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Captain James Cook loved to sail. He loved making maps (he was very good at it, too) and he particularly loved shiny buttons. In this charming picture book, little ones can celebrate the life of a great mariner and true adventurer.
Join Miss Batts and her class as they tell the story of Captain Cook with a humorous and whimsical school play that's sure to engage the very young. We see the class act out the story of Cook: as a boy watching ships on the horizon, sailing to Canada, then to Tahiti and on to New South Wales (spot the escaping chicken in each of the scenes!). Kids will discover that Captain Cook was the first European to cross the Antarctic Circle and they'll also learn that on his final journey, he never came home again.
Parents, carers and teachers will smile at the familiar set-up of the chaotic school play and the inventive props, and enjoy eavesdropping on the audience as they interact with the performance. At the back of the book, walk through 'Cook's Gallery' and see real life paintings of Cook, his ship and his travels.
Miss Batt's class have been studying Captain Cook and instead of the usual posters and PowerPoint shows, they have turned what they have learned into a play to be presented to their parents as living history.
The story opens with all the usual flurry of such events as the audience greets each other and gets ready to be entertained, while the children sort themselves out on stage. The first scene is of Captain Cook's childhood, and there are the usual latecomers, those with nerves, the "hi dads" and one frightened chook - all resonant with anyone who has produced or attended a school play. As we follow Cook's life and adventures through the voice of the narrator, the actions of the children and some very clever props, there is much for the reader to learn about this remarkable man. And throughout, the chook (who has now escaped the arms of its keeper) is causing concern for the stage hands and humour for the reader. Its encounters with the kiwi, the kangaroo and the penguin are priceless and as it becomes more and more agitated the audience who have been patiently watching their offsprings' performances become a little distracted.
This is the most unique way of presenting old material in a new light that I've seen for a long time. There have been dozens of books about Captain James Cook because of his place in our history, and yet McCartney and Booth have created something new and interesting that will engage the audience as well as teach them and perhaps even have them clamouring to produce something similar as they delve deeper into his life. Even though the text itself is written in a style reflecting that of a narrator so there is little embellishment on the basic facts (apart from Cook's love of shiny buttons), the details in the illustrations bring the story to life. Unlike some picture books, there has clearly been a close collaboration between author and illustrator as characters, props, movement, speech bubbles and, of course, the chook add animation and understanding so that even the very young (or those just learning our language and history) will begin to get a sense of who this man is. For it is a story about the man - the mariner, the father and the adventurer - and not that of the impact that such exploration had on the lives of indigenous peoples or other considerations of his explorations. That is a discussion for an audience much older than the one intended for this book.
However, it could serve as a model for understanding what a biography is, the sort of information that that genre contains, the range of sources that can be used to gather it and check its veracity, and even a model for the children to write their own play about someone else. Such an approach would incorporate many strands of the curriculum, differentiating it so each has something to offer and show students that history need not be dull and boring.
It is also the perfect introduction to the National Library of Australia's collection of artefacts relating to Cook, his journeys and his life and there are pages at the back that show some of what is available in the library and online. http://www.nla.gov.au/search?search_api_views_fulltext=james+cook Teaching notes are available at http://publishing.nla.gov.au/documents/This%20is%20Captain%20Cook.pdf
Definitely one for the collection.
This is the story of Captain Cook as portrayed by Miss Batts’ class in an evening school performance. There are many layers to this clever book, which places the reader in the audience. The written text, which makes me think of a voice-over, is a simple telling of James Cook’s life; how he grew up on a farm, moved to the seaside, joined the Royal Navy, was promoted to Captain and given his own ship, the Endeavour, to sail to Tahiti and find the Great Southern Land. After mapping New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, he returned home to see his family before setting off on more voyages. He was very good at navigating by the stars and drawing maps and apparently he loved the shiny buttons on his uniform! This story is played out by the children on stage, with the imaginative use of various props, and an anxious Miss Batts hovering in the wings and guiding proceedings. The front row of the audience is silhouetted along the bottom of each page and we follow their reactions, both visually and in the form of occasional speech and thought bubbles. Also, at the beginning of the play a chicken escapes from a little boy’s arms and throughout the play there are many attempts to re-capture it as it wanders around the stage. The illustrations in this charming book capture all the earnestness, innocence and chaos of a school play, and there are lots of visual elements to explore. At the end of the book you’ll find Cook’s Gallery, featuring several items from the National Library of Australia and a link to their website if you’d like to see more. Highly recommended. Australian. (4-7years) MC