetic fallacy’. the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things, weather or animals.

Shadow

Draw attention to some of the things Davey says (e.g. ‘stars are holes in the floor of heaven’ ‘starbeams on your tongue’) What do the tell us about Davey.

Text to world discussion: Imagination

  • what games do you play where you have to use your imagination?
  • Do you use your imagination more when you play indoors or outdoors?
  • Have you ever invented your own games or toys?
  • Do children have better imaginations than adults, or not? Why do you think that?
  • Do you think you are an imaginative person?

Celebrating difference. Discuss Davey’s statement about how ‘the worse thing in the world would be, to look and walk and talk and think like everyone else’.

  • Do you agree?
  • Is fashion concerned with  looking like everyone else?
  • Why do we sometimes feel threatened by people who seem different to us?
  • Discuss the differences between Sam and Davey and why they get on so well.
  • How can being friends with people who are very different to us add exciting new dimensions to our friendships?
  • We are all unique. What is unique about you? You could use art materials to create a peice of artwork to represent your uniqueness.

What important lesson does Sam learn in this chapter?

Sorry

In this chapter Sam makes a difficult decision: to tell Davey that he is sorry for the way that he has treated him.

Making the right choice: with a partner, talk about a time when you were faced with making a difficult choice. Did you do the right thing? You may want to share a personal story first before inviting the children to share, in order to create a safe and accepting environment for discussion.

What effect does the repetition have in this poem?

No Big Deal

What do you think Sam is feeling when he offers to swap food with Davey?

Medical issues: Cloud Busting raises some important medical issues which could be used to raise children’s awareness of similar conditions.

  • Davey has a life threatening peanut allergy – what should he avoid?
  • Why is important to be aware of these allergies?
  • Discuss the difference between a personal dislike and an allergy.
  • Talk about medical alert bracelets, as most people with severe nut allergies will wear them.
  • Raise awareness of other medical conditions might that warrant wearing a medical alert bracelet. Other medical conditions that exist in your school could also be raised at this point to develop pupils’ understanding of the needs of others and the importance of acting responsibly.
  • Discussion could be followed by a visit from St John’s Ambulance, The Red Cross or the school nurse to talk to children about what they should do in emergencies

 

Big Mistake

What do you notice about the way this chapter is set out?

This is a crucial moment in the story: the point of no return. Sam betrays his friend and from here it is inevitable that something terrible is going to happen.

Why do you think Sam betrays Davey’s confidence?

Improvisation and monologue: In pairs, have the children conduct a short improvisation of the conversation between Sam and Alex. This should last for no more than 2 minutes. Give them an opportunity to practise. Invite one pair to share their improvisation. On a given signal have them freeze the improvisation. Explain to the pupil playing Sam, that he can step out of the improvisation and talk directly to the audience, telling them what he is thinking and feeling at this point. Now do the same with Davey. Make the point that the characters might be thinking and feeling different things to what we can see from their behaviour.

Invite another pair to share their improvisation and use the monologue technique.

Just a Joke

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, ‘it was just a joke?’ Do people sometimes use it as an excuse to do mean thigs?

Small group improvistion: in small groups recreate this scene. Create 2 freeze frames. 1 for the beginning of the improvisation and 1 at the end of the improvisation.Encourage the children to use body language and facial expression to convey the emotions in the scene. Challenge them to think about visually interesting ways to create space between characters.  Invite one group to share their improvisation. To listen to the thoughts of different characters, explain that when you tap them on the shoulder you are going to ask them some questions that you would like them to answer. When the children are familiar with this technique. You can invite other members of the class to tap a chosen character on the shoulder and ask a question. Encourage them to ask questions that are authentic and allow you to uncover potential thoughts and feelings.

Davey’s Gone

Is there any evidence that Sam and Davey have changed in this chapter?

Why doesn’t Sam like Davey saying, ‘OK’?

Away

Reread the final two sentences:

‘He just left.

But he’d already gone

What is significant abou the words ‘but’ and ‘already’?  Would it have a different meaning if the lines read, ‘He just left. He’d gone’?

Homework

What do you think about the ending of this story? Do you think it is a happy or a sad ending? Explain why you think that.

After Reading

Poetry by heart

Several poems in the book lend themselves to group performance., for example, the opening poem, Mr Mackie Said’. This poem works well read by two groups of voices.

Writing Poetry

Does it have to rhyme, sir? No. How do we start, sir? With whatever comes Into your head. Just let it out. Don’t hold back. Don’t stop yourselves. Don’t censor yourselves. Let your words flow.

Cloud Busting is a book about the power of poetry to express deep felt emotion and the cathartic experience of writing through your emotions. It is cleverly written in different poetic forms and styles, and children will incidentally learn much about poetry from reading the book. Additionally, at the end of the book Malorie Blackman writes about the inspiration for her own poetry and includes information on the different styles included in the book.

Playscript

Choose one of the chapters and adapt as a playscript.

Statement Cards

Which of these statements do you think best fits this story?

Be kind to each other You need to be like everyone else so you don’t get bullied. It’s important to be loyal to your friends
Everyone is unique and we should celebrate that. You have to like football to be popular. You have to appreciate the good things while you have them, otherwise it could be too late.
Bullies don’t like themselves very much You can learn to use your imagination Sometimes you have to make brave choices

If you enjoyed this book, you might like…

Sharon Creech Love that Dog

David Almond The Savage

Elizabeth Laird Secret Friends