Oswin is a common cricket. He is far too common for the vain and beautiful poppy, she does not care for his courting. Only when her fair-weather friends leave her, does Poppy heed the cricket’s cry. “I love you as a sand dune loves the wind, as the desert loves a starry night.” Poppy has learnt the true value of Oswin’s loyal heart – but is it too late?
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Reader's Notes for Poppy's Gift
Oswin, the cricket, likes singing. When a poppy appears on his dry sand hill he falls in love and offers to sing for her. But Poppy rejects Oswin’s offer as she prefers the more colourful visitors. However, they soon disappear and Poppy realises that they were only interested in her flower.
Poppy begins to appreciate Oswin’s company. He never sings for her yet continues to affirm his love long after her beautiful flower has changed into a seed pod. As Poppy’s life comes to an end she thanks Oswin for his friendship and begs him to sing for her. He cannot fulfil Poppy’s last wish, he can only declare his love once again and make a little hill for her. Then he goes into hiding for a long time.
Eventually the rains turn Poppy’s hill into a green island and Oswin returns. Overjoyed to see the hill in flower, he finds his voice again and begins to sing. Oswin sings for the little poppies the whole day through until the sun goes down.
Poppy’s Gift is told in a simple, eloquent style with the relationships between characters brought to life through candid and poetic dialogue.
When he came out next day Poppy sighed.
“I’ve been waiting for my friends. But they’ve all gone.”
“I’m here with you,” said Oswin.
“I love you, as a sand dune loves the wind,
as the desert loves a starry night.”
“Oh,” said Poppy, “your poetry is lovely.”
From then on Poppy waited only for Oswin.
Every day she enjoyed his stories and poetry.
Secretly, she began hoping Oswin would sing
for her, too. But he never did.
The author, Guundie Kuchling, was motivated by a general love of nature and a specific love for the Poppy. Poppies are bright and intense in colour,
Research shows that
- plants can create a micro habitat
- plants can have a pioneering role
- poppies are delicate but undemanding, able to live in very dry conditions, the flowers are short lived (in full flower only for one day) and the seeds can sprout in the same season.
The illustrations were designed to present the characters in the story in a stylised but realistic way (in contrast to cartoon and comic characters); to show movement and a change of perspective – panorama views, close ups; to capture the intense colouring of a poppy and correspond the background to the emotional content of the story.
The illustrations were completed using gouache paint. The challenge was to create diverse and varied illustrations even though the story takes place in one location only.
This book works on both a fiction and an information level. The visuals can be read independently of the text with viewers following the natural life cycle of a poppy and the companion creatures in its habitat. A reading of the text and visuals together will open up rich discussion of the value of friendship.
Study Notes / Activities for Teachers
Before Reading Activities
Introduce Picture Books. What age are picture books aimed at? (Early childhood, younger readers, young adults, adults). Ask students to identify what features can be found on the front cover and the back cover of a picture book.
Before showing the students the cover of Poppy’s Gift, tell them the name of the book to be read. Ask them to imagine what the book will be about. Do they think the book will be fiction or non-fiction? What age group will this book be for? What creature could Poppy be?
Ask the students if they have poppies in their garden. Have students draw a flower that they think could be a poppy.
Introduce the cover of Poppy’s Gift. Discuss the roles of writer and illustrator. In this case, it is one person.
Do the students know of other picture books where different people fulfil these roles?
Ask which creatures they can see on the front cover. How many? What are they doing? Are they all equally important? Does the cover, give any indication of the problem or conflict in this story?
Show the illustrations to the students sequentially without reading the text and ask them to orally create a narrative from the visuals alone. Emphasise constructing a voice for the main characters. Share these with
During Reading Activities
Ask students to identify factual information they have learnt about poppies and crickets through reading Poppy’s Gift. Which parts are true? Which parts are fiction?
After Reading Activities
- Why do you think Guundie Kuchling wrote this story?
