Quick Guide – The Green Ship

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About the Author

Quentin Blake is a cartoonist, illustrator and children’s writer. He became well known for illustrating Roald Dahl’s stories but has gone on to illustrate books by many other writers, as well as creating his own picture books. For his lasting contribution as a children’s illustrator, he won the biennial, international  Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration in 2002  the highest recognition available to creators of children’s books. From 1999 to 2001 he was the inaugural UK Children’s Laureate.

About the Book

Two children find the Green Ship when they climb over the wall into what is more like a forest than a garden. The ship has bushes for bows and stern and its funnels are trees; a small garden shed on an ancient stump is the wheelhouse and in command of the ship is the owner of the garden, old Mrs Tredegar. Throughout the summer she, the Bosun and the two children sail the Seven Seas visiting exotic faraway places and having wonderful adventures.

The Green Ship is a thematically rich picture book which captures both adult and child perspectives in the same narrative making it a thought-provoking text to read and revisit with children (and adults) of different ages. There are interesting counterpoints in the text and illustration. Quentin Blake’s use of frame, double-page spread and colour impacts on the emotional effect and provides an opportunity to discuss the visual literacy involved in reading picture books.

Before Reading

Talk about the cover: (Note: the back and front covers create one image).  Keep the discussion informal and exploratory. Invite the children to talk about some of the following.:

  • Where do you think this story is set?
  • What time of year do you think it is?
  • How many characters can we see?
  • Who do you think they are?
  • Do they know each other?
  • What do you think they might be doing in this forest?
  • What has just happened?
  • Why do you think there is a Green Ship in the middle of the forest? Isn’t that rather strange?
  • What do you imagine will happen next?
The Green Ship cover image

During Reading

First encounters

Either read the book with the children or if you have sufficient copies, allow them to read it independently and make notes using a few open prompts such as:

  • what did the book remind you of?
  • was there anything that you found strange, puzzling or surprising?
  • which was your favourite page?
  • did you have any questions when you finished reading the book?

Share first thoughts and record the children’s questions. You can use these to initiate discussion.

You may want to ask:

  • Who is telling the story? How do you know?
  • Who do you think the man in uniform in the photo in the ‘brown wooden frame’ might be? Suggest that reading on might provide information to confirm or challenge their ideas.

Revisiting the book

Re-read with an opportunity to look more closely at how the text and illustrations work together.The following prompts are suggestions of areas you might want to discuss on a second reading.

The Green Ship

Illustration

Look at the way the illustrations help to tell the story and to keep things moving at a pace. The two framed pictures ‘The trees were huge and covered with ivy’ and ‘We pushed aside a screen of branches’ show the children moving through the forest. They are showing action. The page ends ‘.. saw something absolutely astonishing‘ making the reader breathe in with anticipation as to what they will find on the next page. Then you turn the page and on the double-page spread, we have a picture of a big ship. The text says, ‘bushes had been cut into the shape of the bows and stern, and two trees trimmed to look like funnels. On either side of these were two tall thin trees, with not many branches that were obviously meant to be the masts.’

  • Look carefully at the pictures, can you work out how the illustrations were created?
  • Does anyone know what the different parts of the ship are? (bow, stern, funnel, masts, wheelhouse).
  • What do you imagine the children were thinking when they saw the ship for the first time?
  • Alice says they should go and look at the ship. What would you have done, if you were in the same position?

Mrs Tredegar and the Bosun

How would you describe Mrs Tredegar? What clues are there in the text and illustrations?

  • For instance, when she says ‘Shall we clap them in irons?‘ Does she mean to do exactly what the words say?
  • What clues to her character do we get from her clothing?
  • Why does she say, ‘I’m sure that’s what the captain would have wished?’
  • Is Mrs Tredegar like any adults that you know?
  • What do you think Mrs Tredegar was like when she was younger?
  • Who do you think the Bosun is? Do you think he has known Mrs Tredegar for a long time?
  • Have you ever played imaginary games like the children in this story?

The end of summer

On the page facing the text, ‘It seemed as though we were heading southward through tropical seas’, there is a sequence of three framed pictures.

  • What is happening in these pictures?
  • Why do the colours change?
  • What do you notice about the ship in each of the pictures? What effect does this create?

The storm

When the rain comes, Mrs Tredegar takes the wheel and says ‘Steer into the eye of the storm’.

  • What does that mean?
  • Why do you think she says, ‘What would the captain have done?’ and later, ‘The captain would have been proud of you.‘?

When you turn the page, there is another double-page spread showing the electric storm.

  • What do you notice about the way Quentin Blake has made this picture?
  • What colours can you see? How are they different from the colours on the previous pages?
  • How does it make you feel when you see this picture?

Turn the page again. Now there is a hurricane raging. Ask the children to compare the two pictures.

  • What similarities and differences do you notice?
  • How has this picture been made?

After the storm

  • Things seem to change after the storm. What sort of changes do you think have taken place?
  • What do you think about the last two double-page spreads?
  • Do you think this is a sad or a happy ending to the story? Why do you think that? Encourage the children to express their views as there is no right or wrong answer. On the one hand, you may feel that the past has been lost and can never be regained, although there will always be memories. On the other hand, you may feel that the trees are returning to their natural state and this is positive and optimistic.

After Reading

Have you ever played imaginary games like the children in this story? You may want to record or write your story and keep it in a memory box.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy…

Eric Fan and Terry Fan The Night Gardener

Lane Smith Grandpa Green