Teachers’ Notes

 
Hazard River by JE Fison
Hazard River by J.E. Fison is an adventure series for readers aged 8+. The emphasis is on page-turning fun and action – perfect for reluctant readers, but each story also has an environmental message that is worked into the stories without being didactic. The stories work well in a cross curricular unit involving topics related to the environment – habitat destruction, endangered species and marine preservation are all covered.

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The series is written in a fresh, vibrant, and accessible manner. The humour and pace mean that it would be winner if read aloud to the class. The stories would also be ideal for quiet reading periods. There are six books in all: Shark Frenzy, Snake Surprise, Bat Attack, Tiger Terror, Blood Money and Toads’ Revenge.

Front covers are done by Deltora Quest illustrator, Marc McBride.

TOADS’ REVENGE

toads-revenge-cover.jpgWhen Australia’s best-known adventurer moves to Hazard River, Jack, Ben, Mimi and Lachlan want to meet him. But instead of getting to know Just Orsum, the kids end up on his most dangerous and daring mission ever. Where will they end up? And more importantly, how will they ever get back?

Before Reading

Class discussion

What do you do during the holidays?
Have you ever had a real adventure?
What do you know about cane toads?
The title of the book is Toads’ Revenge. What do you think the book is about?
What does the cover tell us about the book?

While reading

Comprehension Questions

Who are the kids hoping to meet at the beginning of the story?
What do the kids try to escape from in Chapter 1?
Where do the kids think they have landed after their surprise trip?
Where do they actually land?
What has changed since they’ve been away?
Who do the kids think can help them?
What is Josh Orsum’s job?
Why have the toads mutated?
How do the kids eventually solve the problem?
What gifts do Ben and Jack receive at the end of the story?

After reading:

The characters

Make a character chart like the following:

Character
Description
Quote
Jack Wilde

Ben Wilde

Lachlan Master

Mimi Fairweather

Discussion Questions:

How are Jack and Lachlan different? How are they similar?
Describe Jack’s relationship with Ben.
Are the four characters a good team? Why or why not?
Why has the writer chosen Jack to narrate the story?

The story

Discussion

Most stories are based on a problem. What is the problem in Toads’ Revenge? How is it solved?

Is it possible to travel to the future?

Do you think it will ever be possible?

Activities on Story

In small groups decide on five important turning points in the story. Find a key quote to support each of your examples. Share them with the rest of the class.

Create a timeline of the events in the story

Elephant Ears from Hazard River - Bat Attack
Elephant Ears from Hazard River – Bat Attack

In small groups decide which part of the book is the most exciting and why. Share your findings with the other groups. Are there any scenes that stand out? Why?

Activities – KLA Specific

SOSE Activities

Research an environmental disaster and answer the following questions:

How did it happen?
What impact did it have on local wildlife?
What was done to clean it up?
What long-term damage was done?
How could it be avoided in the future?

Research cane toads and answer the following:

1. Why were they introduced to Australia?
2. Did they do what they were meant to do?
3. How far have they spread across Australia?
4. What impact have they had on local wildlife?
5. What efforts are being undertaken to control cane toads?
6. What other animals have been introduced as biological control agents in Australia?
7. Have they been successful?
8. What animals were introduced into Australia by European settlers? (rabbits and foxes)
9. What impact did they have?

Science Activities

· Cane toads

Where are they found in Australia and overseas?
What do they eat?
What is their lifecycle?
Do they have predators?

Media Activities

Write a newspaper article about an environmental disaster.
Write an editorial about who was responsible for the disaster.
Draw a cartoon for the editorial page on mutant cane toads.
The film of the book:

In small groups, put together a proposal for a film version of Toads’ Revenge. Include the following:

A brief outline of the story
A storyboard to show how you will film the story
Suggestions for casting. Who will play the various parts?
Suggestions for a soundtrack. What songs could be featured?
A poster advertising the film

Propose the film to your classmates in a presentation

Drama Activity

In small groups of four, choose one scene to present to the class. You will need to write a script and consider the props and costumes you will need.

