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					                                 The World of Nicholas Allan DVD
                                 “Naughty but Nice”

                                  Teachers’ Notes

Nicholas Allan wrote his first novel when he was 14. It was a story about a
murder in a school. Although a publisher didn’t accept this book he has gone on
to write over 30 books for children. After leaving school, Nicholas studied painting
at the Slade School of Art and during this time he had his first radio play
broadcast by BBC Radio 4. He then went on to complete an MA in Creative
Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Nicholas has worked as a waiter (just one letter difference in writer), in a
publishers’ office and as a teacher. His first book The Hefty Fairy was published
in 1989. Nicholas is also the author of the BAFTA award winning television series
Hilltop Hospital. He won the Federation of Children’s Book Group Award for
Demon Teddy.

Why choose Nicholas Allan for an author study at KS1?

Nicholas Allen’s stories have an anarchic humour that children find widely
appealing. He relishes naughtiness but at the same time his serious books tackle
deep universal themes such as bereavement (Heaven). The economical text in
many of his books and the strength of the storytelling in pictures make the stories
accessible for children of differing abilities. The range in Nicholas’ work from the
simply silly The Queen’s Knickers to the more reflective Heaven and scientific
Where Willy Went means that his books are likely to appeal to children with
different reading tastes and preferences; there is, in short, something for
everyone. Nicholas’ story Jesus’ Christmas Party has been adapted as a play
that can be performed by schools (license permitting). This may make Nicholas
Allen a suitable author to select during the Autumn term if the play is going to be
performed at Christmas,

DVD Synopsis

DVD 1 - Chapter 1
The DVD opens with an animated reading of Nicholas Allan’s The Queen’s

In London: Nicholas introduces himself and the places visited in the video. He
introduces the interviewers, two children called April and Ruarie. The children
interview on the London Eye, where they are able to see Buckingham Palace
and check to see whether the Queen is flying her ‘At Home’ knickers. Their
questions include:
       Have you seen the Queen?
       What was the first children’s book that you wrote?
       Where did you get the idea for Where Willy Went?
       Do you visit schools?

Nicholas stops to talk to a street performer and explains how inspiration for
stories can be found in everyday events and happenings. He begins to turn the
street performer into an idea for a story.

In Nicholas’ Studio
Nicholas shows the children his BAFTA award for Hilltop Hospital and they look
at the book and artefacts from the series. He explains that the idea originally
came from his childhood experience of hospitals and that your own experiences
are often the place to look for inspiration. An extract from an episode of the
animated television series introduces the characters. Nicholas talks about
authors and book that he admires. Those that are mentioned include Herge’s
Tintin and Roald Dahl, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He explains
that there are qualities in Dahl’s writing that have influenced his own books. His
favourite book of all time is The Secret Garden.

The children explore the studio: they find a photorealistic painting of a gun that
Nicholas painted when he was at school, some miniature pairs of knickers that
were sent to him by a school and a picture of the Queen made in marzipan. An
invitation from Jacqueline Wilson prompts Ruarie to talk about his favourite
writers and the narrow perception that some people can have regarding what
constitutes writing for boys and girls.

The Restaurant and Buckingham Palace
Nicholas takes the children to a restaurant where he worked as a waiter. Later
they go to Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen will meet them for tea but a
palace official tells them they are out of luck.

Back in the Studio
Nicholas shows the children his new book, Picasso’s Trousers. They ask more
       Do you worry what people think of you?
       Which do you prefer children, adults or animals?
       Do you keep fit?
       Do you have brothers and sisters?
       If you had a second life what would come back as?

Nicholas talks about his family and ancestors.

At April’s school
Nicholas delights the children with magic tricks and drawing. Then the children
decorate pairs of knickers to send to the Queen.

Jesus’ Christmas Party – The Musical.
Nicholas is invited as Guest of Honour to a primary school’s dress rehearsal of
the musical adaptation of his book. This has been produced in many schools
throughout the country and the film of the dress rehearsal features all the music
tracks and includes two complete sample tracks from the Jesus’ Christmas Party
Musical CD & Script Pack. (Available from Starshine Music Ltd.)

