The Promise

Davies, Nicola (author) & Carlin, Laura (illustrator) (2013): The Promise. London: Walker Books.

Can one little girl change the colors and the people of a whole city just by planting some acorns as she promised?

Whats´s it about?

The story is about a girl who lives in a city where everything is ugly and sad. The people in the city are mean and hard, and she lives by stealing from other people. One day she steals a bag from a woman who made her promise to “plant them”. The girl opens the bag which was full of acorns and started to plant them all over the city. After a while, the seeds begin to grow, and the city becomes greener and greener and the people happier and happier. Eventually the girl starts to plant the seeds in other cities and transforms them too until one day someone steals the bag from her and she makes the person promise to “plant them” as well.

What´s special about it?

The picturebook uses both text and pictures to bring across the transformation that happens throughout the book. The text uses strong negative and depressing vocabulary on the first pages but then as the story continues and hope begins to grow, more happy and hopeful vocabulary are used. This is also shown through the illustrations which contribute to the text and enhance the understanding and the mood of the text. The interaction between text and illustration is special because they complement each other and play an important role in bringing across the message. A key feature in communicating the message of the book are the colours that are used for the illustrations. At the beginning there are a lot of rather dark and neutral colours with a cold tone. The green acorns bring a first more colourful and lighter tone into the illustrations. As the story progresses and city starts to get greener and greener livelier colours are used. The change that is shown through the illustrations is vey special about this book.

Teaching ideas:

Why use it in classroom?

The picturebook conveys some important messages that can be discussed in class. It can serve as a springboard to topics like relationship with nature, our responsibility for the nature/ our environment, the power of actions and the consequences of our actions. Moreover, the benefit of growing things can be discussed, how our mood is changed through plants and green colours around us or how the responsibility to care for our environment passes on from generation to generation. Learners can bring in their own perspective on these things and their opinion on these environmental topics. Besides that, learners learn more about multiliteracy and especially about the relationship between text and pictures and how colours are used to enhance understanding.

Ideas for the classroom/ tasks

As a target task students design a pre- and post- picture/poster on a promise they make to improve the environment. Before preparing the target task students read the book and finish some tasks that are related to the book. As a preparation for the target task students collect ideas on what they could od to improve the environment. They go together in groups and are asked to do a mind-map to collect the ideas. Then, on their own, they choose a promise and design two pictures/posters and show the change their promise will have on the environment. After that they show their pictures to their classmates (e.g. with a gallery walk) and they have to guess what the promise could be. At the end students can compare their assumptions and give reasons for their ideas.


Read aloud of the picturebook “The Promise”:

Information about Nicola Davies (Children´s Author)

Nicola Davies discussing her Picturebook “The Promise”

Teaching ideas on “The Promise”

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