English Activities

Rewrite one of the key scenes from the point of view of one of the other characters.

Write a letter from Mimi to one of her friends overseas describing the events in the novel.

How do you imagine the future? Write a description.

Write a poem called, “The Future”.

Write a review of Toads’ Revenge. Be sure to give a brief outline of the story and some idea of the kind of reader that might enjoy the story. Post your review somewhere in the classroom. Read the other reviews. Do most people in the class agree on the book?

Research the writer, J.E. Fison. What can you find out about the author in the book itself? What can you find out on the internet? Has the author written other books? Do they sound similar? Are there any in your classroom or school library?

7. Have you read other adventure stories involving children? Write about one of them. How was it similar to Toads’ Revenge? How was it different?

BLOOD MONEY

Blood Money Everyone wants to have cool new stuff – right? So, when Jack Wilde and his friends find a bag full of money at Hazard River, it looks like all of their dreams have come true. But as they soon discover, money doesn’t always bring happiness. Sometimes, it buys a whole lot of trouble.

Before Reading

Class discussion

What does the title, Blood Money, tell you about the story?
Describe the cover. Does it give you any clues about the story?
What is your favourite place to holiday?
Why is it special?

While reading

Comprehension Questions :
What is Jack doing when Ben arrives in Chapter 1?
Who finds the bag of money first?
What distracts Ben when the boys are trying to find the bag?
Why does Jack get angry with Ben?
What happens when Jack and Ben try to hide the bag of money?
What prank does Lachlan play on the boys?
Why does the money divide the group?
Who wants to hand the money to the police?
What plan do they eventually settle on?
What scares Jack in the bathroom?
Where do the kids hide the money?
What do they find in Cranky Keith’s house?
Where does the money end up?

After reading:

The characters

Make a character chart like the following:

Character
Description
Quote
Jack Wilde

Ben Wilde

Lachlan Master

Mimi Fairweather

Cranky Keith

Banana Nose from Hazard River - Bat Attack
Banana Nose from Hazard River – Bat Attack

Discussion Questions:
What would you do if you found a bag full of money?
How would you spend $250,000?
Do you think the kids were doing the right thing when they broke into Cranky Keith’s house?

The story

Discussion

Most stories are based on a problem. What is the problem in Blood Money? How is it solved?

Activities on Story

In small groups decide on five important turning points in the story. Find a key quote to support each of your examples. Share them with the rest of the class.

Create a timeline of the events in the story

In small groups decide which part of the book is the most exciting and why. Share your findings with the other groups. Are there any scenes that stand out? Why?

Activities – KLA Specific

SOSE Activities
The trade in protected animals in Australia.

Research protected animals and discuss why people smuggle birds and reptiles out of Australia and what impact this has on local wildlife.

Make a poster warning people not to smuggle animals, eggs, or animal parts.

Science Activities

Snakes

Research the Red Belly Black Snake to determine the following:

What do they look like?
How big are they?
Where are they found in Australia? Do they appear in any other countries?
What do they eat?
What snake group do they belong to?

There are many different kinds of snakes in Australia. Choose one and make an informative poster with pictures and text. Display it in your classroom.

Despite their reputation, many poisonous snakes are protected in Australia. For instance, the maximum penalty for killing a Tiger snake in most states of Australia is 18 months in jail! Why do we protect such dangerous creatures? Write an expository essay that explores the issues surrounding the protection of poisonous snakes in Australia. Make sure that you include the scientific reasons for protection.

Media Activities

Summer holidays are meant to be fun but at Hazard River, danger lurks behind every tree.
Summer holidays are meant to be fun, but at Hazard River danger lurks behind every tree.

Write a newspaper article about the events on Hazard River and the role of Jack and his friends. Remember that the first paragraph of a newspaper article always includes Who, What, Where, When, and some indication of why the event is newsworthy.

An editorial is an opinion piece that states the newspaper’s position on a newsworthy issue. Pretend that you are the editor of the Hazard River Tribune. Write a piece on reptile smuggling and why you think penalties should be increased.

