Sasha and the Wolfcub
About the author
Ann Jungman was born in Highgate, London, where she still lives. Her Jewish parents moved there from Germany as refugees. Ann has written over a hundred books for children. She is the author of the popular Vlad the Drac series, and mythical beasts and monsters often feature in her stories!
About the illustrator
Gaia Bordicchia is based in Northern Italy, and began her artistic career as a wildlife artist, working on magazines and field guides. She then began working on children’s books, and has illustrated the Flying Eye Amazing Animal Atlas, as well as many other children’s titles. Gaia has a wonderful website which showcases much of her work, including that featured in Sasha and the Wolfcub.
About the book
Growing up in a snowy Russian village, Sasha has been taught that wolves are dangerous and very definitely the enemy. When he meets Ferdy, a wolf cub, he starts to question what he has been taught. As the boy and cub grow up, and their paths cross again and again, Sasha wonders if he can persuade others that humans and wolves can exist together peacefully. Reissued with new illustrations, this classic tale explores how we can interact with those very different from ourselves, and learn to appreciate difference as well as enjoying what we have in common.
Week 1: introduction. Front cover only
Week 2: read chapter 1 together
Week 3: pre read to pg 43
Week 4: pre read to pg 69
Week 5: pre read to end
Week 6: review and reflect
Before sharing the front cover, read the Visualisation resource aloud, and allow the children to develop their own image in their heads. You may like to provide drawing materials and ask the children to illustrate the passage. Compare ideas and drawings.
- Are there any words in the passage which are stopping them from fully visualising the scene?
- How have the children portrayed the word steppe?
Introduce the slideshow. This is an opportunity to introduce some vocabulary and images needed to fully access text. You may like to appear in character as a villager, and introduce the children to your village, using the vocabulary listed with the resource as you talk them through the images. Ask the children what they can see.
Share the book and look at the cover together.
- How does this setting differ from the setting they visualised?
- How is it similar?
- Where do you think the story is set?
Read the blurb together. The story is set in Russia.
- What do the children know about Russia? Create a list of things the children know about Russia, and things they would like to find out. You can keep the list to hand and see if you learn more about Russia as you read the story together.
Read aloud to the end of Chapter 1. Ann Jungman sets a scene powerfully, and the chapter ends on a very exciting note! Hearing the story helps establish an ear for the text, and allows children to enjoy the flow of the story without interruption. Encourage the children to follow along with the text as you read.
Let’s Think about It
Open the discussion by asking the children to think about what they liked about this chapter. Share some ideas and write them on the grid, or allow children to note their own thoughts Do the same for dislikes. Puzzles are anything that you are not sure about.
- What do they think might happen?
- What would they like to find out?
The final section is all about making connections to real life experiences and other texts. Do not limit texts to books, it could be a connection to television documentaries for example.
Give the children time to fill in their own grid. Allow the children to share their thoughts, using their grid as a prompt.
Compare and contrast Sasha and Ferdy
Sasha and Ferdy are both the main characters and we will follow them both through the story as they grow up. They share some characteristics, but they are different too. Use what you have learned about the characters so far to complete a double bubble map (see resources) comparing the two. You can revisit this activity again after further reading, to see if the characters become more or less alike over time.
The direct speech on pages 34 and 35 might have confused the children when they read it, as it can be hard to tell who is speaking. Some of it is unattributed and we have to infer who is speaking. This dramatic technique will help the children follow the conversation between Sasha and Ferdy. You may like to take turns so the children have a chance to try out different roles. How do you think Sasha and Ferdy would speak? Use any clues from the text.
Ferdy is very impressed with the Cossack dancing he sees. Children may not be familiar with this dance style. Share the film where Neil Jones from Strictly Come Dancing meets some Cossack dancers and tries to learn how to do it himself (see website resources). You can share this to increase understanding and help the children to visualise what Ferdy witnesses.
- Do you think Sasha is right and you just need the right boots to do it?
Revisit and reread pages 41 and 42 together.
- Why do you think Ferdy wants the boots so much? Ferdy says, no boots, no friendship!
