Reading lesson: Trash by Andy Mulligan

Home learning focus

Using an extract from Trash by Andy Mulligan, you will explain how writers use language to influence their readers. You will also work on your inference, prediction and persuasive writing skills.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of presenter and maths whizz Rachel Riley reading extracts from the book

  • three activities.


Watch Rachel Riley read an extract from Trash by Andy Mulligan.

Rachel Riley reads an extract from Trash by Andy Mulligan.

Now watch Rachel read a second extract from Trash.

Rachel Riley reads an extract from Trash by Andy Mulligan.


Activity 1

Read the first extract from Trash below.

As you read, think about these two questions.

  1. How does the author use language to create character in this extract?

  2. How do you feel towards Raphael?

Extract 1

'I was a trash boy since I was old enough to move without help and pick things up. That was what? – three years old, and I was sorting. Let me tell you what we’re looking for.

Plastic, because plastic can be turned into cash, fast – by the kilo. White plastic is best, and that goes in one pile; blue in the next. Paper, if it’s white and clean – that means if we can clean it and dry it. Cardboard also.

Tin cans – anything metal. Glass, if it’s a bottle. Cloth or rags of any kind – that means the occasional T-shirt, a pair of pants, a bit of sack that wrapped something up. The kids round here, half the stuff we wear is what we found, but most we pile up, weigh and sell. You should see me, dressed to kill. I wear a pair of hacked-off jeans and a too-big T-shirt that I can roll up onto my head when the sun gets bad. I don’t wear shoes – one, because I don’t have any, and two, because you need to feel with your feet. The Mission School had a big push on getting us boots, but most of the kids sold them on. The trash is soft, and our feet are hard as hooves.'

Raphael lives in a dumpsite, sifting trash; life is bleak. But the chance discovery of a small leather bag changes everything. Published by Puffin.

After reading the extract, you will have started to build up an impression of Raphael. Deliberate language choices made by the author help us to form these impressions.

Copy out the table below. Record your impressions of Raphael and use evidence from the extract to support you.

One has been done for you, try to complete at least two more.

Raphael has a sense of humour‘Look at me, I’m dressed to kill…’

Activity 2

Read the second extract below about what Raphael finds.

As you read, write your answers to the following questions.

  1. Which item would be the most important to you?

  2. Which item do you think will move the plot on more?

Extract 2

'I know I said you don’t find interesting things, but, OK – once in your life . . .'

'It fell into my hand: a small leather bag, zipped up tight and covered in coffee-grounds. Unzipping it, I found a wallet. Next to that, a folded-up map – and inside the map, a key.'

'Gardo came right over, and we squatted there together, up on the hill. My fingers were trembling, because the wallet was fat. There were eleven hundred pesos inside, and that – let me tell you – is good money. A chicken costs one-eighty, a beer is fifteen. One hour in the video hall, twenty-five. I sat there laughing and saying a prayer. Gardo was punching me, and I don’t mind telling you, we almost danced. I gave him five hundred, which was fair because I was the one who found it. Six hundred left for me….'

'A long time later I would think to myself: Everyone needs a key.'

'With the right key, you can bust the door wide open. Because nobody’s going to open it for you.'

The text tells us that he finds eleven hundred pesos. He gives 500 to Gardo (his work partner) and keeps 600 for himself. He also finds a key and a map.

Think about the following questions.

  • Was Raphael right to give Gardo 500 and keep 600?

  • What is fair? Some readers think that Raphael should have kept all of the money? What do you think?

  • Is this amount of money life-changing?

Activity 3

Consider the statement below.

In the end, the key will be more important to Raphael than the money or the map.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Write a paragraph detailing your response, giving reasons to back up your opinion.

Top tip!

You will need to use some persuasive techniques to get your opinion across effectively.

  • Address your opposition directly. You could use the phrase ‘others might think’ to do this.

  • Use conjunctions to link your ideas. For example: whereas, on the other hand, in the same way.

  • Save your best justification until the end – finish on a high!

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS3 English
Puffin Books