Sherry Ashworth worked with 140 Year 9 pupils from
Hackney Free and Parochial CE School. She chose
to focus on Henri Rousseau’s painting 'Surprised!',
as she wanted the pupils to have to use their imaginations
to write about being in a tropical rainforest, in
the same way that Rousseau did to paint the picture.
Sherry felt that the image could provoke many different
reactions and inspire the pupils to write short
"Is the tiger about to attack,
or is he plain terrified? Are you convinced that
jungle is real? How far can you recreate the hot,
humid, odiferous world of the jungle just in words?
And what's the story here? What can the tiger see
beyond the painting? What happens next?"
After reading from her own work, 'Paralysed', Sherry
talked about relying on imagination and research
to create a story that readers believe in. The pupils
then looked closely at the painting, and, as a group,
discussed what the tiger might be experiencing using
the five senses. Sherry then set up a creative writing
exercise. The pupils wrote a short story, based
on the painting, by firstly setting the scene, then
writing about the action, and concluding with the
result or consequence.