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Review: The Glasshouse by Paul Collins and Jo Thompson

The Glasshouse is quite a dark tale, incorporating themes of mental illnes, perfection and paranoia. With pumpkin-coloured hair and freckles, Clara lives in a glasshouse, growing perfect pumpkins. Each of her pumpkins is identical and blemish free, a little like the fruits and vegetables which we find in our supermarkets. Clara has little contact with the outside world until she notices that other greenhouses,which aren’t so perfect, are encroaching on hers. Clara’s paranoia about her perfect pumpkins grows, until she speaks to a boy who shows her that pumpkins don’t need to be perfect to taste good and that the outside world isn’t as scary as it appears.  The moral of this story appears to be that people who live in glasshouses SHOULD throw stones, as Clara picks  up a stone to smash the windows of her own glasshouse. On it’s simplest level, it’s a story about making friends and taking risks but there is a complicated sub-text beneath the pumpkins.

Thompson’s beatiful illustrations of pumpkins adorn each page, from the early pages with seed germinating, to the final page with pumpkin flowers and curling tendrils. There are lots of opportunities to link to seed growing experiments the requirements of living things. Clara’s pumpkins need light, warmth and fertiliser and we can see the lifecycles of plants with flowers and fruits. I could also see discussion opportunites for what greenhouses do and why they are used, which in turn leads to discussion of the green house effect. It might also be interesting to compare the appearance/taste of fruits and vegetables purchased from supermarkets compared with those from a local farmers’ market or home grown.

There are comprehension questions on the publisher’s website here and a number of activities which touch on other KLA areas, not just science. There are facts such as pumpkins are monoecious, which means they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant.There are also references to different types of gardens/gardening such as hydroponics and vertical gardens.

National Curriculum Links

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 2)

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

  • representing personal growth and changes from birth
  • recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
  • exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things have life cycles

  • making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
  • describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants

Science Inquiry Skills (all levels)

  • Questioning and Predicting
  • Planning and Conducting
  • Pocessing and Analysing
  • Communicating

Author: Paul Collins

Illustrator: Jo Thompson

Ford Street Publishing, 20110

ISBN 9781921665042


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Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Foundation, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Science Inquiry Skills