“Megalopolis is a magnificent city. People come from far and wide to see its sights. One day, there was even a visitor from another galaxy.”
Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné is a very special picture book telling a vertical story. Suitable for readers ages 5+
A Tall Tale
Living in a city that feels welcoming is a wonderful thing that spells the difference between location and home.
When our hero, the little green visitor from outer space, arrives in his Jetsonesque spaceship, he is warmly welcomed by everyone he meets. There are many who wish to meet him, all throughout the city! As the story unfolds (or as we unfold the story), we follow his progress down through Megalopolis for he appears on each page. He attends a spectacular firework display in a dormant volcano, plays hide and seek in the Chinese Gardens and is introduced to the animals in the zoo. There are weddings, near death experiences and many types of brightly coloured cake.
The story text is rich in detail, sweet and funny and captivating. Cléa Dieudonné changes the colour of her text with each page: a neat move that links the words simply but effectively to the pictures. Oh, and the pictures! An artwork unfolds showing the whole of Megalopolis, from the skies above to the depths below and all in between. Colour and detail are the thing here. Balanced use of the full spectrum of colours means that no aspect overshadows another. Whilst searching for our intergalactic hero, we happily take in the rest of the Megalopolis.
There are many things to spot. I loved the animals, especially the dogs- including one very fine pink poodle. As in every big city though, there is evidence of crime. Kids will love finding the cheeky burglars up to no good! No building is the same and there is movement and noise everywhere. You can even see a mermaid…
I took a few photos so you could see how that works:
Gorgeous isn’t it? And honestly, so much better than this in real life where you can really appreciate all the finer detail, the feel of the book and sound of the pages unfolding.
If you’re looking for something totally different with a wide breadth of appeal, you really need to check out Megalopolis. This is a vertical story, beautifully illustrated on fantastic quality thick, resilient paper, that folds out to three metres long. It’ll need to be tough, for this is a book that will be pulled out and enjoyed time and time again. Kids will treasure it. Megalopolis is a great leveller that will be loved by both reluctant readers and established book lovers alike, simply because it’s an entertaining and accessible read.
A vertical story of ultimate glory with something new for you each time you read it.
Notes for Teachers
Hurrah! At last a book that we can all get excited about together! That’s right, even those kids in your class that are struggling to find the right book; that one book that will make them think a little differently, stop reading being a chore and turn it into an adventure. Bold claim, but I absolutely think this book could be just the thing to create a buzz in young readers. Why? Well, read on.
The Class of 2011 and Talk for Writing
A few years ago I taught in a school that streamed by ability for Numeracy and Literacy. In taking the ‘lower’ literacy group, it was no surprise to find even by Year Five, most of them were conditioned to be down on their own abilities and sadly aware that they were labelled as the bottom half of the year in reading and writing. A lovely group of kids with loads to offer, let down by ‘rigorous’ assessment and left to feel like square pegs.
Then one day, I went on a Pie Corbett course which showed me how to help them by working a bit differently. By using Talk for Writing, we learnt stories together and used ALOT of flip chart paper to break down those stories into simple pictures, codes and symbols. For an ex-art teacher like me, it made utter sense. The children came up with actions to go with the symbols and we acted it out and of course they loved it. Plus, for maybe the first time ever, they knew a story inside out.
They were equipped to start planning the next stage of their writing on their own. Out came the rolls of lining paper. They mapped our group work onto it, working in pairs along corridors to construct stories that were many metres long. They changed aspects, made them individual. In short, they owned it. It wasn’t unlike Megalopolis in structure, and it lit up their eyes to work this way. They loved to read it back, walking along their stories as they did so, jumping over it, kneeling next to it but most of all, treasuring it and keeping it safe from nearby careless feet!
For three weeks they worked more or less independently in the name of fiction. I can’t tell you how much they enjoyed it and when they wrote up their stories as more traditional ‘books’ with covers and a blurb at the back, their writing had improved beyond belief. Really, all this good stuff was there in them in the first place, they just needed the time to engage and to look at things in a new way to find out what they were capable of. Best use of half a term’s Literacy lessons ever. Do try it if you can.
The Power of Books
Megalopolis reminded me of that class. They would’ve absolutely loved it. We would’ve left our places, spread it out across tables through the centre of the room and read it together, walking along it, spotting things, taking notes and talking about it. I know they would have seen there were more stories to tell amongst the other characters in the book. They would have run with that, created new tales.
They would’ve said to me “Next time we do Talk for Writing, can we make a book that looks like that?” I could really get kids writing with a starting point like this, let alone reading! The reading part would be easy! Coloured fonts? Stories three metres long? Integrating art and writing? Yes please! Now that would be something worth showing off to mums and dads at parents evening. Rather more exciting than thrice collected evidence of adjectival phrases and far, far more likely to encourage reading and (dare I say) writing for pleasure.
I truly think Megalopolis could add value to learning across the primary age range. From creating happy readers in key stage one, to using it the heart of the curriculum higher up. Teachers are amazing at making links that matter and Megalopolis is full of possibilities. For example, the parallels here between the alien being welcomed into a new world and our oldest pupils thinking about new beginnings at secondary school is just one aspect. There are many more to explore. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use a picture book to kick off your topic work in Year Six? Why not do it? It would certainly give the kids and the adults something to think about.
(Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space was kindly sent to me by Thames and Hudson)