- What do you think he means?
- Do you think that Sasha and Ferdy will see each other again?
- If you were Sasha, would you have given Ferdy your boots?
- Do you think that friends should always give each other whatever they want? Share your reasons.
Revisit and reread chapter 5 together. The text says “But Sasha didn’t see Ferdy again, not that winter, or the next one.”
- How long has passed when they do meet?
- Sasha and Ferdy don’t recognise each other immediately. Why do you think this might be?
- Have you ever not seen a friend or family member for a long time? How had they changed? Were you able to pick up your friendship where you left off?
Put the word friend in the middle of a large piece of paper. Ask the children to add any words they feel have a connection with the word. You are not just looking for synonyms, but any words they feel relate to friend. When you have a good selection, decide as a group how you will sort the words.
- Which ones can you put together? Why?
Look at the groups of words and discuss why they connect.
- Do you think Sasha and Ferdy are friends? Why do you think this?
Should I Stay or Should I go?
Revisit pages 51-54. Should Ivan go to the meeting or not? Ivan thinks it is so important that he should go out in the snow, but Sasha wishes that he would not.
Split the group into two. One group can take the side of Ivan, and one the side of Sasha. Discuss in your separate groups your arguments for going out or staying in.
- Why is it important that Ivan goes to the meeting?
- Why might it be dangerous for him to go?
Divide into pairs of Ivans and Sashas, and see if you can persuade each other that you are right!
Characteristic cards: comparing Sasha and Ferdy’s personalities.
Now you have finished the book, revisit your double bubble map, comparing Sasha and Ferdy.
- Do you think they are similar characters or very different? Use the characteristic cards (see resources) to compare them further.
Evaluate each word, and decide if it applies to Sasha, Ferdy, both characters or neither.
- Do the characters change over the course of the book?
- Are some of the words only applicable at some points in the story?
- Which character did you prefer? Why?
At the dance
- How do you think the other villagers felt when the wolves arrived at the dance?
- How do you think the wolves felt?
- Which do you think would have been more nervous? Why do you think this?
- Have you ever felt nervous about meeting new people who seem very different to you?
Looking at endings
Revisit pages 86 to the end. Ann Jungman has told her readers what happens after the story is over. The villagers continue to feed the wolves.
- Do you like this ending?
- How else might the story have ended?
- How does the ending of this book compare to the ending of The Misadventures of Frederick? That book has a more open ending, and we could imagine what might happen next. Which kind of ending do you prefer?
Review and reflect
What do you think you have learned from the story of Sasha and the Wolfcub? Do you think the story has a moral? Use the theme cards to stimulate discussion about he big themes of the story. Which statements do you think are most apt? Are there any other messages that you think Ann Jungman might be hoping her readers have gained from the story? She wrote her 2004 book the Most Magnificent Mosque, set in Medieval Spain, because she “wanted to show that there had been a tolerant society in Europe a long time ago, and that the Muslims had been in Europe for a long time and had left a great legacy. There is no reason why Jews, Christians and Muslims can’t live side by side.” Do you see any parallels to the story of the villagers and the wolves?
Revisit your list from week 1, where you wrote down what you knew about Russia.
- Have you learned anything new from the story? Can you add new information to your list?
- Are there still things you would like to find out? What might be a good way of finding out this information?
- Have you enjoyed Sasha and the Wolfcub? You might like to revisit your Let’s Think About It grids and add any new thoughts you have, now that you can reflect on the whole story.
- Can you think of anyone you know who might enjoy this book? Now you have finished it, who are you going to pass it on to? Why? Could you tempt them to read the story by describing it in 3 words?
The Boot Print Challenge
In Sasha and the Wolf Cub, the wolves and the humans bond over boots!
Let’s celebrate your Reading Gladiator group, and think about how everyone has different skills to share.
Can each member of the group make a print of a boot, or draw an outline, on a large piece of paper.
Around the print, ask another Gladiator to write something that they appreciate about your contribution to your Reading Gladiators group. Are you a discussion starter? A great listener? A vivid visualiser?