Welcome to a new Chatterbooks reading group activity pack from Hot Key Books and The Reading Agency with ideas
for activities, discussion, and further reading - inspired by an exciting and thought-provoking new book: TALL TALES
FROM PITCH END by Nigel McDowell
Chatterbooks [www.readinggroups.org/chatterbooks] is a reading group programme for children aged 4 to 14 years. It
is coordinated by The Reading Agency and its patron is author Dame Jacqueline Wilson. Chatterbooks groups run in
libraries and schools, supporting and inspiring children’s literacy by encouraging them to have a really good time reading
and talking about books.
The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more through programmes
for adults, young people and Children – including the Summer Reading Challenge, and Chatterbooks. See www.
Introduce the book to your group and give them time to read it – then you can follow up with a session using activities
from this pack.
A suggested session plan for your reading group (times approx)
Welcome – & refreshments if possible! (5 mins)
Getting started - simple warm up activities (10 mins) - eg
• At the beginning of the book, Bruno is trapped within a burning building and retells his thoughts to the reader.
What thoughts and emotions would be running through your mind in the same situation?
• ‘Just think it and that’ll be enough. No-one can see ye if ye don’t want them to.’ p133 Do you believe in the power
of the mind and positive thinking?
Activities and discussion points to get your group talking about the book – choose from this pack (35 mins)
Goodbye, and dates for the next meeting (5 mins)
After you’ve read TALL TALES FROM PITCH END - here are some more books to enjoy – try some of these
steampunk, futuristic and fantasy (or not so fantasy?!) stories...
AUTHOR TITLE PUBLISHER ISBN
Damien Dibben The History Keepers: The Storm Begins Corgi Childrens 978-0552564137
Frances Hardinge Fly By Night Macmillan 978-0330418263
Frances Hardinge Twilight Robbery Macmillan 978-0330441926
Matthew J Kirby The Clockwork Three Scholastic 978-1407120409
George Orwell 1984 Penguin Classics 978-0141391700
Philip Pullman Clockwork Yearling 978-0440866381
Philip Reeve Mortal Engines Marion Lloyd Books 978-1407110912
Francesca Simon The Sleeping Army Profile Books 978-1846682797
John Stephens The Emerald Atlas Corgi Childrens 978-0552564021
H G Wells The Time Machine Penguin Classics 978-0141439976
Follow Nigel on twitter @NMcDowellAuthor and
find out more at www.nigelmcdowellauthor.com
About TALL TALES FROM
About Nigel McDowell
Ruled by the Elders, policed by an unforgiving battalion of Enforcers and
watched by hundreds of clockwork Sentries, Pitch End is a town where
everybody knows their place. Soon-to-be fifteen-year-old Bruno Atlas still
mourns the death of his Rebel father ten years ago, and treasures the book of
stories he secretly uncovered: the Tall Tales from Pitch End. After discovering
a chilling plot planned by the Elders, Bruno flees, escaping to the mountains
where a bunch of disparate young Rebels are planning a final attack on Pitch
End. With secrets and betrayal lying around every corner, Bruno will find
himself fighting not only for his life, but the life of the town.
Nigel grew up in County Fermanagh, rural Northern Ireland, and as a child
spent most of his time battling boredom, looking for adventure - crawling
through ditches, climbing trees, devising games to play with his brother and
sister, and reading. His favourite book as a child was THE WITCHES by
After graduating with a degree in English (and having no clue what to do with
it!), he decided to go off on another adventure, spending almost two years living
and working in Australia and New Zealand. With him he took a small notebook
containing notes about a boy called “Bruno Atlas”, and a seaside town called
“Pitch End”. When he returned to Ireland after his travels, one notebook had
multiplied into many, and eventually his notes filled a large cardboard box...
Nigel now lives in London, and TALL TALES FROM PITCH END is his
Nigel McDowell: Author
What inspires your writing?
Difficult question to answer - I’m not sure there is such a thing as
“inspiration”. Writing feels closer to something I must do, rather
than something I feel inspired to do. And it’s hard work. Though
when I find it difficult to write, what keeps me going is the work of
great writers. Seeing what can be achieved with smart storytelling,
language that makes me see the world anew, and being swept away
by an author’s imagination - that’s what makes me pick up the pen
again and persist. Perhaps that’s where “inspiration” comes into
things - finding something to aim for, wanting to do better, and
sticking at it!
