Reading lesson: Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman

Home learning focus

Using the novel Tell Me No Lies you will learn about retrieving information accurately from the text, using inference skills about characterisation and writing in the style of an author.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of Dianne Buswell reading extracts from the book

  • three activities


Watch Strictly Come Dancing dancer Dianne Buswell read this first extract from Tell Me No Lies.

As you watch, think about the following questions:

  • What is your first impression of Gemma?

  • How do you know that she cares about these newspaper clippings?

Watch Dianne Buswell read an extract from 'Tell Me No Lies'

Now watch Dianne read a second extract from Tell Me No Lies.

As you watch, think about the following questions.

  • What are your thoughts on the dynamics between Mike, Nan and Gramps?

  • Have you heard the phrase ‘all bark and no bite’ before? What do you think it means?

Watch Dianne Buswell read an extract from 'Tell Me No Lies'


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Read Extract 1 and complete the activity beneath it.

Extract 1

Gemma turned the page. Here, a mum with smiling eyes and untidy hair like a halo hugged her daughter tight, whilst the headline below the photograph yelled out, MOTHER SAVES CHILD FROM OVERTURNED CAR. And on the opposite page, a mum standing next to a boy, her arm around his shoulders. The headline that went with this photograph declared, MUM FLIES OFF WITH SON FOR NEW HEART. Gemma only ever kept the headlines that went with her mums – never the full newspaper article – but she could remember the story that went with this one. The mum’s son needed a heart and liver transplant and the doctors in Britain had all but written him off. But not his mum. His mum was determined to do whatever it took to keep her son alive, so she’d taken him to America. And it had had a happy ending. The boy received his transplant and lived.

Gemma sighed. She liked happy endings.

Gemma misses her mother, taking comfort from the cuttings in her scrapbook. Mike is new to the area and has a secret about his missing mother. They are inextricably linked and their effect on each other's lives will be explosive. Published by Macmillan Children's Books.

Activity 1

Extract 1 focuses primarily on the character of Gemma.

Look in the text and find this section: ‘Gemma sighed.’

Using the text, write a detailed summary paragraph that explains why Gemma sighed.

You will need to refer to the extract in your explanation.

Read extract 2 and complete activity 2 below.

Extract 2

Mike glared at his grandad. All the long drive down, Mike hadn’t said a single, solitary word. He’d nodded, shaken his head or shrugged as appropriate whenever Nan or Gramps asked him a question, but that was it. Mike remembered how months before Gramps and Nan sat together in the courtroom never saying a word to him or each other. And how much he’d hated them for it.

‘I know what you’re thinking and you needn’t worry.’ Mike glared at his grandparents. ‘I’m not going to disappoint you.’

Let them take that any way they wanted!

‘I see that whatever else your mother did, she certainly didn’t teach you any manners,’ Gramps told him. ‘Or respect for your elders.’

‘My mum taught me that families are supposed to stick together.’ Mike said pointedly.

‘Meaning?’ Gramps prompted with a frown.

‘The meaning can wait until Mike has settled in,’ Nan said briskly. ‘We’re all getting off on the wrong foot here. Come on, Mikey. I’ll show you up to your room.’

Nan took hold of one of Mike’s smaller bags and led the way up the stairs. Reluctantly, Mike picked up his larger suitcase and followed her. Nan waited until they were on the landing before she spoke again.

‘You mustn’t mind your grandad,’ she said smiling. ‘He’s all bark and no bite.’

His bark is so bad that he doesn’t need to bite, Mike couldn’t help thinking.

Activity 2

Revisit the text and focus on the character of Mike. He appears to be very angry in this extract.

What does the writer tell us about him through description? What do we find out about his mood through what he says and how he reacts to Nan and Gramps?

Write a short paragraph to explain how we know that Mike is angry in this extract.

You could use the following answer stems:

  • Mike is angry because it says .............................................

  • ............................................. shows that Mike is angry because .............................................

  • The writer shows us that Mike is angry when she says .............................................

Activity 3

Read extract 2 again and focus on the last two paragraphs.

As readers, we are anticipating what may happen next.

  • Will Mike and Nan have another conversation?

  • Will Gramps come upstairs and join in the conversation?

  • Will Mike go back downstairs to talk to Gramps?

  • Will Nan leave Mike in his bedroom?

Thinking about what you have read so far, write the next paragraph.

Imagine you are the writer, Malorie Blackman, and try to mimic her style.

Look back at extract 1 and see how she manages description and at extract 2, to see her use of dialogue.

Then decide if your paragraph will include description and/or dialogue.

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