Light Horse Boy

Exploring the 2014 CBCA Short List: Younger Readers

Detail of illustration soldier and rider in full gallop

Author:  Dianne Wolfer  Illustrator:  Brian Simmonds

Freemantle Press | ISBN 9781922089137

Themes: Relationships, war, animals, grief and loss

Years: Australian Curriculum: English  Year 6  Year 7  Year 8 and HASS (History) Years 5 and 6. NSW Stages 3 and 4

From the publishers synopsis: In 1914 Jim and Charlie abandon the Australian outback for the excitement and adventure of the war to end all wars. But in the Light Horse they quickly discover the brutal realities of life on the frontline.

Codes: AC – Australian Curriculum: English, History | EN – NSW syllabus for AC:E  | Note AC: HASS links relate to NSW Content for Stage 3

Unit writer: Helen Cozmescu

Building field knowledge

Exploring the context of the text

  • Tom sang ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. Investigate other songs that were popular during WWI and make inferences about their purpose. Use a recording of a song, along with drawings and images to create an Animoto showing life during this period.  ACHASSI133  ACELT1617  EN3-7C
  • Consider how historians use both primary and secondary sources of information. Read accounts of the landing at ANZAC Cove (.pdf 6.7 MB) and compare these to Jim’s description of the event.  ACELY1713  EN3-8D
  • Use Jim’s letters to sequence the events of WWI. Present these events in a historical timeline. ACHASSI125  ACELA1524  EN3-3A
  • Read Anzac Biscuits and compare the women’s contribution to the war with those of Alice. ACELT1629  EN3-8D 
  • The letters between Jim and Alice refer to ‘serving’. Explore the notion of servitude in WWI. Draw inferences to the notion of servitude today, by viewing information about the present day Australian army. ACELT1614  EN3-7C

Responding to the text

  • Flowers are often symbols of commemoration: Alice sent Jim some lavender as a reminder of his mother and of his home. The Poppy has special significance and wreaths are laid every ANZAC and Remembrance Day. Read Their Spirit, Our History and plan a wreath laying ceremony for the school. In groups, students prepare presentations to inform other classes about their learning and the protocols for the school ceremony. ACELY1731  EN3-5B
  • Make personal connections and connections to other texts to discuss the special bond between people and animals. To what extent are the animals — Breaker, Sandy, Rufus the kangaroo and the rooster, significant to the themes in the narrative? How do the animals help provide insight into the human characters? ACELT1613  EN3-8D

Exploring plot character and setting

  • How does Jim feel about the enemy forces? Consider Jim’s attitude towards Mr Becker, Von Muller and the Turks. Support your thinking with text examples.  ACHASSI127  ACELT1620  EN3-5B
  • Students work in groups of three. Each takes on one of the following roles — Jim, Alice or the narrator. Take a scene from the text or create a scene based on your knowledge of the events of WWI and write an interaction between the two characters. Use the text narrative as a model for the narrator. Perform the interaction to the class. ACELY1810  EN3-2A
  • Use a freeze frame strategy to highlight a scene showing interaction between characters. The rest of the class brainstorm what the characters may be thinking or saying. ACELT1620  EN3-7C

Examining text structure and organisation

  • The narrative is punctuated by letters, photographs, telegrams, newspaper reports and illustrations. Discuss the insights that each of these forms contribute to the text. ACELY1735  EN3-7C
  • Light Horse Boy is an historical fiction. What aspects of the text are based upon facts? How does this impact upon our reading of the text? ACELY1731  EN3-8D
  • Jim communicates with Fay using semaphore. Fay is a character in another book written by Dianne Wolfer called Lighthouse Girl. Compare the style of these texts. ACELT1632  EN3-3A

Examining grammar

  • Communication across distance during WWI included the use of letters, telegrams, telegraph and semaphore. Discuss the advantages and challenges of each form of communication and compare the language of these to how we communicate today. Which forms of communication rely on ellipsis? ACELA1809  EN3-6B
  • The author uses evocative language to paint a picture of historical events. Complete a close reading of pages 78–81 and compare this to the language used in an information report of the Battle of Beersheba. ACHASSI133  ACELA1525  EN3-6B
  • The part of the text written as a narrative offers many examples of adverbials. Find examples of these in the text and explore the effect of this language feature.  ACELY1734  EN3-2A

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • The ‘Rising Sun’ badge has become an important symbol of the diggers. Identify the visual elements and what they represent. Innovate on the design to create a badge for the Light Horsemen. ACELT1618  EN3-7C
  • In groups, students explore the charcoal images. Each group chooses an image and discusses how it further adds meaning to the text. Discuss the feelings that the image evokes. Share the discussions with the class and see if similarities can be found. ACELY1735  EN3-3A

Additional resources and links to other texts: Find an Assessment Guide for students engaging with visual and multimodal texts. See also The shape of text to come: How image and text work and A literature companion for teachers. Watch the Light Horse Boy trailer. Read stories with similar themes: The Silver Donkey, Simpson and His Donkey and Gallipoli.

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