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Teaching Notes for Riley and the Sleeping Dragon

by Tania McCartney illustrations by Mo Qovaizi

Book background
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon is the first in a unique series of multimedia travelogue books for preand primary school aged children. It follows the journey of little aviator Riley as he flies around Beijing in search of the elusive sleeping dragon of China. From the Forbidden City to the Great Wall, children will be entranced by the sights and sounds of Riley’s remarkable adventure – and the surprise ending that encapsulates Chinese culture, a smattering of tradition and lots of soaring adventure. Rich with the author’s beautiful black and white photos of the capital, as well as adorable illustrations by Canadian artist Mo Qovaizi, Riley’s magical discovery will captivate readers of all ages. This unique book makes a wonderful memento of expat life in China, and provides an unparalleled glimpse into the beauty and enchantment of modern day Beijing.

About the author and illustrator
Tania McCartney is a travel-loving Aussie who has been writing since her teens. She is an experienced editor and magazine writer, has her own publishing company and is currently a senior editor for Australian Women Online. Riley and the Sleeping Dragon was featured in the ABA’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2009/2010 and Tania will release book three in the Riley series in November 2010. Tania lives in Canberra with her husband, two kids and a pile of books. She is impassioned about mangoes and kids’ books. Mo Qovaizi is a Canadian artist with a long line of picture book credits. Future Riley books will be illustrated by Australian artist Kieron Pratt.
Teaching Notes – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney page 1

Lesson 1 – integrating Chinese culture and history
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon is set in modern day China, in the capital of Beijing. Many modern and cultural elements are incorporated into the setting of this book. Read the book and ask the following questions/discuss the following elements with children, either during or post-reading: Endpapers Where does the panda bear originate? Central Western and South Western China. What does it eat? 99% of its diet is bamboo, but can include honey, eggs, fish, yams, leaves, oranges and bananas. The name for panda in Chinese is xiong mao (pron. shong mao) and literally means bear cat. Can children say xiong mao? Page 1, 2, 3 The traditional Chinese dragon is made up of these nine animal parts. Doesn’t that sounds like the strangest dragon you’ve ever heard of? The Chinese dragon can fly but it has no wings. It does not breathe fire. Page 5 How would you like to jump in your own plane and fly anywhere in the world? Where would you go? Page 6 Have you heard of Tian’anmen Square? It is the second-largest city central square in the world. It means ‘long peace street’. Page 8 Can you guess what those large copper pots were used for? To contain water to put out fire. Page 10 Where is this pesky dragon? Did you know the Chinese dragon lives in the water and creates all water weather elements. Can you guess which ones? Rain, snow, hail, sleet, clouds, water vapour. Maybe you will find him in the water of Hou Hai lake, so look carefully! Can anyone see him? Page 12 These hutong alleyways are being smashed to smithereens to make way for skyscrapers and shopping centres. Page 13 Why do you think Riley feels sad? Page 14 The Temple of Heaven is where you can stand to get closer to God.
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Page 16 Ritan Park features the temple of the sun. Page 17 Yihe Yuan (pron. ee-her yoo-ar). The boat at the Summer Palace is made of marble! Page 20 What do you think Riley can see on the far distant mountains? Could it be the dragon? Page 21 and 22 Chang Chang means ‘long fortress or wall’. The wall was built, re-built and maintained between 5th Century BC and the 16th Century to protect the country’s northern borders. Different parts of the wall are given different regional names, like Badaling Great Wall near Beijing. It runs for approximately 8,851km from one end in the far west of China, to the sea on the eastern coast near Beidaihe (pron. bay der her) at a place called Bai ShanHaiGuan Great Wall (pron. bye shan hy gwan). The end of the Wall is called the old dragon’s head – laolongtou (pron. lao loong toe). Final pages Why are the dragon and the Great Wall the same thing? What is similar about them? Long, scaly/bumpy, old/ancient, strong, powerful, beautiful, protective. China is also strong, beautiful, protective, ancient and has a long history. Why is the dragon so sleepy? China is in the process of waking up to the modern world, stretching its wings and integrating/affiliating its history and culture with other countries. It is only now just realising its true strength and power.

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney

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Lesson 2 – story writing elements and structure
Read the book and ask/integrate the following questions: What is the title of this book? What does the title tell you about the story? What is the subtitle of this book? What does subtitle mean? Who is the author? What does the author do? Who is the illustrator? What does the illustrator do? What are the end papers? What do they have on them? Who took the photos in this book? Where can you find more information about the publication of this book? What does multimedia mean? (text, illustrations, graphics, photographs) How does the story start? In a dream state. Where is this book set? Who are the main characters? Why does Riley want to fly to Beijing? What is he looking for? What problems and conflict does Riley encounter? Does he find his dragon straight away? What drives the momentum of this story? What pushes it along and makes you want to turn the pages? The fact that Riley cannot find the dragon. What do the photos in this book provide the reader? A glimpse/tour of Beijing. Why do you think the photos are black and white? Ancient, historical, cultural feel, so that the cartoons visually pop. When is the climax of this story? What happens? How does the story resolve? What is your favourite part of the story and why? What did you learn from this story?

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney

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Lesson 3 – book making activity
Read the story. Have children take B&W photographs around the classroom or school. Create a main character and a friend. Choose a vehicle. Write a storyline where the character and friend search for an object or animal. Draw pictures of the vehicle and characters that can be cut out and placed on the photos. Add text to the pages. Print out and staple together. Discuss the multimedia elements used in the construction of these books. Further activities like colouring sheets and mazes can be found at Tania can visit your school with a variety of fun, interactive readings and presentations, including a Writer in Residence programme. For more information see or email

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney

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