My Books and Background – Narrated by Nicholas
DVD 2 also includes a five-minute introduction to his books, by Nicholas, and a
brief description of the incidents in his life that inspired each of them.

Curriculum Context
The following teaching suggestions are most suitable for children in KS1 or lower
KS2. There are specific connections to Literacy and Art. In particular, extensive
opportunities for speaking and listening through paired talk, small group talk and
drama are outlined. The QCA document ‘More than Words’ provides a useful
context for the following activities that integrate visual images with sound and
words. Teaching suggestions for literacy can be incorporated into the narrative
units in the revised literacy framework (stories with familiar settings, stories about

The following themes could be developed in conjunction with the Anne Fine

author study:

       People Who Help Us (Hilltop Hospital)

       Bereavement/loss (Heaven)

       Reproduction (Where Willy Went)

Teaching Ideas

     April and Ruarie interview Nicholas on the London Eye.
           o If you have already read a selection of Nicholas’ books, decide
              what questions you would like to ask him. Children can write
              suggestions in pairs using mini whiteboards or notebooks. Share
              ideas and select the best three questions. Encourage the children
              to think about good questions that would yield interesting answers.
           o The same activity can be conducted with other popular writers.
           o You might send your questions to the writer via their website, if they
              have one, or their publisher.

     Nicholas talks to a street performer with very long arms and creates a
     character ‘Spider Boy’ based on him. He explains that interesting ideas for
     characters can be found just by looking carefully at the people around us.
     (NLS Stories with familiar settings)
           o Have any of the children seen street performers? (human statues,
              jugglers, musicians)
           o Develop an idea for a picturebook or comic based on one these
           o Give the character an interesting and appropriate name.

     Nicholas talks about his BAFTA Award winning series Hilltop Hospital. The
     idea derived from his own experiences of being in hospital when he was a
           o Display a collection of non-fiction books about ‘people who help us’
              including doctors and nurses.
           o Briefly talk about how some things that happen to us are
              remembered for a very long time. Why do the children think

       Nicholas has long lasting memories about the time spent in
   o Talk with children about their experiences of visiting hospital or the
       doctor. Discussing their experiences in pairs before writing serves
       as oral drafting and will help the children formulate their ideas.
   o   Recount writing: Invite children to write about their experiences
       and then illustrate their recounts.
   (Cross-curricular links with PSHE)

Shared Writing: Hilltop Hospital is a popular animated series. The DVD
includes an extract from one of the episodes which introduces some of the
main characters:
   o Obtain a DVD of the series and watch further episodes.
   o In shared writing discuss possible storylines for a new series.
       Children can talk about possibilities in pairs and the class can
       select the one that they like best. Alternatively, they can work in
       pairs or individually.
   o Show the children how to use a storyboard to plan a story.
       Children can work in pairs, drawing on A1 sheets of paper, which
       will enable them to add dialogue without the text becoming too
       cramped. Remind them that they do not have to draw in detail as
       the storyboards are a planning device.
   o View again the extract from Hilltop Hospital or watch a new
       episode. Ask the children to listen for sound effects. After viewing,
       write a list of all the sound effects that were heard. What do these
       add to the story? Now ask the children to revisit their storyboards,
       annotating them with sound effects they would use in each of the
   o Hilltop Hospital is produced in claymotion animation. This is fairly
       easy for children to do. Use a modelling material such as Plasticine.

         o Demonstrate how to make models and how motion is shown by
             taking a still image, adjusting the models and then taking another
             image. Use simple digital cameras that are suitable for children’s
             use such as Digital Blue or webcams to take pictures of individual
             frames. Add voice-over narration, sound effects and dialogue.
         o Why not have your own film premiere? Invite other classes to view
             the short films you have made. Interview the director, the
             animators, the sound director, and the actors.
         (QCA Multimodal literacy ‘More Than Words’)

