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Introducing ‘Lizzie and the Birds’ by Dawn and Mick Robertson

image002Our first picture book has recently been published by Prim Ed and we are absolutely delighted to share it with everyone. It has taken a long time to reach the bookshelves, for a number of reasons, but that makes it even more exciting to see it for sale.
As a Literacy Consultant, I spend a great deal of time showing teachers how to use high quality texts to raise standards in all areas of English. Over the years, teachers have always asked me why I didn’t create my own picture book as I was so passionate about them and was married to an artist. It made perfect sense! Mick and I wanted to create a book that would be loved by children but also used by teachers to show their pupils how to bring their reading and writing to life. Once we had a draft I was able to use the book with a number of pupils and teachers across the North West of England, and then use their responses to help develop the book further.


The plot:

Lizzie has just moved into a new house with her father and loves the snowy mountains and the bubbling stream but feels really lonely. She desperately wants to make friends and one fateful night there is a terrible storm that brings a raggle taggle group of birds into her life! She is ecstastic as she’s found all the friends she could ever need but her father isn’t so sure. How can he live with a house full of squawking and pooing? It’s up to Lizzie to change his mind!

Using the book:

We wanted to give children lots of characters so there was a bird for everyone to love, talk about and feel connected to:


This picture could be used for discussion by all year groups. Descriptive pieces about the birds can be modelled by the teacher and then pupils can independently pick their own characters to write about. This is a perfect opportunity for children to show if they have understood the skills that they have been taught, at the appropriate level. Here is a Year 2 example:
















One morning, at ten past sunrise, a whirling, spinning, dust-spitting tornado crashed down from the sky and turned everything upside down:









This is a perfect opportunity for children to explore what happened next. This could take the form of an eye-witness report, a newspaper article or a television broadcast.

One school actually captured the impact of the tornado in their classroom!
This could then lead to writing the newspaper reports:




Year 2 example Year 4 example

Children also really enjoyed writing in role as the tornado and here you can see the teacher’s guided response with her Year 2 class:



Soon Lizzie’s house was full of birds of every shape and size and they needed her help!



This is a great opportunity to explore dialogue with your pupils as all the different birds speak in completely different ways. Chiff and chaff can’t agree about anything, Whizzling sounds like a Knight of the Round Table and Bluebeak is a pirate adventurer Ohh Ahh!

Lizzie is delighted to see them, but her cat Buster has different ideas. He tries to gobble them up but they stop him by eating cocoa zebras that make them turbo charged! Children love writing in role as Buster and they could write a letter of apology from him to the birds:



The rest of the book explores how Lizzie tries to persuade Dad to let the birds stay in her home. Eventually, she even creates a campaign for saving her friends and their wonderful silver birch tree:



There is so much news at the moment about saving the trees on our planet, that this could lead to a whole school project. This wonderful poem by Rob McFarlane (shared on Twitter @RobGMacfarlane):



image029The Teacher Handbook:

I really wanted teachers to have everything they needed at their fingertips for teaching all areas of the English curriculum, so I used my knowledge of text-based learning to create a teacher handbook. The handbook systematically shows teachers how each spread of the book can be used for speaking and listening, reading and writing activities across all the year groups. Each spread is also supported by downloadable power-points and a number of resources, such as word banks, synonym circles and writing frames.

At the beginning of the text, I have created a quick overview, so teachers can see the variety of learning outcomes that can be attained from different pages in the book. Here is an extract:






There are teacher notes to support all aspects of teaching with detailed guidance and all resources needed to teach in an innovative way:





The handbook is packed with ideas for cross-curricular activities, including art work and D.T. :



I also wanted the whole text to be written out so that it could be used for guided reading and text marking:


I believe it is vitally important for comprehension to be linked to high quality texts:


I was also fortunate to be able to use my friend Maddy Barnes (@Moonmaddy) approach to reading, by utilising her reading mat structure:


@Moonmaddy and I were also keen to link a grammar, punctuation and spelling test aimed at the end of KS 1 directly to Lizzie, so teachers could see how this could be developed for other year groups:


A number of schools have started using Lizzie and the birds. Some have used it in specific year groups, whilst others have taken a whole school approach:

Plantation Primary Liverpool:

All year groups worked on Lizzie and the birds and produced their own version of how Lizzie tried to save the tree with the help of all the birds.

Teachers cleverly welcomed their pupils into their rooms by creating the silver birch tree and the birds or filled their rooms with Lizzie and all her feathery friends:

The school produced some wonderful pieces of writing including character descriptions and newspaper accounts:










Some pupils chose a character and then wrote the prequel to the story:










Other pupils created tweets for individual characters:


Texts that can be explored alongside Lizzie and the birds:

This is a wonderful non-fiction text which would make a great companion to Lizzie and the birds as the children could learn all about feathers!


Lizzie and the birds is also a wonderful addition to a topic on FLIGHT as Lizzie almost flies herself at the end of the story, just like Amelia Earhart!


You can purchase your Lizzie and the Birds book and Teacher Resource book from our website here or pop into see us.


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