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Image of 'Surprised!' by Henri Rousseau, 1891.
Novelist 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 stories.
"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.

Image of student.Click here for Student Responses.
Image of 'Surprised!' by Henri Rousseau, 1891.Click here for About the Painting.
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More about Sherry Ashworth