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Your English task today is linked to a new book that we're going to start in Class Six!


I'm not going to tell you what it's called yet, though!  Here is the opening passage.  You need to read it and then carry out the tasks or answer the questions that follow.  You could also read it aloud to an adult and ask an adult to read it to you.


Yes’, said Tom bluntly, on opening the front door. ‘What d'you want?’ A harassed middle-aged woman in a green coat and felt hat stood on his step. He glanced at the armband on her sleeve. She gave him an awkward smile.

‘I'm the billeting officer for this area,’ she began.

‘Oh yes, and what's that got to do wi' me?’

She flushed slightly. ‘Well, Mr, Mr ...’

‘Oakley. Thomas Oakley?’

‘Ah, thank you, Mr Oakley.’ She paused and took a deep breath. ‘Mr Oakley, with the declaration of war imminent..’

Tom waved his hand. ‘I knows all that. Git to the point. What d'you want?’ He noticed a small boy at her side.

‘It's him I've come about,’ she said. ‘I'm on my way to your village hall with the others.’

‘What others?’ She stepped to one side. Behind the large iron gate which stood at the end of the graveyard were a small group of children.

Many of them were filthy and very poorly clad. Only a handful had a blazer or coat. They all looked bewildered and exhausted. One tiny dark-haired girl in the front was hanging firmly on to a new teddy-bear. The woman touched the boy at her side and pushed him forward. ‘There's no need to tell me,’ said Tom. ‘It's obligatory and it's for the war effort.’

‘You are entitled to choose your child, I know,’ began the woman apologetically. Tom gave a snort. ‘But,’ she continued, ‘his mother wants him to be with someone who's religious or near a church. She was quite adamant. Said she would only let him be evacuated if he was.’

‘Was what?’ asked Tom impatiently.

‘Near a church.’

Tom took a second look at the child. The boy was thin and sickly-looking, pale with limp sandy hair and dull grey eyes. ‘His name's Willie,’ said the woman. Willie, who had been staring at the ground, looked up. Round his neck, hanging from a piece of string, was a cardboard label. It read ‘William Beech’.


Now answer these questions!  You can write them onto a piece of paper or in a book.  Remember to answer the questions fully, and look back at the text if you need to.


  1. Can you summarise what you’ve read in two or three sentences? Make sure you include who the central characters are and what is happening.
  2. How does the story opening make you feel?  What do you like or dislike about it?
  3. Does the story opening remind you of any other stories you’ve read, or films you’ve seen, or anything you have heard of in real life or history?  How?
  4. Think about how it is written. What parts of this really stick in your mind? Which words and phrases do you like the best?
  5. Clarify: Are there any words you are unsure of the meaning of? If possible, look these up in a dictionary or use an online version, e.g., If you are able to, you might ask someone else if they know the meaning.
  6. When do you think the book may be set? What clues tell you that?
  7. What do you know about ‘evacuation’?
  8. What questions does the opening of the book raise for you?