Draw a cartoon for the editorial page on the issue.

The film of the book:

In small groups, put together a proposal for a film version of Blood Money. Include the following:

A brief outline of the story
A storyboard to show how you will film the story
Suggestions for casting. Who will play the various parts?
Suggestions for a soundtrack. What songs could be featured?
A poster advertising the film

Propose the film to your classmates in a presentation.

Drama Activities

In small groups of four, choose one scene to present to the class. You will need to write a script and consider the props and costumes you will need.

English Activities

Blood Money is based on a real story – two boys found a bag full of money in a creek and decided to hand it in to the police. See if you can find a story in the newspaper that inspires a story. Write your own story.

Write a chapter of Blood Money from Ben’s perspective.

Write another chapter at the end of the book. What eventually happens to the money and Cranky Keith?

SHARK FRENZY

Hazard River - Shark Frenzy by J.E. Fison
Hazard River – Shark Frenzy by J.E. Fison

Jack Wilde and his friends are on holidays at Hazard River when they discover a dead shark washed up on the sand. It has no fins. Is it the work of a monster shark… a giant squid … or pirates? The gang decides to investigate. But finding out what killed the shark lands the kids in a whole lot more trouble than they ever imagined.

Shark Frenzy is a fast-paced and often hilarious story that will grab young readers and hold them from the first page to the last. The self deprecating narrator, Jack Wilde, has a voice that will appeal to readers. There is something very down to earth about this boy who loves adventure but isn’t always totally sure if he is really brave enough to handle it. The scrapes that he gets into will remind young readers of their own adventures, imagined and otherwise. The holiday setting will provide a welcome bit of escape for students working their way through a long winter term.

Teaching the book

Shark Frenzy is a story that might remind readers of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, Famous Five, and Adventurous Four series. The story takes place in during a family holiday at the aptly named Hazard River. The narrator Jack Wilde relates the story in a humorous manner. The other characters, his little brother Ben, and his two friends, Lachlan and Mimi, are well drawn and distinctive characters. Like Blyton’s stories, the plot revolves around a mystery. The children investigate and eventually foil the bad guys. But the writer, J.E. Fison, has updated the bad guys. Blyton’s German spies have been replaced by environmental criminals. In this story, grey nurse sharks are being mutilated for their fins and left to die in a cruel manner. The fact that this is taking place in a marine park makes the crime even more despicable. Thus, the story will work well in a cross curricular unit involving topics related to the environment, animal cruelty, or preservation. Fison provides interesting information on the sharks and the Queensland environment. Throughout the book, there are points where it would make sense to research further or develop some kind of project based around the sea life or the issues presented.

But it is also a book that will work well for the more reluctant readers in the class. It is written in a fresh, vibrant, and accessible manner. The humour and pace mean that it would be winner if read aloud to the class. But it might also be a good one to hand to a particular student in a quiet reading period.

Facts

The grey nurse shark is one of Australia’s most endangered marine species. They were hunted almost to extinction in the 1960’s because people wrongly believed they were man-eaters. It is estimated that there are fewer than 500 left along Australia’s east coast. The grey nurse is not considered dangerous to people. Their teeth are designed to catch small prey such as fish, squid and crustaceans.

Grey nurse sharks are threatened by fishermen accidentally catching them and shark finning. Shark finning, where the shark’s fins are cut off (often while they are alive) and the carcass is thrown overboard, is banned in Australia. Sharks without fins drown or die of starvation. If things don’t change, the grey nurse shark could be extinct within 40 years.

Before Reading

Class discussion

What do you do during the holidays?
Have you ever had a real adventure?
What do you know about sharks?
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie or a TV show about sharks? How did it portray them?
What are the most popular kinds of stories about sharks? Why?
The title of the book is Shark Frenzy. What do you think the book is about?
What does the cover tell us about the book?