How did you first become an author and what was your earliest
Sounds so very corny and precocious, but since childhood I
wanted to be a writer; since I knew that books were written and
didn’t just appear. I can remember being eight and completing
a project in Primary School to investigate which famous people
we shared birthdays with. As soon as I discovered that Charles
Dickens was also born on the seventh of February, that was it: ‘My
name is Nigel, and when I grow up I want to be an author.’
Where is your favourite place to write?
On (or in) bed. I can’t do desks.
Ask Nigel a question on twitter:
What advice would you give to budding writers?
Read as much and as widely as you possibly can - anything at all,
forgetting things like genre or age-range, and whether best-seller or
obscure translation, just read. Live and experience as much as you
can...and finally, write. Write only what you want. What you can
write and what you need to write. And keep at it!
What was your favourite childhood book?
THE WITCHES by Roald Dahl. I loved my copy to tatters
and - very shameful admission coming up - I used write my own
stories inside the book, in blue biro, between the lines of print. I
loved opening the book and seeing something I’d made up flowing
alongside Roald Dahl’s words, my stories tucked close to his.
(Though I of course do not condone book vandalism of any kind).
Are there any books you wish you had written?
Not really - the books I love most are books I could never, ever
have written. Though there are individual ideas I wish I’d come
up with: the Alethiometer in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
trilogy; the Subtle Knife in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
trilogy; the whole concept of “demons” in Philip Pullman’s His
Dark Materials trilogy...okay, perhaps I wish I’d written His Dark
At the beginning of the book, Bruno is trapped within a burning building
and retells his thoughts to the reader. What thoughts and emotions would be
running through your mind in the same situation?
What three things would you save from a burning building and why?
The Marshall asks Bruno if he knows what ‘war’ is and then tells him that the
most important part of it is winning. What do you think ‘war’ is? Is winning the
most important part?
Why do you think ‘war’ and ‘death’ are not referred to directly by the Marshalls
and the Pitch-Enders?
Characters are given endearing nicknames in the book. Can you think of any
other unusual nicknames that the people of Pitch-End might use?
Bruno meets many new people whilst exploring Pitch End and The Old Town.
If you could go anywhere in the book, where would you explore first? Explain
where you would go and who you would hope to see and discover.
Bruno has an Owl-Sentry and the Elders have Cat-Sentries. What animal
(including others) do you feel would be a good Sentry creature and why?
If you could have any talent from Tall Tales from Pitch End, which one would
you choose? In what way would it help you in your daily life?
TALL TALES FROM
Try and remember the scene which got your heart pumping the most. Which
one was it and why do you think this was?
The Seasons in Pitch End are named differently to our Seasons. For example,
summer is called the ‘Swelter Season’. Can you think what the Pitch Enders call
the other seasons? Explain your choice.
What do you think happens when Bruno’s mother goes off to mourn with the
other ‘Widows of Pitch End’? Why do you think it is so important that they
hide their faces with a veil?
How do you think Bruno felt when Temperate Thomas accused him of being a
Traitor? Try and sum up his emotions in three words.
If you had Bruno’s talent of Invisibility, what would you do in his world? Who
would you see, where would you explore?
Can you think of another question that David could have asked Bruno when he
wanted to enter The Rebel Chapel? Think of something that only the Rebels
Pitch End is destroyed at the end of the book. If you were rebuilding it, what
would you put in it? What would you name the new town?
Join the discussion online with @HotKeyBooks and
find out more at www.nigelmcdowellauthor.com
Design a ‘WANTED: Dead or Alive’ poster for Dr. Jonathan
Bloom and the Rebels. Think about a reward, where you can ‘hand
them in’, and what they look like.
WANTED in Pitch End...
H C V F E R A B L V N G T
S S T E A M P U N K C N E
C E L V G S F N D R Z Q M
Y N T H O M A S V O F N P
D T D V G K C X B W N E E
E R I F M O Q K Z K Q T R
A Y K Z N V V F D C T T A
T L Q U I C K G G O R O T
H U R X A M V O V L A G E
Y B H K Q R B M M C M R G
S W E L T E R S E A S O N
E H K C V K H D N C K F R
Z S B M A R S H A L L D S
Searching Pitch End
Sentry Clockwork Bruno Dr.
Steampunk Swelter Season Temperate Talent
Marshall Thomas Forgotten Death
Join the Pitch Ender’s search - find the words in the grid
below as quickly as possible!
Draw and describe your own clockwork sentry animal. What are it
strengths and weaknesses? Why have you chosen this animal?
Clockwork Sentry Animals