Stig of the Dump

In her monthly series, Justine Wall shares ideas on how to interpret some of the best books for children. The activities are intended to be read by, or to, your child, depending on age.

No 5: Stig of the Dump by Clive King

The Story

Barney and his sister Lou are staying with their grandparents for the Summer Holidays. Barney, a naturally inquisitive boy, goes exploring one day and discovers Stig, a caveman, living in a chalk pit. Stig salvages things from dumps, and he and Barney become friends: adventures ensue, involving the Snargets, burglars, and foiling nasty plans. The tale culminates with Stig, Barney and Lou being transported through time, and attending a wondrous Summer Solstice party, where huge stones are lifted and celebrated in a Stone Age ceremony. Was it a dream?

In this story, the lines between reality and imagination are blurred, and the reader is left examining and questioning so many things: something, which is hugely positive, and often sorely lacking in current contemporary narratives. Often, children like an open-ended ending, even though adults don’t: use this opportunity to discuss different outcomes and ideas with your child, and see what he thinks happened in the text.

This story, particularly with the Ardizzone drawings, is perfect for reading together: easy enough to share pages of reading between parent and child.


Talking points

What does it mean to be bored?

How do we know what we see is real?

What is danger?

What does being civilised mean?

Is history important?

What is an imaginary friend?



In the story, Barney and Lou are staying with their grandparents for the Summer holiday. Have you ever stayed with anyone for a long time? Do you have friends to sleepover at your house?

Think about this carefully, and then write up a list of the Best Sleepover Ever. Write down where you go and who you visit, what you would pack in your bag, what games you would play, what you would eat and anything else you can think of: the whole sleepover is up to you: so decide on the best activities! 

Stig seems to be a Caveman of sorts, someone who may have come from Stone Age civilisation: we don’t know this for sure, but we presume it is the case. In the Stone Age, structures such as Stonehenge were built.

Do some research into Stonehenge and write down five facts about the stones. Draw and colour a picture of Stonehenge and write down your favourite fact.

Perhaps Stig is in fact Barney’s imaginary friend ­– someone who he has invented, but who doesn’t really exist. Lots of people have imaginary friends, or have had them when we were growing up.

If you have an imaginary friend, draw a picture of them, explaining why he or she is special. If you haven’t ever had an imaginary friend: think one up! Invent the best friend in the world, and draw and label the picture.

This book celebrates exploring and adventure. When we explore our surroundings by walking or cycling through the countryside or park, we discover so much. One of the most exciting ways of discovering new places is through something called Geocaching.

Discover more about geocaching and plan a weekend adventure with your parents, or another group of grown ups. You will have such fun. 

 Sometimes in life we meet people who look a bit different, sometimes scary, but who turn out to be kind and friendly. Stig is a bit like this, but Barney doesn’t judge him: he gets to know him first, and finds that they have a lot in common. Stig is a wonderful friend. Write a short story about a young girl or boy who behaves in a very naughty manner, but is in fact a kind and lovely person inside.

Write about what he or she does, how people react to the behaviour, and then how people finally discover that the girl or boy is kind hearted. Makes sure that your story has a clear beginning, middle and end. If you don’t fancy writing about it, you could draw the story in pictures.

Justine Wall is a teacher, designer and writer. She has a 6 year old son. To get away from the chaos Justine reaches for her infinitely reliable blend of Assam and Earl Grey and often follows that with a Sipsmith and Tonic. Follow Justine on Instagram @hectorandhaddock and twitter on @HectorHaddock or visit Hector and Haddock.

How often do you read with your child? Is there a book that you would like Justine to explore? Let us know below.