      The array of characters in Hilltop Hospital include Nurse Kitty (a cat) and
      Doctor Matthews (a dog).
         o Briefly discuss with the children other books series they know
             where animals act like humans (e.g. Brambly Hedge, Beatrix
         o With the class or individually, create characters for a new series set
             in a school. What animal will they use for the Headteacher, the
             teachers, school caretaker, office staff, school cook, the pupils?
         o Give the characters names. Encourage the children to select
             appropriate names for the character.
         o Children can illustrate the characters.
         o Give the series a name.
         o Children can write their own stories featuring the characters they
             have developed.
         o The stories could be produced in a comic style magazine and
             reproduced for other classes to read.
(NLS Speaking and Listening and Narrative units)

       Reading preferences and choices:
       Nicholas talks about his favourite writers with the children. Most writers
       are also avid readers. Ruarie also mentions that one of his favourite
       writers is Jacqueline Wilson, even though a common perception is that
       she writes for girls.
          o Make an interactive display of the books that Nicholas enjoys:
              Roald Dahl, Tintin, The Secret Garden. Make them available for
              children during independent reading,
          o Investigate children’s reading choices and preferences. Discuss
              Ruarie’s point the some writers write for girls and others write for
              boys. Is there such a thing as a book for girls or a book for boys?
              Encourage the children to express and justify their views.
          o    With the class, write some questions that can be used to survey
              children’s reading interests.
          o Conduct the survey in the class and with other classes.
          o Record the results using diagrams such as piecharts or graphs
          (cross-curricular links with Mathematics)

   Nicholas talks about his interesting famous ancestor, Gustav Mahler. We
   might not all have famous relatives but family history is a fascinating subject.
       o Ask children to talk to the oldest relatives in their family about what it
          was like to grow-up when they were younger. Their stories might be
          recorded using digital recorders and used to create a school Podcast.
(Cross-curricular links, History)

                     Author display
                     On the second DVD Nicholas talks about his books and
                     some of the ideas behind them.

                 Create an interactive display about Nicholas. If you have
                 already created a book display then this can form the basis of
                 your author display.
                 Visit Nicholas’ website for further information about the author.
                 Find out about some of the places mentioned in the DVD and
                 add photographs of these places to the display (e.g. Big Ben,
                 London Eye, Brighton).
                 Find out about some of the people Nicholas mentions (Mahler,
                 Freud, Roald Dahl) and add photographs of them to the display.
                 Nicholas is a member of the Magic Circle of Magicians. Find out
                 what this is and include pictures of magicians and some magic
                 tricks in your display.
                 Include children’s writing and illustrations

Prepare a class presentation about Nicholas and perform it to another class.
(NLS units significant authors)


      In Nicholas’ studio, the children find different objects relating to the story
      The Queen’s Knickers. There is a set of miniature knickers and a picture
      of the Queen made in marzipan. Later we see Nicholas drawing with
      marker pen and his pictures of Picasso’s Trousers have been painted in
          o Provide a range of materials, chalk, crayons, watercolour paints,
              tissues paper etc. and invite the children to choose their own
              materials for producing a portrait of the Queen.

      Nicholas shows the children his new book Picasso’s Trousers. This story
      is based on the famous artist Picasso who wore stripy trousers.
          o Obtain a copy of Picasso’s Trousers.
          o Make a Picasso display using reproductions of paintings and books
              (e.g. Laurence Anholt’s The Girl with the Ponytail).
              Include books with paintings of modern art.
          o Encourage children to discuss their responses to Picasso’s
          o The children can create their own paintings in the style of Picasso
              and then use these to write poetry (see Grace Nichols, Paint Me a
              Poem, which includes a poem based on Picasso’s Weeping

When Nicholas visits April’s school, the children have a wonderful time
decorating pairs of knickers for the Queen.
   o Cut out pairs of knickers and invite the children to decorate them
   o You might set an extra challenge to decorate knickers for a
      particular occasion for example:
             Knickers for launching a ship
             A royal visit to your local town or village
             Royal Ascot knickers
             Windsor Castle knickers

Nicholas tells us that he always encourages the children to send the
decorated knickers they make, to the Queen, and she always writes a
letter back. Imagine getting a letter from the Queen!

