Published by Random House Children's . Authored by Philip Pullman. Illustrated by Peter Bailey.

Recommended for: Year 6.

Suggested length of study: 3 - 4 weeks.

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Why the book was selected

Clockwork is a tale filled with suspense and holds great appeal for readers who enjoy their reading matter to give them a fright. Reading the story together is a supportive way of introducing this genre to more sensitive readers. The multiple narratives and sophisticated themes make this short book a challenging read. Philip Pullman is an expert craftsman, and his mastery of the written word makes this an excellent novel for language study.  The complex structure and interlocking narratives provide plot twists and turns which are revealed through close reading and reflection.

About the author

Philip Pullman worked as a teacher both of children in middle schools and trainee teachers and has maintained a passionate interest in the world of education ever since. He writes mostly for children and is probably best known for ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy of fantasy novels. He has won many awards for his writing; most notably The Amber Spyglass was the first children’s book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year.

About the illustrator

Peter Bailey is known for his timeless monochrome line drawings and has illustrated over 140 children’s books working on books for authors such as Allan Ahlberg and Dick King-Smith. His long term collaboration with Philip Pullman has been recognised as one of the great illustrator/writer partnerships.

A note about lessons

Our lessons are organised as meaningful chunks of learning. Most of them will fit a standard 45 minute to 60 minute session. However, some of them are shorter and others will run for a series of linked sessions. It is anticipated that you will not teach all the lessons. Select those that suit the needs of your class and add them to your personalised plans.

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Text potential

Lessons for this book

Before Reading


Welcome to the White Horse Tavern

Setting the scene for the story and establishing genre.


Call My Bluff

Playing a game to learn new vocabulary which is introduced in the preface.

During Reading

First Encounters

Clockwork: A Preface

Reading the preface and considering the purpose of a preface.

Pages 7-9

Setting the Scene

Visualising the White Horse Tavern.

Pages 11-21

Dr Kalmenius

Exploring the character of Dr Kalmenius.

Pages 21-27

What Would You Do?

Using drama to explore Karl’s dilemma and consider the consequences of actions.

Pages 27-45

How Will the Story End?

Posing questions about the story so far before making predictions.

Pages 47-65

How They All Wound Up.

Reading to the end and using a literature circle to explore personal response to the story.

Required reading: Whole book

Digging Deeper

Plotting Clockwork

Summarising and sequencing the key events of the story.

Required reading: Whole book

Who is Telling the Story?

Exploring the role of the narrator and identifying the different narrative voices in the story.

Required reading: Whole book

Investigating Punctuation

Using Echo Reading to support understanding of multi-clause sentences and investigating the use of punctuation.

Required reading: 11-12, 17, 50-51, 83-4

What’s in a Name?

Investigating the meaning and significance of character names.

Required reading: Whole book

Building Suspense

Looking at techniques that build suspense.

Pages 78-81

‘He’s not a cheerful fellow at the best of times.’

Digging deeper into the character of Karl with Readers Theatre.

Required reading: 16-17, 37-40, 70-73, 78-81

Character Inference

Exploring how we can make inferences about characters from the way they are described.

Required reading: Whole book

After Reading

Review and Reflect

Does Karl Deserve his Fate?

Exploring fate as a theme .

Required reading: Whole book

Evil or Genius?

Exploring the question of whether Dr Kalmenius is evil or a genius.

Required reading: Whole book

Clockwork Themes

Identifying the themes in Clockwork.

Required reading: Whole book

Writing Opportunities

Finishing Fritz’s Story

Writing the end of Fritz’s story.

Writing in Role

Writing about the events of the story in role as one of the townspeople.

Pages 86-92

Wider Learning Opportunities

The Flowers of Lapland

Exploring staff notation through the melody in the story.

Required reading: p38


Strange Star

Published by Faber & Faber. Authored by Emma Carroll.

Switzerland, 1816. On a stormy summer night, Lord Byron and his guests are gathered round the fire. Felix, their serving boy, can’t wait to hear their creepy tales. Yet real life is about to take a chilling turn- more chilling than any tale. Frantic pounding at the front door reveals a stranger, a girl covered in the most unusual scars. She claims to be looking for her sister, supposedly snatched from England by a woman called Mary Shelley. Someone else has followed her here too, she says. And the girl is terrified.

The Wolves of Willoughby Way

Published by Vintage Children's Classics. Authored by Joan Aiken.

Long ago, at a time in history that never happened, England was overrun with wolves. But as Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia discover, real danger often lies closer to home. Their new governess, Miss Slighcarp, doesn’t seem at all nice. She shuts Bonnie in a cupboard, fires the faithful servants and sends the cousins far away from Willoughby Chase to a place they will never be found. Can Bonnie and Sylvia outwit the wicked Miss Slighcarp and her network of criminals, forgers and snitches?

The Dark is Rising

Published by Vintage Children's Classics. Authored by Susan Cooper.

It’s Christmas-time in the Stanton family house: presents, carol singing, good cheer. But for eleven-year-old Will Stanton, something sinister has begun, inching round his subconscious, shouting silent warnings he can’t decipher. Then on Midwinter Day, Will wakes up to a different world: silent, covered in snow and ancient forest, a world of another time. A world where evil lurks.

Because Will is not the ordinary boy he always thought he was. He is the last of the Old Ones and the power to vanquish the evil magic of the Dark lies within him.

The Shadow-Cage

Published by Puffin. Authored by Philippa Pearce.

A collection of stories, both haunting and mysterious, created from everyday life and ordinary things. The author also wrote Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Way to Sattin Shore and What the Neighbours Did and Other Stories.

The Screaming Staircase

Published by Corgi Childrens. Authored by Jonathan Stroud.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books. Authored by Chris Priestley. Illustrated by David Roberts.

Do you dare to read the Tales of Terror?

Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house and his regular visits from his nephew give him the opportunity to retell some of the most frightening stories he knows. But as the stories unfold, another even more spine-tingling narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all. Uncle Montague’s tales of terror, it transpires, are not so much works of imagination as dreadful, lurking memories. Memories of an earlier time in which Uncle Montague lived a very different life to his present solitary existence…

I Was A Rat

Published by Yearling. Authored by Philip Pullman.


So insists Roger. Maybe it’s true. But what is he NOW?

Only three people believe this version of the story. Only one of them knows who Roger really is. And luckily a story about her can sell even more newspapers than one about a rat-boy …

Northern Lights

Published by Scholastic. Authored by Philip Pullman.

Without this child, we shall all die.’ Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequnces far beyond her own world…

'Old Man Kangaroo' in JUST SO STORIES

Published by Walker. Authored by Rudyard Kipling.

On the theme of be careful what you wish for.