Stig of the Dump by Clive King

‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King is a book I loved as a child but I also loved reading it to my class when I became a teacher. The word ‘classic’ is slightly overused these days but I think this book does qualify.

Barney is a boy staying with his grandparents and falls into a disused pit that is full of rubbish. He meets Stig, who is a caveman with long hair and black eyes.

Barney and Stig become friends. They have to manage without language, as Stig speaks no English, but that doesn’t seem to stop them. Stig’s den is a place built out of discarded rubbish, which Barney enjoys. They spend time improving Stig’s den, collecting firewood, going hunting, and at one point catch some burglars who break into Barney’s grandparents’ house. Although Barney mentions Stig to others, no-one believes that Stig is real.

Barney starts to give thought to where Stig has come from. During a very hot, sultry mid-summer’s night, when Barney and his sister Lou are unable to sleep, they find themselves transported back in time and out onto the Downs. To their surprise, they meet Stig, back with his own people, engaged in the construction of four gigantic standing stones. They spend a night camping out with the people of Stig’s tribe, and helping to shift the final stone into position before sunrise.

It is a great book full of adventure, friendship, mischief and is both silly and funny. A perfect book to read to a class in key stage 2 and, although written in the 1960s (yes I am that old),  it links to very modern themes including recycling and communication difficulties when you don’t speak a language. It can stimulate work in art, drama, history, geography and creative writing. In the days before the national curriculum I seem to remember doing a whole ½ term’s topic about it!

There are lots of activities that can be followed up as a result of this book but I think it is best used as a whole class reading book – but one that will create lots of discussion and debate.

Tim Deery

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