Nicholas reveals that he once spent 20 minutes chatting to the Queen at
Buckingham Palace and the subject they discussed was her knickers. The
ones sent to her by school children.

Taking it Further

                                 The Queen’s Knickers

      Find out what the children know about the Queen.
            o Where she lives
            o Her dogs
            o Her interest in horses
            o Royal duties
            o What do they imagine it is like inside Buckingham Palace?
            o The State Rooms in Buckingham Palace are open to the public in
               August each year. Find some pictures of the State Rooms and
               display them in the classroom.

Read The Queen’s Knickers to the page that reads ‘One day the trunk went
      Look at the faces of the portraits on the Queen’s bedroom wall. What do
      you imagine they might be saying? Write their words on Post-its (you can
      buy speech bubble shaped Post-its) and stick them on an enlarged copy
      of this page.
      What might have happened to the trunk?
            o Ask the children to discuss their ideas in pairs and then share them
               with the class. Use one of the ideas to continue the story as a
               shared writing activity.

          o When Dilys discovers that the knicker trunk is missing, it causes
              mayhem in the palace…. and the press are quickly onto the story.
              With the class or in pairs, role-play interviews in which a news
              reporter talks to members of the royal household to try and solve
              the mystery of the vanishing knickers.
          o Have a look at some news headlines and then write a headline for
              your ‘missing knickers’ story.
          o In role as TV Presenters children can read the news about the
              missing knickers. A follow up story can tell how the knickers were
              eventually found.
(QCA ‘More than Words’)

Reading Aloud
The text for The Queen’s Knickers is perfect for practising reading aloud with
      When the children are familiar with the story, revisit it and practise reading
      with expression. For example, draw attention to:
          o The use of ellipsis for dramatic pause ‘ She has an enormous
              wardrobe for her clothes…. …. and a slightly smaller chest of
              drawers for all her knickers.’ Practise with other instances in the
          o Italicisation and exclamation mark for missing! In what do the
              children think this could be read? Read it in different ways and ask
              the children which sounds most effective and ask them to explain
              their reasons.
          o The way NEWS AT TEN is written in block capitals. Ask, the
              children why they think it is written in this way. How would you say
              it when reading aloud?
          o Use of parenthesis (brackets) for providing additional information.

         o The Queen keeps her Christmas message short because she is
              wearing holly decorated knickers. How might you read ‘which is
              why she keeps her Christmas message very short’ to convey the
              Queen’s discomfort?
         o Read the page about the Royal Knickers in an extra posh voice.
         o Whisper ‘Don’t worry about your knickers, Your Majesty,’
         o Read the letter from the Queen using a formal tone of voice.

                               Heaven (PSHE/RE)

      Lilly and Dill have different ideas about Heaven. Why is that?
      What would your most perfect place be like?
      Why does Lilly appear to be cross with Dill?
      There are no words on the pages following the one where the Angel tells
      them that their time is up. What do you think Lilly and Dill are thinking on
      these pages? Consider why these pages have no words.
      Why does Lilly give her new dog bones with meat on them?

Read or make available other books about characters that have ‘gone away’ for
different reasons:

      Mick Inkpen Wibbly Pig’s Silly Big Bear
      Susan Varley Badger’s Parting Gifts
      John Burningham Granpa
      Posy Simmonds Fred
      Philippe Dupasquier Dear Daddy

In small groups or circle time, talk about people we miss.

Nicholas Allan’s website is:

Selected Bibliography
Jesus’ Christmas Party (1996)
The Bird (1998)
Demon Teddy (1999)
The Queen’s Knickers (2000)
Jesus’ Day Off (2002)
Cinderella’s Bum (2004)
Where Willy Went (2006)
Heaven (2006)
More and More Rabbits (2007)

Hilltop Hospital Series
Perfect Wedding (2000)
Ghost of Hilltop (2000)
Heart Trouble (2000)
Happy Birthday Doctor Mathews (2000)