The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince Blog Tour

My stop on the blog tour has arrived and I was so thrilled to be asked to be part of this blog tour. I loved Nen and the Lonely Fisherman and this is as lovely, with a sense of wonder and awe evoked through the illustrations and journey of Kai. My review will follow shortly but here is a perfect guest post from author, Ian Eagleton, about using this book in the classroom.

Bringing The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince to Life in the Classroom

I was a primary school teacher for thirteen years, so probably the best part of my job as a children’s author is getting to see teachers and children bringing my books to life in their classrooms. I’ve been thinking about things I’d quite like to do linked to The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince with a class of children but in my experience, there are far more creative teachers out there who will have much better ideas than me! Below are some suggestions and prompts to get you thinking! Do let me know if you have any other ideas!

Setting the Scene

I was thinking that a great way to introduce our story might be to do it one afternoon, when it’s starting to get a bit darker and colder outside at this time of year. The lights could be turned off and you could show this snowy video on your Interactive Whiteboard to set the scene: You may even want a video of a crackling fire as a backdrop! Perhaps you might like to strew the classroom with some of those battery powered tealights and offer the children some hot chocolate to enjoy while listening to the story. You might be one of those teachers who loves Christmas time in schools – I was always a complete Grinch – and have a Christmas tree with fairy lights in your classroom. Oh! You could get the children to make paper snowflakes too! Now, I’m getting carried away! Once you’ve set the scene, spend some time reading and enjoying the story. In my opinion, that’s the perfect thing to do, nothing else required! Alternatively, you might just be able to find five minutes amongst all the chaos of the Christmas nativity play and crying, exhausted children to share the story – whatever you can do is fine, believe you me!


It’s such a dream come to true to have a picture book with maps in it! As soon as I’d written The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince, I asked Owlet Press if we could have maps for the endpapers and I’m so glad they agreed. Davide has created the most magical, strange world and I knew the inclusion of maps would allow me to expand this beautiful land even further, so I spent a lot of time thinking about names and places. Indeed, many young readers have noticed the names of the places on the map and how they’re different at the beginning and the end. The idea behind this was that life can sometimes seem bleak and scary, especially when we’re alone and have lost someone important to us, like Kai has lost his grandmother. Sometimes it takes an epic journey, or a frightening adventure, or love, or friendship to change our perspective on the world. Sometimes it’s just a small kindness or gesture which makes everything seem brighter and happier, especially around Christmas time. Below are some ideas about how you could explore the maps in class.

· Take some time to look at the vocabulary. Perhaps you could get a thesaurus out and explore the language used? Why the Caves of Misery, for example? Why not the Caves of Sadness? Or the Caves of Unhappiness? How are ‘misery’ and ‘sadness’ similar and different? You could encourage the children to find synonyms for each word and then order them from most powerful to least powerful.

· A comparison between the settings might be interesting too. For example, at the beginning of the story we have the Palace of Fear and at the end it has been transformed into the Palace of Possibility. How do the words ‘fear’ and ‘possibility’ link to one another? Are they antonyms? Do they connect in any way? Can you be fearful about the possibility of something? Lots of interesting conversations to have!

· Create a musical soundscape for one of the settings on the map. The children could work in groups and use percussion instruments and their voices to create a spooky, frightening composition for the Woods of Wickedness, for example. Maybe there are strange whisperings and mutterings, and scary animals hooting and shuffling in the trees? How could they bring this to life through music? Older children could create a graphic score to accompany their musical soundscape.

· I do quite like the idea of linking maths to map work too. Compass points and directions could easily be explored here as could co-ordinates and grid references. You could even ask children how many rectangles and squares they can spot in Kai’s cottage! What about adding in distances between each place on the map? How many kilometres is it from the Woods of Wickedness to the Lake of Sorrow? What’s this in metres? What about miles?

