Varjak Paw by SF Said
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When I'm teaching, making resources or preparing for this blog, I'm always picking up and reading children's books. The books I enjoy (and there are plenty I don't) tend to divide up into four main groups:

  1. Books I love due to pure nostaligia: toasty warm blankets of childhood memories, between whose pages I can slip in and wallow for a while.
  2. Books that make great teaching aids: things that make my head pop and fizz with ideas for games, immersive activities, silly songs, and mad discussions.
  3. Books I appreciate, and would recommend to students, but cannot really get into myself: I just can't lose myself in the characters and the story, or I appreciate the genre but it's not 'for me'.

Varjak Paw by SF Said is in the fourth catagory:

  1. Simply great books. No matter the age, no matter the audience.

The plot is simple but deceptively layered, with interesting lessons about family and personal responsibility. It draws readers into a nighttime city populated by stray cats and dogs, and delivers a hero who trains in The Way (somewhere between supernatural cat kung-fu or a feline Jedi 'Force'), led by dreams of a famous ancestor. Despite using familiar themes, Varjak Paw always feels fresh. It manages to blend the epic and personal in a way that reaches out to the reader.

This blog post contains:

A Reading Comprehension
A Verbs of Movement Vocabulary Activity

Varjak Paw is a great book for reluctant readers, a challenge for younger students making the transition from chapter books to longer-form narrative, and particularly good for teaching kids to write action effectively. It has a surprisingly broad vocabulary for a book with a younger target audience (it won the 2003 Smarties Gold Award for the 6–8 years age range). I particulary enjoy reading it out loud with students, and it has the extra benefit of a wonderful sequel for those obsessed with reading a series!

If you haven't already, I hope you pick up a copy. Please enjoy the resources.

Reading Comprehension

download here

This 40 minute comprehension is suitable for 8+ / 9+ or as an early 10+ challenge. The introduction suggests a route for teaching students to always write their best responses, no matter the mark scheme.

Walk Like a Cat

download here

This is a fun way of introducing a whole bunch of new verbs to your student, and stop an over-reliance on "go", "walk" and "run" to indicate a character's movements. Almost all stories have at least some movement, so these are great words to absorb!

As always, if you have any feedback or questions, please contact me at

Monday March 15th, 2021
Monday March 8th, 2021