While reading

Comprehension Questions

What deal does Jack make with the sharks?
What is Lachlan doing when he is introduced by Jack in chapter 1?
Who finds the shark?
Describe the joke Lachlan plays on Jack.
What is the difference between Jack’s view of Hazard River and that of his parents?
Why is Lachlan the ‘King of Hazard River’?
Who does Lachlan think has killed the shark?
What is the other suspect?
What does Ben want to do with the Giant Squid?
How do the boys get to Pelican Island? Why do they go?
How does Jack feel when he is driving the boat?
What do they find on the island?
What happens to Ben? What does Jack do?
How does Ben change the story?
What does Jack think of Mimi? Why?
Where do the children find the word ‘Killer’?
What do they find while they are playing cricket?
What does Mimi say about pirates?
Why do they go to Flat Rock Island?
What is Ben’s reaction to the notion of a ‘marine park’?
What happens when they ‘cross the bar’? Why?
What is the purpose of the marine park?
What does Jack observe when he spies on the fishermen?
What is Mimi’s explanation?
Describe the fishermen’s shack. What do they find there?
How does the story end?

After reading:

The characters

Make a character chart like the following:

Character
Description
Quote
Jack Wilde

Ben Wilde

Lachlan Master

Mimi Fairweather

Discussion Questions:

How are Jack and Lachlan different? How are they similar?
Describe Jack’s relationship with Ben.
How do Jack’s feelings about Mimi change in the course of the story?
Are the four characters a good team? Why or why not?
Why has the writer chosen Jack to narrate the story?

The story

Discussion

Most stories are based on a problem. What is the problem in Shark Frenzy? How is it solved?

Activities on Story

In small groups decide on five important turning points in the story. Find a key quote to support each of your examples. Share them with the rest of the class.

Create a timeline of the events in the story

In small groups decide which part of the book is the most exciting and why. Share your findings with the other groups. Are there any scenes that stand out? Why?

Activities – KLA Specific

SOSE Activities

Marine Parks

Research Marine Parks and answer the following questions:

How many marine parks are there in Australia?
When and why were they established?
How are they policed?
Choose one and, in small groups, prepare a short talk that outlines the size of the park, its purpose, and the sea life found there. Use a map to show the other class members where it is in Australia.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Create a poster for visitors to Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The poster should be both informative and attractive. Think about what information will appear on the poster and what images you will use. Consider the purpose of the poster. What is the best way to introduce the park to visitors, especially those from overseas?

Illegal Fishing

Illegal fishing remains a serious problem. Research the issue and find an example of a sea creature that is illegally fished. Share your findings with the class and be sure to answer the following. Why do people fish illegally? Why do they want the sea creature you have chosen? Is it a culinary speciality? Why is it so prized? How much money do people make? What are the punishments for fishing this particular creature?

Science Activities

· Sharks

There are two kinds of sharks mentioned in the book, the bull shark and the nurse shark. Research one of these to determine the following:

Where are they found in Australia and overseas?
What do they eat?
How big are they?
Do they have predators?
Are they a threatened species? Why? How are they being protected?

Share your findings with a partner who researched the other type of shark.

A debate on Sharks:

Sharks are very controversial creatures. In Shark Frenzy, Jack considers the idea that the ‘only good shark is a dead shark’ briefly before succumbing to Mimi’s ‘web of life’ argument. Divide into two teams with three members each and debate the following proposition:

“Sharks are too dangerous to be protected”

One side will agree and the other will disagree. The first speakers will introduce the main arguments. The second speakers will respond to the first speakers’ points and introduce further arguments. The third speaker will address the other sides’ arguments and summarize their own main points. The rest of the class will vote to determine the winning team.

Media Activities

Write a newspaper article about the capture of the illegal fisherman and the role of the kids.

Write an editorial about illegal fishing in the Hazard River area with reference to the Shark Fin incident.

Draw a cartoon for the editorial page on the issue.

Write a letter to the editor defending the fishermen.

