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Swan Song by Colin Thiele

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					Swan Song by Colin Thiele
Format: Novel
Extent: 192 pp

Overview
This beautifully written story tells about the life of a boy, Mitch, who lives in the Coorong National Park in South
Australia. His father is a ranger there and Mitch leads a happy and adventurous life exploring and fishing and making
the most of the lovely place where he lives. He has to complete his last two years of primary school by
correspondence and he must adjust to the routine of working from home.
While out inspecting Pelican Island, Mitch and his father find many pelican nests have been deserted, and they come
across one that has two newly hatched but recently abandoned chicks. Mitch begs his father to take them home to try
to save them, and against the ranger’s better judgement, he allows him to. A short time afterwards, Mitch comes
across a warm swan egg that has also been left. He and his mother successfully hatch out the egg, and Mitch has
three ‘responsibilities’ to look after.
The story is a warm and moving account of a young boy growing up and the adventures and concerns he has as he
matures.
Swan Song by Colin Thiele is masterfully written, and young people will enjoy the story while learning a great deal
about the art of writing and storytelling.


Author Profile
Australia's most distinguished writer for children, Colin Thiele, AC, has been writing books for over forty years. Last
year he celebrated his eightieth birthday. His books, including the multi-award-winning Storm Boy, The Sun on the
Stubble and Blue Fin, have won numerous Australian and international awards and have been made into classic films,
TV series, plays and picture books. Born and raised in the Barossa Valley, Colin now lives near Dayboro,
Queensland.
Find out more about Colin Thiele at his homepage http://www.library.unisa.edu.au/thiele/colin.htm


Assessment checklist
After reading and completing the activities for Swan Song, students will gain the skills to:
    • recognise author’s techniques to convey particular messages
    • talk about ideas
    • recognise values and attitudes
    • identify texts that describe, explain, instruct, argue and narrate
    • recognise figurative language such as similes and metaphors
    • use research skills – both electronic and library-based
    • use a wider vocabulary
    • identify techniques used for establishing mood




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Activities
Small-group activities
1. How is Swan Song told?
2. What is the significance of ‘Shake on it’ (70)?
3. What happened in the trial against Hardy Blight and Jimmy Small? What was the case about (76-77)?
4. ‘The world, he decided, could sometimes be a crazy place.’ (89)
   What had led Mitch to come to this conclusion?
5. ‘By the time he arrived home, he felt guilty and ashamed.’ (111)
   What incident had happened to make Mitch feel like this?
6. ‘It shows how dangerous it is to jump to conclusions, Mitch.’ (131)
   Why does Mitch’s father say this?
7. ‘A great silence hung over the place,’ conveys a certain mood. What is this? Find more words and phrases in the
   novel that describe and establish mood.
8. From the book, outline what doing schoolwork by Distance Education involves. Do you think you would like to do
   your schoolwork this way? Give reasons to support your answer.


Whole-class activities
1. As a class, discuss:
    •   the saving of the pelicans and how Mitch became responsible for them
    •   nature, ethics, time passing, tourism, change, revenge
    •   the problems people cause when they visit National Parks

2. Colin Thiele has many messages in his wonderful story. Make a list of what these are. How does he let the reader
   know what he thinks is important?




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Individual activities

Characters
1. Do a pen portrait of Mitch (a picture using words) saying what he is like as a person, his situation, his concerns
   and interests, where he lives and how he spends his time. Refer to his mother and father, what they are like and
   his relationship with each.


Vocabulary and language
2. Yahoos (14), hoons (17), nincompoops (18), hoboes (19), oafs, louts, stupid dolts (81), are all words used to
   describe much the same thing. What is this? Find out the origin of these words where you can. Add to this list with
   more words of similar meaning.
3. ‘Eureka.’ (52)
   What does this expression mean? What is the origin of the word?
4. Use the following words in sentences that show you understand their meaning: middens (13), sceptical (42),
   predator (46), carousing (56), despoiling (78), vendetta (79), fervently (154), distraught (177), extricated (177).
5. Explain what is meant by, ‘He was in a quandary’. (46)
6. Explain the difference between: blonde (24)/blond; affect (40)/effect; it’s (60)/ its; bought (77)/brought (78);
   practise (183)/practice.
7. ‘… the water in the Coorong was so calm that it lay before him like a huge mirror. At other times, when the breeze
   blew like a gentle breath and rucked up tiny wavelets, the mirror turned into ripple glass …’ (10)
   This piece contains both a simile and metaphor as Colin Thiele uses word pictures to create a vivid image of what
   he is describing. There are many more instances of such graphic language throughout the story. Find some more
   examples from the text. Write some sentences of your own that include similes and metaphors.

Writing
8. What predicament did Mitch find himself in (141)? What did he do to get out of the bad situation he was in? Give
   an account of what happened. What helped him (146)?
9. Describe what it took to bring up the pelicans and the swan.
10. Write about how the Coorong changes over the seasons.
11. Describe the relationship between Mitch and Bugle.
12. Write about one of Mitch’s adventures in your own words.
13. Write about the difficulties of facing up to responsibilities (112).
14. How did you feel when reading the last chapters of Swan Song?
15. Examine the ending of the novel and give your opinion about how the story finishes.


Research
1. Look up where the Coorong is on a map of South Australia.
2. Find out more about the Coorong National Park.
3. From the story, list some facts about black swans (96–7, 126–7).
4. What is the name of the male, female, and offspring of the black swan? Find out more about black swans.




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posted:2/10/2011
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