Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Do you know I have had the privilege of working alongside an award-winning author?

Let me introduce you to Jodi. I am fortunate to have collaborated with Jodi on several projects at Forest St PS – Teaching Writers, Writer’s Notebook, and Inquiry Learning.

This is a treat as Jodi has created this edition of teaching ideas about her own book. Thank you, Jodi, for the brilliant collection of ideas. I cannot wait to use your book again with one of these ideas!


Check out Jodi’s website at :



Mallee Sky lends itself to all facets of comprehension.

Predict Look at the front cover, read the blurb on the back to gather clues and use any prior knowledge you may have to predict some events that might happen in this story.

Visualise Listen to a few pages of Mallee Sky without looking at the pictures.  What did you see in your mind?  List and describe.

Connect Text to Self: Have you ever been to the Mallee, to the country or to a farm before?  What did you notice, what happened, or what did you discover?

Text to Text: Does this book remind you of another book you have read?  How and why?  Explain the connections you have made.

Text to World: What does this book remind you of in the real world?  What connections can you make to things you have read about, seen on the news or learned about in TV programs?

Infer Feelings:  Look at the illustrations of each character as the story progresses, e.g: Dad on the verandah surveying his crops, the students at school when they hear the rain and then when they get to dance in it.  Can you infer how each character is feeling in those moments?  What clues from the pictures and words did you use to make these inferences?

Infer Consequences: This book highlights the devastation drought can have on communities.  Why is farming essential?  Why does it matter if the crops grow or not?  Infer what might happen for the broader community if crops don’t grow.

Infer Cause and Effect:  What happens to the land when it doesn’t rain?  What happens to the land when it does?  Use the book to confirm or disconfirm your inferences.  Prove it!

Summarise After reading, summarise the key events that happened in the story in your own words.

Synthesise What did you know about farm life or drought before reading Mallee Sky?  What do you know now?

Question After reading this story, what are you wondering now?

Analyse Notice the descriptive words and language used throughout the text.  List some of the descriptive words and phrases.  How do they make you feel?  Why do you think I used those words in my book?

Critique Did you like Mallee Sky? (Of course you did!!!)  Explain why, or why not.

Write a book review of Mallee Sky.  Use a five star rating, and explain your rating in your review.



Mallee Sky is a great children’s picture book to use as a mentor text to study several aspects of the craft of writing.

Figurative Language Imagery:  Authors use words to paint a picture in the readers’ mind.  Look at examples from Mallee Sky, e.g.: As days pass, blue gives way to welcome grey while paddocks turn to carpets of green beneath the leaden sky. Practise using descriptive words and phrases to bring your setting to life.  Make sure you provide enough detail that your reader can visualise your setting in their mind.

Metaphor – Authors use words or phrases to describe something that isn’t literally true, e.g.: “When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”  The sky isn’t literally bleeding or on fire – but the colours of the sunset remind the reader of these things.  Find the metaphors in Mallee Sky and practise writing your own.

Alliteration Authors love to use alliteration; that is, starting several words in a sentence with the same letter. Find examples of alliteration in Mallee Sky, e.g.: The scrub sighs, still and thirsty.  Now pick a person, object or place and practise writing your own sentences about it, using alliteration.

Similes:  Similes compare two things.  Choose objects from Mallee Sky and write similes for them, e.g.: The silos are as tall as a giant.  The sun is as hot as fire.  The sky is as blue as the ocean.

Personification Sometimes, authors give an object or thing human characteristics or actions.  Mallee Sky is full of personification, e.g.: The wind is too hot and tired to raise more than a whisper through the eucalypts. Find an object around the room and write sentences, giving it human characteristics or actions.

Show Dont Tell! Instead of writing direct statements about a character, place or event, show the reader with actions, feelings or descriptions.  In Mallee Sky, we know that it is hot and dry, but I don’t state this, directly, I show it with my descriptions, instead.  Try writing sentences to show your reader the following:  It is hot.  It is cold.  He was scared.  She was tired.  But there’s one catch:  You’re not allowed to write hot, cold, scared or tired!  Show by describing actions, feelings, thoughts and descriptive words or phrases.

