In February I (Tatia) chose ‘Mable and the Mountain’, written and illustrated by Kim Hillyard for our theme on award winning picturebooks. For this month’s theme of positivity, I have decided to share another picturebook written and illustrated by her entitled ‘Gretel the Wonder Mammoth’, published by Ladybird in 2022.
‘Gretel the Wonder Mammoth’ is the story of a mammoth who has been hibernating inside an iceberg for a very long time. One morning, there is a loud CRACK and the last mammoth on earth breaks free from her icy shell. Everyone is excited to meet her. Gretel is strong, helpful, understanding and kind. She soon makes new friends but as she settles into her new life, Gretel starts to feel a little overwhelmed and even a bit lonely. She is, after all, the only Mammoth left on earth. She begins to wonder how she can live in a world where she does not belong anymore.
I chose this picturebook to use in pre-service teacher education as I often encounter student teachers who question where they belong. Especially when they are learning to teach English and are concerned about their own language proficiency. They often feel overwhelmed, anxious and doubtful. Like student teachers, especially post-Covid, Gretel tries to fix it herself, she spends time alone and prefers to say everything is ok when it is not. She realises that keeping up appearances is hard work and that being alone is making her feel worse. So, in the end, she asks for help. Her friends hear her cry for help, reassure her and soon Gretel starts to feel good again.
My favourite pages are the two pages that visualise emotions and which I think student teachers will be able to associate with as will their learners. This picturebook can give student teachers a boost, it will encourage them to discuss what makes them feel like Gretel and what help they may need before exploring how this picturebook could be used in the PELT classroom. I would hope to hear ideas centred on: vocabulary to express emotions; ideas to practise prepositions of place using the illustrations (picture dictation); ways of introducing / practising comparatives; creating a class-play with links to drama & music and writing a sequel. I believe as teacher educators and as teachers it is our responsibility to support the well-being of our learners and, choosing suitable and meaningful materials, undoubtedly plays a significant role in this. ‘Gretel the Wonder Mammoth’ is a very positive and encouraging picturebook to teach the reader to ask for help.
Best wishes and have a lovely summer. Tatia