Gripping from the outset, The Dreamsnatcher is a true gem which takes you on an unexpected journey filled with magic and adventure. The book follows Molly Pecksniff, who is a defiant yet charming character, and her protective wildcat Gryff. Unknowingly, Moll holds the key to saving the old magic of the Ancientwood and ultimately defeating a darker power. Moll’s legacy means that she is wanted by the Dreamsnatcher- a haunting character who reaches out to her in her nightmares.
Abi Elphinstone uses an abundance of captivatingly descriptive language which ensures that you are gripped throughout each chapter. In order to get the most out of the interesting discussion points created in this book, I feel that it is best suited to a year six class. Although the charming design of the front cover may fool you into thinking that this book is a light-hearted read, there are some truly haunting moments which delve into themes such as death, spirits and dark magic.
It must be said that a level of nostalgia stirred within me whilst reading this book. Certain plot lines and characters were reminiscent of the Harry Potter books, which brought me so much joy growing up. However, this book stands alone as a fantastic read which could entice even the most reluctant of readers. I realise that this is a bold claim but I wholly recommend this book and I cannot wait to read the next instalment – The Shadow Keeper!
There are many ways you could use this book within a classroom context, please see some ideas below including chapters and/or page numbers as reference points.
Using this powerful example of suspense writing, you could:
- Carry out a text marking activity to extract key features of writing to build tension.
- Write your own version.
- Write the next chapter.
- Turn this into a play script and act it out.
Please note – throughout the book there are many chapters filled with amazing examples of writing to build tension. I think chapter 11, chapter 33 and chapter 35 would also work well for the above activities.
Chapter 1 – Trespassing
In this chapter there are lots of clues about the character of Molly, this could be used to create a discussion about inference.
- Create a character profile for Molly using these clues – this profile could also be used to compare and contrast when we know much more about her character at the end of the book.
Chapter 2 – Into the Deepwood
Using strong imagery, the author describes the route into Skull’s camp.
- Extract key bits of description from this chapter to sketch and paint your own version of Skull’s camp – this can highlight the impact of strong descriptive writing.
- As an extension, reverse this activity and draw a scene from the book which the children have to describe.
Chapter 4 – Flight
In this chapter Moll saves her horse from Skull’s camp and is chased home, a lot of emotions run through her during this chapter.
- From Molly’s perspective, write a letter to a friend about the chase, describing what happened and how Moll would have felt.
Chapter 6 – Keeping Secrets
In this chapter, the author describes Oak’s camp.
- Describe the camp in your own words and create a comparative list which highlights how different it is to Skull’s camp.
This page explores the idea of ‘astral-travelling’ which is the belief that souls break free in dreams to go on a journey.
- Use this concept to create your own story or comic strip about travelling in a dream.
This is a key point in the book where Moll finds out about the Dream Snatch and how Skull wants to kill her.
- After finishing this chapter, children could ‘hot seat’ Molly to find out how she feels after finding out this terrible information.
- As an extension, children could also ‘hot seat’ Mooshie to explore her feelings about keeping the secret for so long and how it felt to tell Moll.
Chapter 7 – Around the Campfire
Page 50 – ‘There is a crack in everyone and everything but that’s how the light gets in’.
- Use this quote as a starter to create a class discussion – what does this mean to you?
Chapter 8 – Forgotten Roles & Chapter 9 -Answers in the Tree Fort
In these two chapters all the secrets about Moll’s past are revealed, we learn about The Guardians of the Oracle Bones, the Bone Murmer and the death of Moll’s parents.
- Create a newspaper article about these important discoveries.
In chapter 9 Moll is faced with a dilemma, should she find the amulets of truth or not?
- Read up until page 67 where is says ‘perhaps we should hide out in the tree fort until it is over’ – then children could decide what they think Molly should do. This could lead to a class debate, conscience alley or thought tunnel activity.
Chapter 10 – Jumping the Broomstick
This chapter ends on a gripping cliff hanger.
- Write the next chapter.
Chapter 11- Unwanted Visitors
As discussed in the prologue section, this chapter is another strong example of writing to build tension. Moll is taken by Gobbler and Gryff saves her.
- Rewrite this chapter from the perspective of Gryff.
This page talks about the chilling story surrounding the Maiden on the heath.
- Build on the Maiden’s back story to create your own traditional tale about her.
