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Mrs Noah’s Pockets

Authored by Jackie Morris
Illustrated by James Mayhew
Published by Otter-Barry

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Mrs Noah’s Pockets is a joyful collaboration from two giants of children’s literature: Jackie Morris and James Mayhew. While Mr Noah is busy constructing the ark and reflecting on the opportunity to rid the world of ‘troublesome creatures’; Mrs Noah has a plan of her own: to preserve every species – however unusual or different they may be.

The themes of judgement and inclusion can be explored by discussing questions such as who the troublesome creatures might be? Who is to say who the troublesome creatures are? What makes a creature troublesome? Are you troublesome?

The ideas of difference, individuality and uniqueness could be developed by inviting children to create their own imagined creatures. With a little thought and a lot of creativity, they may discover that troublesome creatures are in fact, fantastic beasts!

Contrasting beautifully with Mr Noah, who is a man of action, Mrs Noah is a woman of mystery – smiling, sewing, visiting Mythical woods. They present the ideal opportunity for comparison using word grids or hot-seating.

With older children, the art of good storytelling can be explored. The opening sentence, ‘It rained’ effective in its simplicity. It sets the scene in just two words, that represent the catalyst for the rest of the story. Wonderful examples of language can be found, such as the sky ‘as dark as a bruise’, ‘streams of pathways’ and ‘rivers of roads’.

Mayhew’s beautiful paper collage and linocut illustration, borne out of his work with schools on the opera Noye’s Fludde, affords the opportunity to analyse the use of line, colour and tone. Is rain ever a flat blue colour? How does the mood change as the colours darken? What difference does it make if the lines of rain are vertical or diagonal, broken, thin or thick?  My favourite spread comes after the storm when ‘one morning everyone awoke to silence’. The soft, lighter shades of blue and the defined horizon line are in complete contrast with the smudged vertical lines of rain at the start of the story, and as such are very emotive.

The focus on Mrs Noah and her story could support work around other female historical figures, such as Grace Darling or Florence Nightingale. An excellent choice for an assembly  Mrs Noah’s Pockets would also sit nicely alongside the study of alternative traditional tales or mythical creature stories, topics on conservation or the water cycle and of course any discussions surrounding inclusivity.

Play a classical track in true Mayhew style and indulge in this stunning work of art.

Mrs Noah’s Garden, the sequel is equally mesmerising.