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Teaching Notes for Riley and the Dancing Lion

by Tania McCartney illustrations by Kieron Pratt

Book background
Riley and the Dancing Lion is the second book in this multimedia travelogue series for kids. After travelling to Beijing in book one - Riley and the Sleeping Dragon - Riley now sets his sights on Hong Kong, in search of the traditional dancing lion that is found during Chinese New Year. Follow Riley across this amazing city and surrounds, as he discovers many types of dancing lion in his quest to find the true lion that heralds a bright new year. But is this traditional lion really what he appears to be? Featuring hilarious illustrations by Canberra illustrator Kieron Pratt, kids will adore finding an impressive line-up of kooky dancing lions.

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, runs her own small publishing company and is the founder of Kids Book Review. Her first book in the Riley series––Riley and the Sleeping Dragon––was featured in the ABA’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2009/2010 and by 2013, Tania will have a dozen books in print. She lives in Canberra with her husband, two kids and a pile of books. Kieron Pratt is a Canberra-based illustrator with an extremely well-developed funny bone. This is his third book in the Riley series.
Teaching Notes – Riley and the Dancing Lion by Tania McCartney page 1

Lesson 1 – integrating Chinese culture and history
Riley and the Dancing Lion is set in modern day Hong Kong. Many cultural elements are incorporated into the setting of this book. Read the story 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 cat foot, black and white. Can children say xiong mao? Page 1, 2, 3 The traditional dancing lion is a cultural icon in Hong Kong. Its colourful form snakes its way through crowds during Chinese New Year. This dance is often mistakenly referred to as a dragon dance. There are three regional styles of dance – northern Chinese, southern Chinese and Taiwanese. The northern Chinese is the most acrobatic and can involve dangerous stunts. The southern Chinese dance is more symbolic and is usually performed to chase away evil and summon fortune. The Taiwanese style incorporates more martial arts moves. Page 5 How would you like to jump in your own plane and fly anywhere in the world? Where would you go? Page 6 Victoria Harbour was named after Queen Victoria when the city was under British rule (1841 to 1997, 156 years). Page 7 Traditional Chinese boats like sampans and junks are becoming more and more rare on Hong Kong waters. The word ‘junk’ is a Westernised word from the Malayan ‘djong’, meaning 'boat'. Page 8 Kowloon is a popular part of the Hong Kong peninsula and was named after nine dragons and a Chinese emperor. Page 10 Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island, offering wonderful views over the city and Hong Kong archipelago of islands. Who do you think the peak was named after? Page 12 What do synchronised swimmers do?
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Page 13 Situated on the south-eastern side of Hong Kong island, Stanley has cafés and restaurants overlooking a beautiful beach, and a very famous market. Visitors can reach Stanley by double decker bus! Page 14 Aberdeen on the south-west side of Hong Kong Island features a floating village of around 600 junks, but the population is diminishing and most fishermen now only use the boats during the day for fishing. Aberdeen was one of the first places in Hong Kong to begin dragon boat racing, which is now a famous tradition. The boats are very long and each carries 48 paddlers. Page 16 Ocean Park is one of the best-rated amusement parks in the world and features a cable car system and a series of outdoor escalators which includes the second-longest in the world. The park also houses 10 animal exhibits and a four-storey aquarium. Page 17 Lantau Buddha is also known as ‘Tian Tan’ and ‘Big Buddha’. It is one of the five largest Buddha statues in China and sits on top of an altar modelled on the Altar of Heaven (at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing). It is 34 metres tall and weighs 250 tonnes. This is the only Buddha to face north (all others face south). What does the Buddha represent? (Wisdom and truth.) Page 18 Macau sits on the Chinese mainland, around 60 kms south-west of Hong Kong. It was originally a Portuguese colony and is famous for its casinos and tourism. It was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by a sandbar. Page 19 The date for Chinese New Year falls anywhere from late January to mid February. It is also called ‘spring festival’. On the eve of Chinese New Year, people decorate their houses with red, stay up all night and make as much noise as they can, to scare away evil spirits. Fireworks are an important part of this celebration. Page 22 The traditional Dancing Lion is operated by martial artists who have the flexibility and moves required to operate the lengthy and often heavy costume. Final pages Many Chinese are superstitious and believe in the cultural folklore behind such traditions as the dancing lion. At the end of the book, the real lion comes to life. Do YOU think the dancing lion might be real?

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Dancing Lion 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? Where is this book set? Who are the main characters? Why does Riley want to fly around Hong Kong? What is he looking for? What problems and conflict does Riley encounter? Does he find his lion? Which is your favourite lion? What pushes the story along and makes you want to turn the pages? What do the photos in this book provide the reader? Why do you think the photos are black and white? 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 Dancing Lion 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 aimed at children from Grade 1 to 6. For more information see or email See Tania’s site, Kids Book Review, for more teachers’ resources and lesson plans –

Teaching Notes – Riley and the Dancing Lion by Tania McCartney

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