Big Jim Hickory is a lumberjack with a very impressive beard. One evening he is disturbed by an angry bird complaining Jim has destroyed her home. His (rather unusual) solution is to accommodate the homeless bird in his beard! Unfortunately, the bird is soon followed by a porcupine and a beaver. Life quickly becomes unpleasant for Jim and he decides to take drastic action. He shaves off his beard to create a temporary shelter for the animals and plants more trees to replace the ones he had cut down.
This is an enjoyable and humorous book with a pleasing pattern to the story and a rhythm which makes it great for reading aloud. Through sharing this story children will find out a little about the landscape in the North American Rockies, animal homes, the effects of de forestation and the importance of sustainability.
Share the story
Before you start reading the story talk about the cover illustration and title. Any clues to the setting and characters? Talk about what children think a lumberjack is.
Read the story aloud
Pause to talk about what is happening when children want to. The picture of the logs floating down the river would be a great point to pause, what might happen next?!
As you read the story again children can join in with some of the phrases such as ‘TIMBER!’ and ‘chop, choppety, chop’ and the animals’ complaints, you can point to these words and phrases as you reach them in the story.
Talk about the story
Talk about any words which may be unfamiliar eg ‘tenant’ or ‘burly’
How do Jim and the animals feel at different parts of the story? Look back together for clues in the illustrations and the words
How long did the story take to happen? Were some bits quicker than others?
Things to make and do
Play the story
Have imaginary conversations between beaver/bird and Jim the lumberjack; you could role play this with your child or make simple stick puppets of the animal characters to act it out.
Limber up like a lumberjack!
Try some of Jim’s exercises together, you could make up some more of your own too.
Make a shelter
Children could collect together some materials, for example straw, twigs, feathers, grass, wool, fabric or paper scraps to make a shelter for small toy animals.
Print a tree picture
The end papers at the back of the book might inspire children to make a picture of a forest from tree prints. Potatoes make useful printing blocks. Young children will need your help with cutting the potato into a tree shape.
Plant a tree
Collect tree seeds for example an acorn, horse chestnut (conker) or sycamore seed and have a go at planting them. See links below for guidance. If successful, you will need to think carefully about where to transplant your little tree!
See here for how to make pancakes together. Talk about toppings, what is your child’s favourite? Maple syrup, or something else?
Sing a song
Sing a song about a lumberjack
Find out more
Find out more about Duncan Beadie.
Also the creator of The Bear Who Stared. Duncan speaks about the background
to The Lumberjack’s Beard here .
Older children might like to find out more about lumberjacks
What would your child like to find out about lumberjacks?
Look at this webpage together and see if you can find answers to any of their questions
Find out about beavers and porcupines
Find out more about beavers, porcupines and other North American and Canadian animals here.