· Finally, I thought the maps might provide a starting point for your children to create their own magical, fairy tale worlds. You could give them free reign to design their own story worlds and write stories about them. Perhaps they could create a map for a kingdom linked to a fairy tale they already know – Rapunzel could be interesting! Or maybe they could design an underwater kingdom for a merman. Now, if only someone had written a picture book about a merman and a lonely fisherman…

Imagined Conversations

Something that I always found fascinating as a teacher, and now as an author, is that the whole point of a story is that it takes on a life of its own, imbued with meaning by the people who read it. I’m always interested, especially with a picture book, with what isn’t said in the text. When writing a picture book, I have to try and be as concise as possible and leave room for the illustrations and artwork to do their job. However, very often when I’m writing, I imagine the conversations that characters might have. It’s a great way for me to get to know their personalities and think about their relationships more carefully. Asking your class to imagine what might be said between the characters in a book is a wonderful way for them to develop their own understanding of the characters and to bring some of their own life experiences and ideas to the story.

Let’s start by having a look at these illustrations from the book by Davide Ortu!

· I wonder what the characters might be saying to each other in these scenes from the book below?

· Can the children act out one of these conversations, thinking about their body language, facial expressions, and use of voice?

· Could the characters be saying one thing, but actually thinking and feeling something entirely different? How might you show this in a piece of writing?

What might Kai’s grandmother be saying to him in the illustration on the left? Is she telling him a story about the Snow Prince? Is Kai asking her questions? You could read that deliciously dark opening from The Witches by Roald Dahl, where a grandma recounts spooky tales of witches to her grandson, as an example!

For older children, you might like to encourage them to play around with tenses and include a flashback where Kai is remembering sitting with his grandmother, waiting for the evil snow Prince to arrive. What might they talk about on these frightening, tense nights?

In the second illustration, I’d definitely spend some time focusing on the characters’ body language. Doesn’t the Snow Prince look so excited and proud! I wonder if he’s showing off his magical, snowy kingdom? Is Kai in awe or is he absolutely terrified? Before writing their own imagined conversations, you could always give the children an example of a conversation they might have and ask them if they can punctuate it correctly. For example:

Look! Look below! exclaimed the Snow Prince. Aren’t the frosty trees beautiful?

Kai shuddered. He was too busy gripping tightly onto the side of the icy sleigh to look. But the Snow Prince didn’t seem to notice. He was beaming with pride and standing proudly at the front of the sleigh, which flew silently through the diamond-studded night sky.

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? the Snow Prince continued.

I…I…I think I’m going to be sick, Kai groaned.

Of course, that’s just one conversation they might have and that’s the beauty of encouraging your class to think of lots of imagined conversations – the possibilities are endless! Perhaps it’s Kai who can’t stop talking and asking questions? Perhaps the Snow Prince is silent and aloof? Who’s to know! I wrote the story and I’ve no idea what they might be saying to each other!

Winter art

I absolutely adore exploring how different artists have represented winter over the years and I think it’s a really worthwhile activity to do with children. You could talk about the colours and techniques used, the composition of each piece, the mood and tone created by the artist and maybe even have a class vote on their favourite piece of winter art. Below are a few of my favourite wintry scenes which you could explore and recreate with your children.

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565)

Winter Landscape by Wassily Kandinsky (1911)

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Glacier Crystal, Grindelwald 1950

Perhaps you could work as a class to recreate a huge replica of one of these fabulous pieces or art? It could form the backdrop to your own winter stories and poems. Maybe the art will inspire your children to create their own snowy landscapes and explore a range of techniques and materials.

However you decide to use our book in your classroom, we really hope you enjoy Kai’s magical journey. It’s a story about bravery and resilience and going to the ends of the earth to search for love and acceptance. I feel so lucky to have been part of creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive Christmas fairy tale!

And if you do decide to do any of these activities in class, please do let us know – it’s so lovely seeing photographs of children’s work. It’s one of the things that makes my job as a children’s writer one of the best jobs in the world!

The Woodcutter and The Snow Prince by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by Davide Ortu, is published by Owlet Press. Out now, £7.99 paperback.

1 Comment

  1. Loved reading this guest post by Ian. We too were huge fans of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman and can’t wait to read his latest book The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince after reading this. What a fabulous lot of ideas on ways to explore the book. Very much loved the idea of setting the story scene with battery powered tea lights on a dark autumnal or winter afternoon with cups of hot chocolate. Maybe I’d add a couple of cheeky marshmallows. Looking forward to reading your review.


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