The Peacock Detectives

Exploring the 2019 CBCA Short List: Younger Readers

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Author: Carly Nugent

Publisher: Text Publishing

Themes: Mystery, friendship, family separation, mental health

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 5 and 6; HASS (History), Years 5 and 6; Health and Physical Education, Years 5 and 6; Arts (Visual arts), Years 5 and 6.  

From the publisher’s synopsis: The last time William Shakespeare and Virginia went missing Cassie found them sitting on a coiled hose behind the fire station, and Dad called her ‘Cassie Andersen, Peacock Detective’. So this time she knows what to do — she’ll look for clues and track them down. But the clues lead her in an unexpected direction and Cassie finds herself investigating a confusing mystery about her family.

Unit writer: Helen Cozmescu

Field and context

Building field knowledge

  • Compare information about peacocks from two online sources. Critique the readability, presentation and ease of site navigation from Source 1 and Source 2.  AC9E6LY05   
  • Watch a video clip of the peacock fanning his tail and discuss the changes that occur.  AC9E6LY01
  • Discuss healthy minds. Make a poster of what it means to have a positive mindset. AC9HP6P10  
  • Invite a counselor or school psychologist to provide advice about how to interact with people who are sad or suffering depression. AC9HP6P04  
  • The author lives in Bright, Victoria. Use Google Earth to view Bright and discuss the similarities between Bright and the text’s setting. AC9HS5S02   

Exploring the context of the text

  • Cassie’s family went to church, but her sister decided to practise Buddhism. Visit different places of worship, in the local area and learn about their religious practices. AC9HS6S01    
  • Diana found meditation helpful. Find out about meditation and its benefits. AC9HP6P10    
  • Explore the idea of a ‘peacock detective’ and examine the other investigations, with occurred in the text. AC9E6LY05
  • Explore the feelings experienced by Dad and Cassie when they had one of ‘those days’. How does Cassie cope with ‘those days?” Discuss how Dad’s ornament purchases relate to his feelings. AC9E6LY05
  • Cassie talks about ‘my side of town’ and the ‘other side of town’. Create a map to show the places of interest on her side and the other side of town. Make a map of your own side of town. AC9HS6S02  
  • Cassie makes up stories to explain things she doesn’t like, such as, Mum being a superhero to explain why she moved out. Find other examples from the text. AC9E6LY05
  • Explore the author’s choice of dividing the story into three parts — Autumn, Winter, and Spring and Summer.

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Responding and exploring

Responding to the text

  • Cassie has a great interest in words. Record words in the text that capture your interest and use a thesaurus to explain their meaning. AC9E6LY09  
  • Debate the positive and negative effects which resulted from Diana living in the backyard. Examine her motives for doing so. Discuss if this would be an action you would have taken. AC9E6LY02
  • Cassie tells the reader that ‘themes’ are important in a story. What themes can you identify in this text? AC9E5LE03

Exploring plot character and setting

  • Each character experiences a personal conflict. Explore the tensions experienced by Dad, Mum, Rhea, Diana and Jonas. Discuss how tension for each character is resolved. AC9E6LY04
  • Find evidence of Cassie’s fears and how she confronts them. Explore how she deals with her fear of Rhea Grim, the school playground, and snakes. AC9E6LY04
  • Discuss the inferences that can be made when we find out the other grade 6 girls run away from Cassie (page 42). AC9E5LY04
  • Create an emotions map for Cassie and one for Jonas, to show how the feelings of these characters change. Add to your map quotes from the text, as evidence. AC9E6LY06

Creating texts

  • Cassie includes many tips for authors, throughout the text. Her first advice, on page 1, states that authors should write about topics they know best. Find other examples of advice about writing, and compile a list. Use this list to create your own narrative. AC9E6LY06
  • Make a “Book for Noticing”. Walk around the school making notes of interesting things seen, heard or felt. Share these in small groups. Select one ‘noticing’ and using adverbials of time, place and manner to create a writing snapshot. AC9E6LA06
  • Use a guide to create your own mystery story. AC9E6LA03

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Examining text structure and organisation

  • Examine this narrative against the criteria of a mystery story, including the problem to solve, the clues that are included throughout the text, and how suspense is built. AC9E5LY03   
  • Re-read Chapter 40 about the peacock chase and snake encounter. Identify the techniques used by the author to build tension and excitement. AC9E5LY03  
  • Foreshadowing is used throughout the text. Find examples of how the author has successfully used foreshadowing and discuss how important this element is for mystery stories. AC9E6LY05
  • Finding clues is important to mystery stories. Discuss how the identical stones were important clues in this story. AC9E6LY05

Examining grammar

  • The story is written in first person, with Cassie directly addressing the reader. Discuss the effect that this has on the reader. AC9E6LY03
  • Examine the author’s use of prepositional phrases to indicate where action is taking place.
  • The author hyphenates two or more words, to act as adjectives before the noun. For example, ‘you-don’t-understand-me’ voice; and ‘fourteen-turning-fifteen’ Diana. Find other examples in the text and create your own examples. AC9E5LA06
  • Discuss the metaphor of the jungle used to describe the playground (page 48). AC9E6LE02
  • Jonas explains the meaning of euphemism (page 146). Investigate some euphemisms and why they might be used in writing. AC9E5LA01

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Conduct an internet search on peacocks in art. Students choose an image to focus on, and examine it using the thinking routine — colours/shapes/lines. Compare the artwork to the cover of the book. Discuss how the colours and shapes and lines, used on the front cover prepare the reader to read to the text. AC9E5LE01
  • Explore naïve art design and compare it to the art style used for the front cover. Critique the use of this design. AC9AVA6E01  AC9AVA6E02

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Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Use texts with similar themes for comparison. For example, The Elephant by Peter Carnavas and Helicopter Man by Elizabeth Fensham. Teaching notes (.pdf 858 kB) are available from the publisher.


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