Chapter 13 – Skull’s Lair
In this chapter Moll faces another dilemma, should she trust Alfie or not? This presents another good opportunity for a class debate, conscience alley, thought tunnel or hot seat activity. This is an interesting discussion point to return to throughout the book as a floating question. Ask the children to identify at what point in the book Alfie should be trusted (if at all).
Chapter 15 – Vapours & Chapter 16 – Unravelling Clues
In these two chapters we meet the Vapours, which are terrifying shadow creatures who feed on fear.
- Draw your own version of a Vapour.
- Circle time activity – discuss how you could use happy thoughts to combat fear and fight the Vapours. How can we apply this idea to a real life context?
Chapter 19 – A Hovel Among the Gorse
- Draw or paint the Maiden’s Hovel using the description in this chapter.
- Read up to the end of this chapter and write what you think happens next at the Hovel.
Chapter 20 – The Others
Here we learn that there are seven powerful witch doctors called Shadowmasks.
- From the information you already know about Skull, create another Shadowmask character. Describe their personality, motive, back story and describe the way they look.
Chapter 21 – Spells and Incantations
- Create a potion – decide what it is for, describe how it is used and what goes into it.
- Write a set of instructions for your potion.
- Starter activity – create some riddles using the examples in this chapter.
Chapter 22 – Snapping at Heels
In this chapter Alfie is being chased by hounds.
- Rewrite this chapter from Alfie’s perspective.
Chapter 27 – Fighting back
Molly gets stuck in a dream snatch and is saved by the antidote.
- Recount this event from the perspective of Alfie, Mooshie, Oak, Siddy or Gryff.
- Hot seat any of these characters and ask them about what happened and how they felt.
Chapter 29 – Waiting for the Ambush
- Write a personal diary about preparing for the ambush – from any of the characters perspectives.
- Recount the ambush.
- Write a newspaper article describing the ambush.
Chapter 30 – An Unexpected Discovery
This is a gripping chapter which describes a tree coming to life and opening a door which leads into the heart of the forest.
- Create a drama piece which shows what you think happens when the characters reach the heart of the forest. Where does the secret door lead to? What do they find?
Chapter 32 – The Missing Lines
- Talk partners – solve the riddle and discuss what words you can make from ‘EMBUR’.
Page 237 onwards
- Use the exchange with Molly and her Dad to write some dialogue using inverted commas.
- Hot seat Molly or her Dad and ask questions about their emotional conversation.
- Talk partners – discuss the quote ‘real isn’t what you feel, it is what you see’.
Chapter 34 –Up in the Sacred Oaks
This chapter includes a fight scene and introduces the reader to Alterskins (cursed animal spirits).
- Create a character profile for an Alterskin.
- Write a recount of this fight from the perspective of Gryff.
Chapter 35 – Darkness Stirring
- Class discussion – what did Molly draw on to defeat the Shadowmasks?
Chapter 36 – The Secrets of Dawn
This book ends on a cliff hanger.
- Use a story map to plan a sequel
- Write your own sequel to this book.
- Design a poster or trailer for the sequel.
- Class discussion – consider how the character of Moll changed throughout the book.
- Write a diary from Moll’s perspective to summarise her experience.
Further ideas and discussion points
- Design and make a witch doctors mask.
- Create a talisman (a lucky charm).
- Use the character of Gryff to explore non-verbal communication.
- Create another character that would fit into the book.
- Create some poems/chants using the examples throughout the book.
- Use the chants in a music lesson, use percussion to create the sound of a Dream Snatch.
- Discuss the role of the tree, water, wind and earth spirits throughout the book.
- Ask the children to decide which camp they would rather live in and have a class debate.
- Explore the themes of evil within the book and contrast this with a discussion about the good.
- Class discussion about virtues – including courage. What might be the next virtue needed to unlock the amulet of truth?
- Circle time discussing virtues.
- There are many complex and interesting characters in the book which you could create character profiles for. Including Molly, Oak, Siddy, Alfie, Skull, Gobbler, Brunt, Mellantha, Mooshie and Cinderella Bull.
- Write another blurb for the book.
- Design an alternative front cover.
- Use the powerful similes, metaphors and extracts of personification that are used throughout the book to inspire some poetry based on The Dreamsnatcher.
I hope this has been helpful. I really enjoyed this book and would be more than happy to discuss these ideas further if you are interested in using this with your class. Please do not hesitate to contact me via email – firstname.lastname@example.org.