The film of the book:

In small groups, put together a proposal for a film version of Shark Frenzy. Include the following:

A brief outline of the story
A storyboard to show how you will film the story
Suggestions for casting. Who will play the various parts?
Suggestions for a soundtrack. What songs could be featured?
A poster advertising the film

Propose the film to your classmates in a presentation

Drama Activity

In small groups of four, choose one scene to present to the class. You will need to write a script and consider the props and costumes you will need.

English Activities

Rewrite one of the key scenes from the point of view of one of the other characters.

Write a letter from Mimi to one of her friends overseas describing the events in the novel.

Have you ever had an adventure on a holiday? Write it up and read to the other members of a small group.

Write a poem called, “Shark”.

Write a review of Shark Frenzy. Be sure to give a brief outline of the story and some idea of the kind of reader that might enjoy the story. Post your review somewhere in the classroom. Read the other reviews. Do most people in the class agree on the book?

Research the writer, J.E. Fison. What can you find out about him in the book itself? What can you find out on line? Has he written other books? Do they sound similar? Are there any in your classroom or school library?

7. Have you read other adventure stories involving children? Write about one of them. How was it similar to Shark Frenzy? How was it different?

SNAKE SURPRISE

Hazard River -Snake Surprise by J.E. Fison
Hazard River -Snake Surprise by J.E. Fison

Jack Wilde and his friends are on holidays at Hazard River when they discover a dead shark washed up on the sand. It has no fins. Is it the work of a monster shark… a giant squid … or pirates? The gang decides to investigate. But finding out what killed the shark lands the kids in a whole lot more trouble than they ever imagined.

Snake Surprise is part of a series of books involving Jack Wilde, his little brother Ben, and his friends Lachlan and Mimi. The stories have instant appeal primarily because they are set in the school holidays. In a long term at school, Snake Surprise will bring back good memories of the last holidays and get them thinking about the next set. The novel is fast paced and filled with gentle humour. The issue raised in the story pits the forces of construction and development against conservation and the protection of wildlife. It is an important issue and one that should inspire discussion and persuasive writing.

Teaching the book

Snake Surprise would fit well into a themed cross curricular unit on the environment or the Australian landscape. Fison weaves plenty of information about Australian flora and fauna into the stories without ever coming across and heavy handed or didactic. The setting of the story, Hazard River, which is near an ocean beach, is described in richly evocative terms. Students who have visited Queensland or Northern New South Wales will immediately recognize the landscape. This element along with the fact that the story takes place during the holidays means that the book could be an excellent starting point for some descriptive or reflective writing. For teachers looking for a way to deepen the creative writing skills of their students, Snake Surprise should provide some inspiration. Fison’s writing style is highly accessible. The self-deprecating and humorous first person narration provided by Jack Wilde will provide students with a model for developing a personal writing style.

The problem that drives the narrative is the conflict that occurs when development and conservation collide. There are countless examples of these situations and it should be easy to find one in the newspaper or on line. It is an issue that students may even have some experience of in their own neighbourhoods. The protection of animals is a side issue that can also be explored. Fison’s detailed description of the snake might also be a starting point for a discussion of the kinds of fauna that are protected and in what manner.

But Snake Surprise is a good read too and one that might just grab the attention of a reluctant reader or a student who needs to build some confidence in this area.

Facts
Australia’s koala population has been devastated over the last hundred years and is currently under great threat due to urbanisation and massive, uncontrolled habitat destruction. Although Koalas are not listed as endangered by any Australian state, continued clearing eventually leads to koala populations being isolated in small, fragmented parcels of land. They become totally cut off from other populations and extremely vulnerable to dog attacks and motor vehicle accidents. Bushfires are another major threat, as they become trapped at the top of trees and have the exposed skin areas on their hands, feet and face burnt, and they often succumb to smoke inhalation. Those that do survive often starve to death as their food supply may take several weeks to re-grow. Local extinctions occur because these devastated areas cannot get replenished. The current koala population is believed to be between 40,000 and 100,000 animals.

Before Reading

Class discussion

What does the title, Snake Surprise, tell you about the story?
Describe the cover. Does it give you any clues about the story?
What do you think of snakes?
Why are people frightened of snakes? Is it only the poisonous quality?
Why do people want to protect some places from building and development?
What is the purpose of nature reserves?
Is there a place that you love and would not like to see change? Why?

