KS2 Guided Reading for Ctrl-Z by Andrew Norriss

ISBN 9780141324296

  Guided Reading Notes devised by Diana Bentley, literacy specialist at Chapter One Bookshop in Woodley, Reading. Approved by Andrew Norriss. Edited by Jane Norriss

Before Reading

Introducing the book

  • Tell the children that Andrew Norriss has written several books for children, the most famous being Aquila which won the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year.
  • Explain that the main character in the book is called Alex and he is given a strange present from his eccentric uncle.
  • Ask the children to turn to a partner and think of a strange birthday present that they would like to get – share their ideas with the class.

During Reading

What would you do?

  • After reading chapter 3, (ending page 33) remind the class that Alex thinks it would be good if he could set the computer to a time in the future but nothing happens.
  • Ask the children to work with a partner and to each think of something that they would like to have happened if they could set a future time on a magic computer – for example, Alex thought it would be good if he could skip ahead of going to the dentist.  Then it would be over and he would have missed all the nasty bits.
  • Share their ideas.

Is it funny?

  • Reread chapter 6 pages 60 -70.
  • Ask the children to list the things that Alex and Callum do:
    a)      Alex drives and smashes his mums car.
    b)      He throws his parent’s dinner service at Mr Kowalski’s greenhouse.
    c)      He persuades Callum to spray the fire extinguisher over Sophie.
  • Ask the children to turn to a partner and to discuss why doing these things soon seemed less funny to Alex.
  • Were any of them really funny?
  • Have they ever done anything that they thought was funny at the time but later realised that it was not really funny?


Readers Theatre

  • Explain to the children that in Reader’s Theatre they will be reading like a writer. Every word is read aloud as Andrew Norriss does when he is writing his books.
  • The longest part is the narrator who links all the spoken text together. They must try to read with expression and intonation that is appropriate for the characters.
  • Start on page 85 beginning, “The worst argument his parents had…  “  and end on page 89 with “…one of the nicest birthdays she could remember.”

 (The relevant pages are printed below with a different colour for each character.)

  • Divide the class into groups of 4 and tell the children to take the parts of Narrator, Mum, Dad, Alex.
  • Tell them to practice reading the parts with expression and intonation. Select a group to present the text to the class.


  • Read pages 143- 146 again to the class.  Ask them to work with a partner and to discuss what Alex’s godfather meant when he said, “I sent the lap top to you so you could make mistakes. I sent it because we have to make mistakes. All of us. It’s how we learn.”
  •  Ask them to try to think of something they had done to other people that they wish they had not.
  • In what ways do they think they have learnt by making mistakes?
  • Do they agree that the best way to put things right is to own up and apologise?

After Reading

Link the events to Alex’s character

  • Brainstorm with the class words to describe the character of Alex – for example clever, silly, mean, foolish, kind, unkind, brave, cowardly.  Write the words on the board.  Ask the children to work with a partner and to select any two words and think of occasions where the words they have chosen would describe Alex.
  • Ask individual children to tell the class about the event they have chosen but not to say which word they chose – then ask the class to suggest which word they think was chosen that described Alex in the situation.


Ask the children to work with a partner give the story marks out of ten. They should then defend their mark with reference to what they liked or disliked in the text.


Readers Theatre for Ctrl-Z by Andrew Norriss    Pages 85-89.

Narrator                    Alex                            Dad                            Mum


The worst argument his parents had, and the one Alex was particularly proud of sorting out, was the one they had on his mother’s birthday. It was the Wednesday of half-term and his father had taken Alex into town to collect the birthday present he had bought for his wife.

Standing in the middle of a brightly lit car showroom, he patted the bonnet of a brand-new silver Toyota and grinned at Alex.

‘There!’ he said. ‘You think she’ll like it?’

‘You’re buying Mum a car for her birthday?’ said Alex. ‘I thought she said she wanted an engine hoist?’

