Teacher Notes – Message in a Sock

Tammy is safe at home, but her heart is with her father at the warfront. While her mother knits socks for the soldiers, Tammy slips a message inside each pair. But will her one special message find her father, and bring him safely home?

Author/Illustrator Information:

Kaye Baillie began writing stories and making books during the long, hot summer holidays on the orchard where she grew up in Victoria. With her sister, she sat at the kitchen table coming up with ideas and adding her own (not very good) illustrations. Now she writes stories at her kitchen table near the beach, where she lives with her family and their high maintenance pets. Kaye has a strong interest in researching and writing stories about unique individuals and events.


Narelda Joy grew up in a creative household with an inspired mum and a large sewing room, which contained a plethora of goodies with which she could use to create. She continues to create anything in two or three dimensions including puppets, models, creaturesand illustrations. She considers herself fortunate to be able to create imaginary worlds anytime she wants to. Narelda Joy lives surrounded by beautiful ora and fauna in the Blue Mountains, Australia. She has two dogs and a cat, as well as lots of native birds who visit her garden daily.



The story is set in Sydney, Australia during World War 1 and Tammy’s father is somewhere at the warfront in France. The endpapers of the book indicate knitted socks, a binding gift of love and hope which were shipped long distances from Australia.


  1. Using a map of the world, identify Sydney, France and where you live.
  2. Use latitude and longitude to describe your location.
  3. Using a map, identify the Western Front and mark where trench warfare took place.
  4. The soldiers in the story needed socks, especially in time for the French winter. Explain how it can be winter in one country, but summer in Australia.
  5. Ships carried supplies to the soldiers. What bodies of water would the ships from Australia need to cross to deliver the socks if it left from Western Australia? Or from Sydney? Or from Melbourne?
  6. Draw a map of France and highlight where Tammy’s father might be if he was in the Somme.
  7. The Somme Valley was one of the major battles during WW1. Can you describe the landscape and name the river which ran through the valley?


  1. What temperatures would soldiers be exposed to during winter in France?
  2. How do these temperatures and conditions compare to winter where you live?
  3. If a soldier was waist high in mud, would he feel warmer or colder?
  4. How do wet conditions affect human skin and feet?
  5. What types of animals inhabited the trenches and how were they a problem to the soldiers?
  6. If you rub your hands together, do they feel warmer? And why?


  1. Trenches were often one to two metres wide and three metres deep. Can you create a trench shape using class members lying down and standing to show the size of a trench?
  2. It was estimated that the trenches spanned 2,500 kilometres. What can you compare this distance too?
  3. If it took a knitter three days to knit one sock, how many pairs could the knitter make in thirty days?
  4. If the appeal for socks was to obtain 150,000 pairs and it took three days to knit one sock, how many days in total would it take to make 150,000 pairs? If it took two days to knit one sock, how many days in total would it take to make 150,000 pairs?
  5. The distance between enemy and allied trenches could be between 50-250 yards? How long is a yard and can you convert this to a metric measurement?


  1. How does the author set the scene at the beginning of the story?
  2. Is there language that makes you feel, sad, worried, hopeful and can you give examples of how the text achieves this?
  3. Write a poem in the shape of a sock.
  4. If you were to write a note to give hope and encouragement to someone, what might you say?
  5. Stories can be written in first or second or third person Point of View. Can you explain what Point of View is and describe each style?
  6. Can you identify which Point of View was used in Message in a Sock?
  7. Can you rewrite two lines from of the story using a different Point of View and discuss how this might change the way the story feels.
  8. Can you find examples of onomatopoeia?
  9. Can you find examples of dialogue and discuss how it feels different to the other text?


  1. The illustrator made the images using a collage style. Can you explain what collage is, then make your own collage image. You can use paper or fabric or a combination.
  2. What colors were used by the illustrator?
  3. Can you identify and describe any patterns found in the collage pieces?
  4. The tiny socks in the art are actual knitted socks. Do you think using knitted socks in the illustrations adds something special?
  5. If Tammy was a girl today, how might she be dressed and what hairstyle might she have? Draw a modern day Tammy.
  6. Make a life size sock from paper or fabric.
  7. Make a handwritten message to go inside your sock.
  8. Each student to select someone else’s sock then take turns to read the message to the class.
  9. Do you know how to knit or know someone who can knit and could that person come to class to show you all?
  10. Using brown paper wrap the class socks in a bundle and make labels the same as in the book.
  11. Make posters to encourage people to knit.
  12. Make a letterbox from cardboard like the one on the cover of the book.


  1. Describe how methods of communication have changed from one hundred years ago to today.
  2. Since WW1 what other forms of weapons were made by the time of WW2?
  3. People still knit using needles but how has the making of clothing and socks changed since 100 years ago?
  4. People knitted on trams during WW1. When were trams introduced to Sydney and how did they operate? Is the operation of trams different in Melbourne today as it was one hundred years ago?


  1. Wool was used to knit socks and other garments during WW1. Conduct a brief study of the history of wool in Australia.
  2. Make a timeline of major events that happened during WW1.


  1. What is a rough sketch? How is it useful?
  2. What is a storyboard? How is it useful?
  3. Would the book have worked as well if the illustrator drew the pictures instead of using collage cutouts? Would it change the story? How does collage enhance the text?
  4. Find where the shape and font of some words differs to the rest of the text? Do words in a different style change the mood or tone of a scene?
  5. Can you pick a favourite spread? Explain why.
  6. How does the toy rabbit add to the story?
  7. Some pages have no text. Do the images do the talking?


Book publishing

There are many different jobs involved in publishing a book apart from the author and illustrator.

Find out what these people do:

  1. Editor
  2. Designer
  3. Publisher
  4. Distributor
  5. Literary Agent
  6. Printer
  7. Bookseller

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