During the cold January days of the UK’s third Lockdown, one freelance project in particular really cheered me up. I’d been commissioned to write a teaching pack to accompany Real Pigeons Fight Crime, an illustrated chapter book for newly independent readers by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood, and although I expected bags of child appeal, I didn’t know how it would fare as an inspiration for creative learning activities.
Happily, Real Pigeons Fight Crime turned out to be a winner on both counts. Rock, Homey, Tumbler and Frillback’s inventively dotty encounters with the forces of evil are fast-paced and hilarious, but the book is carefully crafted with plenty of depth and breadth to inspire engaging and rewarding cross-curricular activities. This book has a kind heart - there’s no casual cruelty for the sake of a few laughs, and I loved the teamwork aspect of the pigeons’ endeavours every bit as much as their eccentric charm.
Are all pigeons the same? Do some have hidden talents? Could pigeons have secret lives that people never see? It was questions like these that prompted Andrew and Ben to explore the possibilities in words and pictures, and a special band of crime-fighters was born.
“We are EVERYWHERE. We are FAST. And we can ATTACK…”
So says Grandpouter Pigeon as he’s recruiting Rock, who has a special talent for disguise. Rock spent his youth in a farmyard where he struggled to fit in. But once he meets Grandpouter, Rock leaves the petty insults behind him and embarks on a very different kind of life. Together with Homey, Tumbler and Frillback, he becomes a Real Pigeon, dedicated to fighting crime and making the world a better place, one mission at a time.
Once recruited, Rock and his comrades engage in three endearingly batty encounters with the forces of evil as they restore peace and harmony to their local park. Their successes are based as much on careful observation, sensible deduction and imaginative insight as they are on eyecatching feats of virtuosity, and teamwork is very definitely the order of the day.
Andrew and Ben clearly enjoy creating the pigeons’ eccentric adventures, and inspire each other to further flights of ingenuity on every spread. Text and images work together in a way that cues young readers and rewards their effort. Short, standalone chapters and fast-paced action also contribute to this book’s appeal.
By definition, emerging readers do not handle texts with thoughtless ease. Books for these audiences need to be so engaging that the labour required to decode them is outweighed by the pleasure gained along the way. But having what it takes to power learning activities in the classroom and beyond is another matter, and it can be challenging to find a title that delivers on both counts.
But Rock and his comrades are the real deal, and well worth inviting into your classroom. Building a topic around Real Pigeons Fight Crime makes sense too - not only will you have plenty of inspiration for a wide range of engaging and productive activities, you’ll be lighting a fire for independent reading, too. With seven books in the series (and lots of valuable extras available for free at realpigeons.com) there’ll be plenty to engage and delight your learners!
Visit realpigeons.com HERE for lots of Real Pigeons material, including access to THE SUPER COO CLUB, a fun series of videos by Andrew and Ben
Here's the first episode, and you'll find lots more HERE on their site
What’s in the resource pack?
The activities in Farshore’s FREE learning resource pack focus on teamwork, observation, imaginative deduction and mystery-solving, and are aimed at children aged 7-10 years.
The pack invites you to enroll your learners in a squad of apprentice crime-fighters and challenge them with a series of training exercises designed to develop their abilities and skills.
There are six sections in the pack, each addressing one aspect of Squad Training. You can dip in and out as you please, or work through every stage.
A downloadable certificate can be awarded to fully-fledged squad members when they’ve completed the challenges.
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