‘I know!’ His father’s smile grew even broader. ‘This is going to be a real surprise! I chose it last week and all I have to do now is pay for it. With this.’ He held out a banker’s draft. ‘It means she won’t break down on the way to important interviews any more. And she won’t have to spend all her spare time repairing that old Triumph, either. She’ll be able to concentrate on getting the sort of job she deserves!’

When Mrs Howard got home at four o’clock that day, swinging her bicycle on to the driveway, Alex and his father were waiting for her, standing either side of the new car. Mr Howard had got a huge piece of pink ribbon and tied it round the middle into a big bow at the top, so that it looked like a real present.

Mrs Howard got off her bike and looked at it.

‘What’s this?’ she said.

‘It’s for you,’ said Mr Howard proudly.

‘Happy birthday!’ said Alex.

Mrs Howard stepped forward to examine the Toyota.

‘I thought I told you I wanted an engine hoist,’ she said.

‘I know,’ said Mr Howard happily, ‘but I got you this.’

‘I’ve already got a car,’ said Mrs Howard.

‘But this one,’ said Mr Howard, ‘is completely reliable! You can go to interviews, drive it to work – it’ll never break down!’

‘And what do I do with that?’ Mrs Howard pointed to the Triumph in the garage.

‘Well . . . you can sell it!’

‘Sell it.’ Mrs Howard looked at her husband. ‘Of course. After I’ve spent two years doing it up, what else would I want to do but sell it?’

‘Look,’ said Mr Howard, beginning to sound rather cross, ‘I think the least you can do after I’ve spent all that money is –’

‘Yes, that’s the other thing,’ interrupted Mrs Howard. ‘You spent all that money without talking to me about it first?’

Mr Howard stared at her. ‘I can’t believe this! You are angry with me for buying you a car?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said Mrs Howard. ‘Very angry.’

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake!’ Mr Howard was beginning to sound quite angry himself. ‘We’ve been working for twelve years so that you can do something a bit more useful with your life than be a garage receptionist, and I thought at least you’d like –’

‘No, you didn’t!’ said Mrs Howard. ‘You didn’t think what I might like at all. All you did was decide what you wanted, and then went ahead and did it!’

After that things followed a familiar pattern. The arguing got worse, the things that were said got more hurtful and the voices got louder and louder until they were both shouting so much that neither of them noticed Alex as he quietly walked back into the house and up to his room.

‘There!’ said his father, patting the bonnet of a silver Toyota. ‘What do you think?’

‘I think it’s fantastic,’ said Alex, ‘but if you’re getting it for Mum’s birthday, I can tell you she won’t like it.’

‘What?’ His father looked rather startled. ‘What do you mean? How can she not like it? It’s brand new. It won’t break down on the way to interviews. It’s –’

‘She’s already got a car,’ said Alex. ‘The Triumph.’

‘Well, she can sell that!’

‘She’s been working on it for two years!’ said Alex. ‘Would you want to sell something you’d been working on for two years and only just finished?’

Mr Howard opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.

‘You need to trust me on this one, Dad,’ said Alex firmly. ‘Don’t buy the car. Not till you’ve talked to Mum about it. It’d be a mistake. I know it would.’

There was something in the way his son spoke that made Mr Howard hesitate. Things had not been working out too well with Lois recently and he had been hoping that the present would improve things. But if Alex was right . . .

‘Why don’t you call her?’ said Alex. ‘Just to check it’s what she’d really want.’

‘If I call her,’ said his father, ‘it won’t be a surprise.’

‘If it is a surprise,’ said Alex, ‘it’ll be a disaster. Honestly.’

Mr Howard said nothing for several seconds, then slowly took out his mobile and dialled his wife’s number. The conversation he had was short, but left him in no doubt what he should do.

‘Right.’ He turned to Alex. ‘Let’s go and buy that engine hoist.’

Mrs Howard was delighted with her birthday present. It would mean, she pointed out, that she could get at the driveshaft housing without all the trouble of taking her car down to the garage. She gave her husband a huge hug and an embarrassingly soppy kiss, then sat down and opened her cards and her other presents. Later, she ate the supper Dad had cooked, and the cake he had bought and said at the end that it had been one of the nicest birthdays she could remember.


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