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The Girl From the Sea - Margaret Wild and Jane Tanner



Girl from the sea (Margaret Wild, Jane Tanner)

-Upper Primary

-inferring/analysing mood

-analysing and evaluate effects of illustrations

-questioning, author intent

-inferring from images

“Girl from the Sea” is the most recent addition to children’s literature from Margaret Wild, one of Australia’s most prolific picture storybook authors. In this book, it is the illustrator, Jane Tanner, who delivers most of the content worth talking about. There are several discussion points for students, or a whole class.


These illustrations provide a lot of room for analysis. The words are easy to access. They may be intentionally limited, and repetitive, in the manner of a book for much younger children. They will not get in the way of some students who labour to decode texts in upper primary. As such, the pictures can be discussed by most students. There are a few stretches of images without words, with plenty to interpret.

How can I use it to teach? What awareness can students take to other texts?

Mood: there is a lot of scope for students to infer and discuss the mood of this text, and how Tanner (or Wild) achieved it. The words, which sound innocent and could belong in any children’s book, are incongruous with the pictures, that many people will find eerie. There are subtle ways Tanner achieves this: surreal elements around the main character; off-kilter perspective; playing with light and darkness. It could draw obvious comparisons in mood, to Shaun Tan & Gary Crew’s, “The Viewer”, as well as Gary Crew’s, “The Watertower”.

The words, which sound innocent and could belong in any children’s book, are incongruous with the pictures, that many people will find eerie.

In terms of broad comprehension strategies, there is scope for a great deal of QUESTIONING around this, in particular, students raising questions about the text, about the author’s craft. No questions they raise will have clear answers, and so will lend themselves to better conversations student to student.


Connections: There is scope to compare this to Wild’s other works, e.g. Tanglewood, both of which seem to address the need for family and belonging.

It is easy to appreciate the craft in this book, but somehow it fails to resonate, unlike a few of her other works (e.g. Fox). It is however, one in which kids can delight in finding new aspects to images each time they look.

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