What We’re Reading Wednesday: Carnegie Shadowing & The Lie Tree

We’re departing from convention a little this week: as the award ceremony draws ever nearer it’s fair to say that CKG fever has well and truly set in and rather than the usual What We’re Reading Wednesday book review we’re looking at activities that could be shared as part of a shadowing group.


It’s often difficult both financially and logistically to get enough copies of any one of the shortlisted books circulating at the same time such that all your readers will have read the same book prior to a shadowing group meeting. I’ve always tended, therefore, to try activities and discussion that whets the appetite of those yet to start reading and allows those that have already finished to share their ideas and enthusiasm with other readers. There’s also a greater sense of group cohesiveness and enjoyment when we’re all focused on the same (hopefully enjoyable!) task, so I tend to stick to one book per meeting.

Our activity for The Lie Tree was based around those kind of straw blow paintings you probably did as a kid. I’m not quite sure how I arrived at this plan – possibly a combination of Frances Hardinge’s vivid descriptions of the tree and the fact that the book was shelf-mates in my Library with fellow Costa winner The Loney. The two front covers certainly made for a striking visual image that chimed with my memories of the unpredictability of painting with straws – the fact that the medium might give our trees a life of their own seemed particularly apt. 

I’d also spotted a wonderful idea on Twitter from the Librarian at St Ninian’s High School, East Renfrewshire, who created their very own Lie Tree looking at the lies people propagate about reading.

the lie tree activity

We started our activity looking at descriptions of the Tree from the text (carefully chosen so as not to give away any clues that might ruin the ending for those who hadn’t started it yet!) and then basically had a lot of fun blowing black paint across the page. Inspired by the St Ninian’s Lie Tree I also asked our Shadowers to think of ways that they could incorporate a ‘lie’ or a mistruth into their artwork. Some decided to focus on just one word whilst others elaborated. The magnitude of the lie also varied considerably from student to student – I’m not sure what this might reveal but it did mean that each tree ended up being individual and a truly personal interpretation of the fantastic language used in the text.

We were all really pleased with the finished pieces – they made for quite a compelling piece of art and it was a refreshing change to have something so demonstrable come out of our group discussions. I’m happy to say too that all the Shadowers have since gone on to read the book.

We’ll be looking at There Will Be Lies next so prepare yourselves for some Coyote based fun next week!


You might also like to read about our reaction to Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree being crowned Costa Book of the Year 2015 in our earlier post.



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