While reading

Comprehension Questions

Why are Jack, Lachlan and Mimi playing Monopoly?
What does Ben see out the window?
What is the Zingarra?
What theories do Jack and Ben have about the abandoned houseboat?
Describe the condition of the boat. What is Mimi’s theory about the mess.
Describe Lachlan’s prank.
What message do they find on the boat?
What happens to the message?
What kind of snake do they find on the boat? What is it doing?
What do they find in the cake tin?
What do they find out about the owner of the boat?
How do the kids get to Breakneck Island?
What do they find in the shed on the island?
What do they find out about James’ brother?
Who gets caught by Iggy?
What does Mimi do while she is captured?
How does Jack rescue Lachlan and James?
Why has James sorted out the problem?
What restaurant does James own? What promise does he make to the kids?

After reading:

The characters

Make a character chart like the following:

Character
Description
Quote
Jack Wilde

Ben Wilde

Lachlan Master

Mimi Fairweather

James Forsyth-Snugglebottom

Money Mad Iggy

Mr Beachball-Belly

Discussion Questions:

Is Jack the hero of the story? Why?
What kind of a person is James Forsyth-Snugglebottom
If James and Iggy are brothers, why are they so different? Are most brothers similar?
What part does Mimi play in rescuing James and saving the island?
Why has the writer chosen Jack to narrate the story?

The story

Discussion

Most stories are based on a problem. What is the problem in Snake Surprise? How is it solved?

Activities on Story

In small groups decide on five important turning points in the story. Find a key quote to support each of your examples. Share them with the rest of the class.

Create a timeline of the events in the story

In small groups decide which part of the book is the most exciting and why. Share your findings with the other groups. Are there any scenes that stand out? Why?

Activities – KLA Specific

SOSE Activities

· Protected Areas in Australia.

James Forsyth-Snugglebottom wants Breakneck Island to be a place where koalas and their natural habitat are protected. Australia has many areas that are protected.

Research Protected Areas in Australia and answer the following questions:

What are some of the different types of protected areas in Australia?
What are some of the reasons that protected areas are established?
How are they policed?
In small groups choose one of the following types of protected areas. Research it and deliver a short talk to the rest of the class:

National Parks
Botanical Gardens
World Heritage Listed Sites
Historic Shipwrecks
Antarctic

Be sure to give examples of each and explain how and why they became protected areas.

Fraser Island

Research Fraser Island and find out why it is a protected area. Create a poster for visitors to Fraser Island. The poster should be both informative and attractive. Think about what information will appear on the poster and what images you will use. Consider the purpose of the poster. What is the best way to introduce the island to visitors, especially those from overseas?

Science Activities

· Snakes

Research Carpet Snakes to determine the following:

What do they look like?
How big are they?
Where are they found in Australia? Do they appear in any other countries?
What do they eat?
Why are they called ‘Carpet’ snakes? What is their real name?
What snake group do they belong to?
Is there a Carpet snake in your local zoo?

There are many different kinds of snakes in Australia. Choose one and make an informative poster with pictures and text. Display it in your classroom.

Many people like Money Mad Iggy are frightened of snakes. Create a survey to find which of your classmates is frightened of these creatures and why. Determine what percentage is afraid of snakes. Are you surprised by the result?

Despite their reputation, many poisonous snakes are protected in Australia. For instance, the maximum penalty for killing a Tiger snake in most states of Australia is 18 months in jail! Why do we protect such dangerous creatures? Write an expository essay that explores the issues surrounding the protection of poisonous snakes in Australia. Make sure that you include the scientific reasons for protection.

Media Activities

Write a newspaper article about the events on Breakneck Island and the role of Jack and his friends. Remember that the first paragraph of a newspaper article always includes Who, What, Where, When, and some indication of why the event is newsworthy.

