Teacher resources for Gastronauts

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

I’ve pulled together a bunch of free resources for teachers (and interested kids). You can find the full set on my website, but here’s some of my highlights:

Teaching Notes

Heaps of ideas for discussion and links to curriculum.
Download the teaching notes (pdf).

Read a free sample

Read the first 16 pages before you buy the book.
Also great for using to read the start of the book to a class.
Download the free sample (pdf).

‘Make Your Own see-through body’ activity

This is a super fun activity. You need scissors, glue, string and a piece of A3 coloured card – and a print out of the worksheet for each student. (And don’t forget to print the teacher cheat-sheet for you.)
You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

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World Change Challenge 2018

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  • Did you know that there are nearly 800 million people in the world who can’t read?
  • Or that two thirds of those people are women and girls?

That’s why I support the amazing charity Room To Read as a Writer Ambassador.

Room To Read is looking for 50 schools around Australia to support 50 girls in the developing world. Each school needs to raise just $365 – that’s enough to send a girl to school for a year.

Two of the schools I’ve visited this year have already got involved. Maybe your school would like to organise a fundraiser around Book Week?

You can read more about the campaign (including more fundraising ideas) on Tristan Bancks’ website.

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9 ways to encourage young artists

When I meet parents at events they often say,

‘my child loves to draw/write/create. How can I encourage their interest?’

Best-selling Australian author Matthew Reilly says, ‘never underestimate the power of your encouragement.’ He writes it in the thank you section at the back of every one of his books; he knows that it got him to where he is today. Encouragement is an incredibly powerful thing; young artists grow when they know that people believe in them and support their interest. (The same goes for adult artists, too!).

My advice comes from my work as an artist (who was once a young artist), my studies in primary teaching and psych (though I’m not a child psychology expert by any means), and my experience of working with kids in workshops. Here’s 9 things you can do to encourage the young writer and/or illustrator in your life … or even your own inner artist.

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Teacher resources for My Dead Bunny

Children’s Book Week is coming up fast: this year it’s August 22nd – 26th.

My latest book My Dead Bunny is shortlisted in the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, in the Picture Book of the Year category.

A lot of older students will balk at the mention of picture books because those are just for babies.

But this book is different.

While it is technically a picture book, it’s definitely not a bedtime story for little ones – it’s for older readers, 8-ish and up (teenagers and adults especially seem to love this one.)

Older kids take one look at this book and know it’s not for babies, so they don’t feel like they’re being talked down to. It’s a great book for looking at rhyming texts, visual narrative/visual literacy and generic conventions. Plus it has zombies in it. Kids love zombies.

In preparation for Children’s Book Week, Walker Books and I have put together some free teacher notes for My Dead Bunny.The notes include heaps of discussion points and activity ideas, with links to relevant behind-the-scenes posts from my blog. It should all make studying the book in class super easy.

Download ‘My Dead Bunny’ Teacher Notes (pdf)

Behind-the-Scenes blog posts

My blog has heaps of posts about the making of the book; each post is tagged with ‘My Dead Bunny’.

View Behind-the-Scenes blog posts

Craft Activity – make your own zombie rabbit softie

Shannon at OhCreativeDay.com has put together this brilliant tutorial on how to create your own zombie rabbit softie.

Blackline Masters

Here’s some fun activities for early finishers – two word searches and two colouring-in sheets. Feel free to download these for use in your classroom.

– My Dead Bunny word search –
Download word search (pdf)
Download solution (pdf)

My-Dead-Bunny-word-search-600px– Zombie vocab word search –
Download word search (pdf)
Download solution (pdf)

My-Dead-Bunny-zombie-vocab-word-search-600px– Mindlessness colouring sheet #1 –
Download now (pdf)

MDB-mindlessness-colouring-1-600px– Mindlessness colouring sheet #2 –
Download now (pdf)

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If you choose to use the book in class, I’d love to hear about how you use it! Please leave a comment below, or send me photos of displays/student work via james(AT)jamesfoley.com.au   [replace the (AT) with an @].


MDB_cover-400pxBuy ‘My Dead Bunny’ now

Booktopia (Australia)
Readings (Australia)
Angus & Robertson (Australia)
Book Depository (UK)

How to make a book for a Giant

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This year’s Perth International Arts Festival will see a 6 metre-tall girl walking down St George’s Terrace. She’s called ‘the Little Girl Giant’, and as part of her visit she’ll receive an enormous book from the children of the City of Perth. I helped schoolkids produce some art for the book. More details on the Giants and the book below.

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“My Place”: whimsical stories from Mount Hawthorn Primary students

Briony and James with student artwork

This year, Mount Hawthorn Primary School invited myself and fellow author/illustrator Briony Stewart to collaborate on a 13-week residency project.

Our project was called ‘My Place’. The aim for each year four student (all 87 of them) was to complete a polished story and accompanying illustration based upon their favourite place in Mount Hawthorn. They also made the amazing map you see above!

Hit the link to see more work by the kids.

Continue reading ““My Place”: whimsical stories from Mount Hawthorn Primary students”

Viking longship-builders in Murwillumbah

These incredible longships were handcrafted by Year 4 viklings at St Joseph’s Primary School in Murwillumbah.

Their teacher Deborah Walker has put in a huge effort. Thanks for bringing the book to life and encouraging the next generation of marauders!

Thanks also to the school’s library coordinator Melissa Fraser for sending the photos.

Melissa tells us the school is busting to read the sequel to The Last Viking. We’re working as quick as we can Melissa- I’ll get on to the artwork in the middle of next year, fingers crossed.


viking ships from St Joseph's Primary in Murwillumbah

viking ships from St Josephs Primary, Murwillumbah

viking ships from St Josephs Primary, Murwillumbah

Make-your-own Viking god or goddess

One of the best parts of school visits is seeing the great ideas that schoolkids come up with. Here’s a bunch of viking god and goddesses, designed by students during children’s book week this year. God of Wind, by Tom Isabella the Goddess of Patterns, by Maddy Bothgolong, God of Fire, by Rohan A portrait of Thor that also folds up into a paper plane, by Christian This guy looks familiar… The God of Literature, by Catherine And finally, Optimus Prime, by Brayden. It’s not a viking god but it looks really cool.

Award-winning Viking display by young berserkers

Norm and I were stunned to see the following Viking-inspired artwork from year 2s at Guildford Grammar in Western Australia.

There’s Viking helmets, self-portraits with rune-encoded titles, and longships all over the place! It’s no wonder they won an in-school Children’s Book Week competition for best classroom decorations.

Well done year 2s. This really made us smile 🙂

guildford grammar display 1

guildford grammar display 2