Reading lesson: Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman

Home learning focus

Using the novel Tell Me No Lies you will learn about giving your impression of a character, using inference skills to think about characterisation and using the text to write in character.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of Dianne Buswell reading extracts from the book

  • three activities


Watch Strictly Come Dancing dancer Dianne Buswell read this 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.

Read extract 1 and complete activity 1 below.

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 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

What impression do you have of Gemma so far? If you had to describe Gemma, what would you say?

In this activity, you will need to use evidence from the text to support your answer.

When you have chosen a word to describe Gemma (an impression/a point) find a section of the text that supports you (evidence).

You might like to present your answer in a table like this:

Impression (what do you think)Evidence (section of text to prove your point)
Make a point
Make a point
Make a point
Make a point

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

Nan is one of the key characters in this extract.

Revisit the text and focus on how the writer describes Nan; what she says, how she speaks and how she reacts.

Now, consider this statement:

'Nan takes the lead in a confrontational situation.' Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

You will need to find some evidence from the text to support your response.

Try to write at least five sentences.

You could use the stems below to write your answers.

I think ......................... because .........................

This ......................... shows that .........................

I agree that Nan took the lead because it says ......................... and that means .........................

I disagree that Nan took the lead because it says ......................... and that means .........................

Activity 3

We have met Mike, Nan and Gramps so far. Each of these characters will have a different voice, a different story, a different tone and a different mood.

Write a short section of the text from the perspective of first Nan and then Gramps. Write a paragraph as each of them.

What do you think Nan would say about the situation? Perhaps she will refer to Mike and Gramps.

What do you think Gramps would say about the situation? Perhaps he will refer to Mike and Nan.

Think about the language you will use for the character (what mood they are in, which parts of the text they will refer to).

There's more to learn

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