An editorial is an opinion piece that states the newspapers position on a newsworthy issue. Pretend that you are the editor of the Hazard River Tribune. You are very disappointed that Iggy’s plan will not go ahead. State your reasons in a persuasive editorial.

Draw a cartoon for the editorial page on the issue.

The film of the book

In small groups, put together a proposal for a film version of Snake Surprise. Include the following:

A brief outline of the story
A storyboard to show how you will film the story
Suggestions for casting. Who will play the various parts?
Suggestions for a soundtrack. What songs could be featured?
A poster advertising the film

Propose the film to your classmates in a presentation
Drama Activities

In small groups of four, choose one scene to present to the class. You will need to write a script and consider the props and costumes you will need.

English Activities

‘Snake’ by D. H. Lawrence. Read the following poem:

Snake
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
i o And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Taormina, 1923

What is the narrator’s first reaction to the snake? How does it change?
Why does he lament his ‘accursed human education’?
Why does he call the snake ‘one of the lords of life’?
What does this poem say about our view of snakes?

Write your poem called ‘Snake’. Is it similar to Lawrence’s? How is it different? Why?

Have you ever encountered a snake? Write about your experience? Use interesting verbs to bring the story alive for your reader. If you have never seen a snake, write about an experience with another animal.

Choose an episode from the story and tell it from Ben’s point of view. Remember that he is a very young and imaginative little boy. Use quotes from the book to get his voice right.

Has J.E. Fison written other books? What are they called? Are there any in your library? Read one and tell your classmates about it. How is it similar? How is it different?

Write a short review of Snake Surprise. Post your review in your classroom and read your classmates’ reviews.

HERE ARE SOME EXTRA FACTS ABOUT THE ANIMALS IN THE HAZARD RIVER SERIES:

GREY NURSE SHARKS:
The grey nurse shark is one of Australia’s most endangered marine species. They were hunted almost to extinction in the 1960’s because people thought they were man-eaters. In fact, grey nurse sharks aren’t considered dangerous to people. Their teeth are specially designed for catching fish, squid and crustaceans. Now there are fewer than 500 left along Australia’s east coast.

Grey nurse sharks are threatened by fishermen accidentally catching them and shark finning. Shark finning is where the shark’s fins are cut off (often while they are alive) and the carcass is thrown overboard. It’s banned in Australia, but it still takes place. Sharks without fins drown or die of starvation. If things don’t change, the grey nurse shark could be extinct within 40 years.

TIGERS:
The tiger is one of the world’s most beautiful animals, it is also one of our most endangered. One hundred years ago more than 100,000 tigers roamed Asia, now the numbers have dropped to around 5,000. Three subspecies of tigers have become extinct. The rest live in isolated populations.

Poachers kill tigers to sell their skin and body parts for traditional medicine. Tigers are also threatened by the destruction of their habitat. As forests are bulldozed to make way for agriculture, roads and houses, tigers lose their habitat. They have nowhere to hunt and nowhere to hide when poachers come looking for them.

KOALAS:
The koala is an Australian icon, but it is under threat from the destruction of its habitat. The koala is not endangered animal, but conservationists are concerned because its numbers have declined dramatically in the past 100 years. Between 40,000 and 100,000 koalas are left in Australia.

As land is cleared for housing, roads and industry koalas are isolated in small populations. Those that live near housing can be killed by dogs, run over by cars and have even drowned in backyard swimming pools. Bushfires are also a big threat to koalas. Koalas become trapped at the top of trees and are often burned. The ones that do survive can starve to death because they have no food.

GHOST BATS:
It is estimated that there are only 5,000 ghost bats left in Australia. Our only carnivorous (meat eating) bats are threatened by miners destroying the caves where they live and developers clearing the land where they feed. Ghost bats are also easily disturbed by people visiting their roosts. Ghost bats get their name from their white appearance when they fly overhead. They have long ears and a flap on the end of their nose called a noseleaf. They roost in caves, old mines and deep crevices in rocks.

See also:
Australian Marine Conservation Society
for details on how to protect our oceans.

Author of children's and YA fiction