“The Boy Who Talked With Animals” – Classroom Activities

This exercise was sent in by Frankie Meehan, an ESL Teacher at United World College of SE Asia, Singapore. If you have any questions, please email him at fme@uwcsea.edu.sg. Thanks Frankie!

NOTE: Any page numbers below refer to A Second Roald Dahl Selection: Eight Short Stories, Longman, 1987. You may need to change them to reflect the particular version of the story you’re using.

1. Before you read – an Animal Crossword

Complete the following crossword, using the clues below. (When you have finished, Column 7 will spell out the name of an animal.)


Row 1 – We chew with these.
Row 2 – A liquid mixture of vegetables and perhaps meat, usually hot.
Row 3 – Flat feet which help some animals to swim. Human divers wear rubber ones.
Row 4 – An animal with scales or a shell which lays eggs – e.g. lizard, snake, tortoise, crocodile.
Row 5 – Sharp nails for tearing meat.
Row 6 – A hard covering which protects some animals.

2. As you read…

As you read, answer the questions below.

  1. In the first 2½ pages there are a number of hints that the island is rather strange. Make a list of these.
    • The taxi driver says “diabolical” people live in the hills. They practise voodoo and witchcraft.
  2. How does Dahl try to make us dislike the male tourists when he first describes them?
  3. What words does Dahl use to tell us that the turtle was very big?
  4. How do the male tourists behave around the turtle?
  5. What is unpleasant about the couple who try to buy the shell?
    • The man is “paunchy” and short-legged; his wife is “plump”.
  6. What does the narrator tell us about the turtle which makes it seem very important and the tourists very unimportant?
  7. In what ways is the muscular man disagreeable (i.e. not nice)?
    • He wears very colourful shorts.
    • He wears no shirt, so that he can show off his hairy chest.
    • He appoints himself as…
    • He…
    • He…
  8. How do the boy’s mother and father feel about his attitude to the turtle?
    • The mother thinks he…
    • The father…
  9. What word does the narrator use to describe the boy, which he also used to describe the turtle on Page 4?
  10. Why does the boy’s mother cry out in an “agonized wail”?
  11. Why did the manager agree to sell the turtle?
  12. Why do you think the hotel guests were “subdued” (quiet) when they walked back to the hotel?
  13. How is the room cleaner’s speech different from the narrator’s? Why is this?
  14. How does Roald Dahl make the fishermen’s story exciting?
  15. Is the end of the story believable? How does the narrator make it seem realistic?

3. Who said that?

Who said each of the following?

  • Don’t ever go up into those mountain forests.
  • Things like that are very bad for the tourist business.
  • You mean it killed him instantly?
  • I’m going to take that shell home and have it polished up by an expert.
  • It’s going to need ten men, all pulling at once.
  • You’re making a perfect fool of yourself.
  • Why don’t you put him back in the sea?
  • He’s lucky he hasn’t had his head bitten off.
  • He loves animals… He communicates with them.
  • Goodbye, old man.
  • Everybody in the hotel is searching high and low.
  • I swear it! It’s the gospel truth!

4. Vocabulary

Find words on pages 3-4 with the following meanings:

  • creeping up quietly to catch =
  • carefully =
  • noise and excitement =
  • moving in a group =
  • walked with long steps =
  • holding tightly =

5. Summary

The following sentences are a summary of the incident on the beach. However, they are in the wrong order. Please number them in the correct order. (The teacher may give you a separate sheet so that you can cut and paste the sentences.)

  • A bare-chested, muscular tourist led the others in dragging the turtle up the beach.
  • He persuaded the manager to release the turtle.
  • The hotel guests noticed that some fishermen had caught something large.
  • One of the guests prodded the creature with a plank of wood.
  • As it swam away, the boy spoke words of encouragement to it.
  • A paunchy American tourist tried to buy the turtle’s shell.
  • The boy’s father explained that the boy loved animals and could communicate with them.
  • The fisherman explained that he had already sold the animal to the hotel manager.
  • They realised it was a giant turtle.
  • The turtle bit right through it.
  • A small boy screamed at the crowd and then threw his arms around the turtle’s neck to protect it.

Use the following words/phrases at the start of some of your sentences:

  • First, …
  • After a while, …
  • Then …
  • However, …
  • Later, …
  • Suddenly, …
  • Eventually, …
  • Finally, …

6. Writing

Imagine you are one of the tourists who tried to pull the turtle along the beach. Write a letter home describing the whole incident. (Remember: you must write it from the tourist’s point of view – not your own!) Aim to write about 250 words.

You can start your letter like this if you wish:

23rd September 1978

Dear Mark

Greetings from the land of rum and reggae! Just a quick letter to let you know how we’re getting on …

We arrived in Kingston three days ago and are staying in Barton, a lovely seaside resort about 2 hours drive from the capital. There’s lots of jungle nearby (a bit spooky, actually!) and the hotel is quite pleasant, with a swimming pool and a garden full of colourful bougainvillea etc. We sit out on the verandah much of the time reading and sipping cocktails. Wish you were here, eh?

Anyway, an astonishing thing happened yesterday evening …