Language Use and Word Choice: Emotions Authors use words and phrases to make the reader feel something.  Find words and phrases in Mallee Sky that elicit powerful emotions.  Choose an emotion, e.g.: angry, sad, excited and surprised.  Write sentences to show how your character is feeling.  But, one rule:  You are not allowed to use the words “angry, sad, excited or surprised”. Instead, use descriptive words or phrases and show these emotions in your character’s actions, thoughts and words.

Sensory Images Mallee Sky taps into our senses.  Find the pictures and words that help you to visualise, see, feel, hear or smell the landscape.  Write your own sensory poem about your favourite place, tapping into the senses.

Sizzling Starts: Read the first page of Mallee Sky.  Practise writing your own sizzling starts to draw the reader in.  Start with a sound, some action, some dialogue, or describe your setting using show don’t tell.  Just don’t start with “One day!”

Compare and Contrast: Write how the harsh landscape of the Mallee compares with the place you live, or another place you have been.

Convince Me:  Mallee Sky features the seasons of the year.  Imagine the seasons have an argument one day about which season is the best and why.  Don’t forget to add lots of details about each season’s reasons!

Themes:  Research the themes of drought or climate change.  Write an information report on your findings.

Place:  Authors write about places they know and love. I love the Mallee, as it is my home. That’s why I decided to write a book about it. Write about your favourite place. Why do you love it?  List all the reasons with lots of description and detail.



Mallee Sky has wonderful links to Mathematics, especially in terms of temperature, location, mapping, distance, size, colour, counting, the list goes on!

Size:  Find three objects in the book.  Draw each object.  Compare the size of each object.  Which is the biggest?  Which is the smallest?  Which would weigh more?  Explain your thinking.  Label each object with a size word to describe it.

Sort and Classify:  Choose six objects from Mallee Sky, e.g.: dog, boy, dam, galah, tree, Dad.  Draw each object.  Now cut them out and sort them into your own categories.  Why have you sorted them this way?  Is there another way you could sort them?

Colour:  Go on a colour hunt in Mallee Sky. Count the colours.  List the colours.  Sort into bright colours, light colours, dark colours.  Create a picture of your own landscape using colours.

Shape:  Find objects in Mallee Sky that feature different shapes, eg: the silos, cars, utes, houses, bath, etc.  Draw the shapes.  Label the shapes.  How many sides do each shape have?  How many corners?

Make your own picture using shapes.

Build one of the objects from Mallee Sky out of Lego.  Count the number of bricks you needed to make each object. Measure it.

Counting:  Go on a house hunt.  Count the number of houses in the book.

Count the number of silos in the book.

Count the numbers of vehicles.

Count the number of birds and animals.

Count the number of mailboxes.  What number is on your mailbox?  How many different numbers can you make with the numerals on your mailbox?  What is the highest number?  What is the lowest number?  Order the different numbers you have made.

Graphing:  Make a pictograph showing how many birds, cars, houses, mailboxes.

Temperature:  The Mallee is a hot place. Sometimes, it gets up to 49 degrees in the summer, and Minus 5 in the winter!

Research temperatures in the Mallee.  Compare the temperature in the Mallee today, with the temperature of your town.  Find the difference.

Pick a place.  Research the daily temperature using a weather app or website.

Graph the temperature over a week including the highs and the lows.  Interpret your graph.  What was the highest temperature? What was the lowest temperature?  What was the average temperature?

Location / Distance:  Find where the Mallee is on a map.  How far away is it from your town?

Look at a map.  Find your town, and now find the town Beulah.  List all the different towns between.  Write a set of directions to get there.

Time:  If it takes one hour to drive 100 kilometres, how long would it take you to drive to the Mallee?

If it takes 2 hours to walk 10 kilometres, how long would it take you to walk to the Mallee?!

Measurement:  The Mallee is a dry place.  Research the rainfall in the Mallee over the last week.  Find out monthly average rainfall.  Find out the yearly average rainfall.  Compare the rainfall of the Mallee to the rainfall in your own town.  Find the difference.



Thank you to Tracy and Naomi for the stunning photo of the silos.

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick