The Big Read: Itch by Simon Mayo

Home learning focus

Using the novel Itch you will learn how to get information about a character and share your opinion about a character.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of radio presenter and author of Itch Simon Mayo reading extracts from the book

  • three activities



Itch is an accidental, accident-prone hero. He is 14 years old and loves science, especially chemistry. He is an element hunter, who is on a mission to find all of the elements in the periodic table. That is, until, one day he finds a new element, never seen before…

Watch radio presenter and author of Itch Simon Mayo read an extract from the book.

Think about the following:

  • Is this explosion controlled?

  • Why do you think Itch is carrying out these explosions?

Simon Mayo reads an extract from his novel 'Itch'.

Now watch Simon read another extract from Itch and think about the following:

  • How does Itch react in this extract?

  • Do we learn anything new about him from his reaction?

Simon Mayo reads a further extract from 'Itch'.


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

Extract 1

Itchingham Lofte had caused explosions before. There had, in truth, been many bangs, flashes and smells coming from his bedroom in the past. His multi-stained carpet and pockmarked walls bore testament to that. But there had been nothing like this one. It wasn’t just the bedroom walls that shook; it was the whole house. Windows and doors rattled, the pots and pans in the kitchen jumped, and two drawers in the dresser opened.

Not that Itchingham was aware of any of that, as he was unconscious. He would have stayed that way too if it hadn’t been for the fact that his eyebrows were on fire – and the astute decision of his eleven-year-old sister Chloe to throw a mug of water over his face.

Itch (everyone called him Itch, apart from his mother, whose idea it had been to call him Itchingham in the first place) sat up sharply, shaking the water out of his eyes. ‘What did you do that for, Chloe? I did have it under control, you know.’

Chloe shrugged. ‘Yeah, right. Your eyebrows were burning,’ and she turned and went back to her bedroom, which was across the landing.

Itch felt for the prickly remains of what used to be his eyebrows – what was left crumbled in his fingers.

Meet Itch - an accidental, accident-prone hero. Science is his weapon. Elements are his gadgets. All-action adventure perfect for fans of Alex Rider and Young Bond. Published by Puffin.

Activity 1

  1. Read the first extract again and think about what the writer, Simon Mayo, chooses to tell the reader about Itch.

What are the top five things that he tells us in this extract? What struck a chord with you?

  1. Write down five important events or revelations.

  2. Number these events or revelations from 1 to 5 in order of importance, with 5 being the most important.

Extract 2

There had been a few posters on the walls, all bearing the scars of previous mishaps. All had now been blasted to pieces. He put their remains under his bed, together with the fragments of beaker. He scraped the chemical remains of the explosion off the carpet and wrapped them in his wet towel. These too were shoved under the bed.

Itch changed into his pyjamas and took his clothes, along with his bloodied sock, downstairs to wash. This, he had learned, was the only way to get rid of the smell of smoke. His foot still hurt from the shard of exploded plastic and he hobbled along to get the detergent. He put the washing machine on its quickest cycle and hoped it would all be done before his mother got back. Thirty-one minutes later the machine beeped at him and he hung his clothes up to dry.

With any luck, thought Itch, Mum won’t notice and I’ll just about get away with it. He had got away with so much over the years that this wasn’t necessarily wishful thinking.

But Itchingham Lofte had forgotten about his missing eyebrows.

Activity 2

  1. Read extract 2 and track how Itch reacts.

He has set off an explosion in his bedroom and burnt his eyebrows off. But what are at his priorities?

How does he react? What does he do?

  1. Write a short paragraph that explains how he reacts and what this tells us about his personality and attitude.

Activity 3

  1. Read both extracts again.

  2. Write a short paragraph in response to this question:

Is Itch a calculated risk-taker or careless?

Top tip!

You might want to jot down some ideas and evidence whilst reading the extracts.

You may have evidence for both sides and you can combine them together in your response.

Use these phrases and words to help you:

  • on one hand

  • however

  • whereas

  • we could also consider

The table below may help you plan your paragraph.

Evidence of Itch being a calculated risk-takerEvidence of Itch being careless

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS3 English
Puffin Books