- Do you think there are ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ in this book? Why or why not?
- How is Oswin being described, in comparison to the other creatures?
- What did Poppy learn?
- What did Oswin learn?
- Ask students to list any words that are unfamiliar. Can they work out the meaning of the unfamiliar words through context?
- Ask students to re-tell the story in their own words.
- Students to select a character from the book and write a section of the story from that character’s point of view. For example, the butterflies might be overjoyed to find a flower after a long journey through the desert, and then be disappointed when Poppy vanishes so quickly.
- Write the story from your point of view. Imagine watching Poppy grow, come to flower, have visitors and die. Imagine what would happen if someone picked Poppy?
- Write a letter from either Oswin or Poppy to an Advice Column. The letters can be placed into a box, then each students draws one out, and writes a letter of advice in reply.
- Write a diary for Poppy.
- Write a character profile for Oswin.
- Pick one scene from the book and act it out.
- Make up a song for Oswin and sing it.
- Act out the first meeting between Oswin and Poppy.
- Cut out a poppy flower with four petals from coloured paper or fabric, put her on the floor. Take turns to represent different characters and approach Poppy.
- Change Poppy so she looks old and wilted (remove some petals). How would you talk to Poppy now?
Society and Environment
- What do Poppy’s ‘friends’ do when she is wilting? Why are they behaving in this way? Can you think of other situations where this attitude occurs? How does Poppy react to her problem? What other ways can you think of? What advice would you give Poppy?
- Why is Oswin helping Poppy? What could happen if Oswin was not there?
- Discuss friendship. What is important in friendship? What makes a friend? Give an example of what a true friend does. Does it matter how old a friend is?
- Does it matter what a friend looks like? Is it important that our friends always look glamorous and beautiful? What qualities in a person makes you choose them as friend?
- What could happen to a friend to suddenly make them look different? Does this change they way we treat them? How do we treat our friends when they do not feel well? Should we treat them differently?
- Do you have older people in your life? Do you know someone who is old and frail? As a society, how do/should we treat old people? Can you imagine growing old? How would you like to be and look?
- How many different species of animals appear in this story?
- Why are these animals interested in Poppy?
- Have the students bring flowers to class, watch them flower and wilt. Take photos/ do drawings of this process.
- Collect seed pods, plant them, watch them grow.
- Discuss the life cycle of poppies and other flowers.
- How long do poppies stay in flower?
- Where do poppies grow?
- Discuss painting and different paints mediums – acrylic, oil, water colour, gouache.
- Have students think of other art techniques that Poppy’s Gift could have been created in.
- Look at the book’s design. Where is the text placed? There are many different perspectives throughout the book – explain close up and panorama view- How do these views affect the way we read the illustrations?
- Use crayons/coloured pencils/felt pens to draw a picture of Poppy and her visitors
- Still life: sketch flowers, paint with brush.
- Fingerpainting: with your fingers, paint Poppy’s hill in flower.
- Use coloured or tissue paper, scissors and glue to make a picture of Poppy and her visitors
- Cork print: Print a poppy island with bottle corks and acrylic
- Foam print:
- a) scratch into foam and print with block printing ink – any of the characters – Poppy/Oswin and Poppy/Poppy’s hill in flower
- b) cut flower shapes from foam and print with block printing ink
- Rubbing: cut flowers from cardboard, put under paper and rub over with crayons
- Make paper flowers
- Use paper, cardboard, paper mache, wire, plasticine, pipe cleaners etc. to create a model of Poppy’s environment, Poppy and all the animals. (eg.sand dunes made from paper mache)
Marketing and Promotion
This picture book is a high quality production for all ages from 0 to 99. The pictures by themselves tell a continuous, life cycle story. The text contains a message about the value of true friendship and loyalty despite old age and fading beauty. Poppy’s Gift can be sold to libraries, bookshops, gift shops, wilderness shops, to the trade market as well as to educational outlets.