Teacher’s notes for Black Earth

Before reading the book

Have a look at the inside of the front and back covers.

Can you think of any other paperback books that have similar inside cover images.
What about hardback books?

Compare the outside and inside front covers.
Do the inside ones give a different feel to the book?
Or are they just advertisements for the other books in the series?

NB. If you are using a copy of the 2nd edition of Black Earth the cover will be different. All other activities suggested below are relevant to both the 1st and 2nd editions, in paperback.

Black Earth (cover, first edition)
Black Earth (cover, second edition)

In this third book in the Eden Glassie Mystery quartet the element fire is central to the story. Throughout history fire has been both friend and foe to human beings. It has been used to warm our bodies, cook our food and fashion our tools. But it has sometimes been used, deliberately, to destroy life and property.

  • Discuss the good and bad aspects of fire.
  • We now know that the seeds of some native plants lie dormant in the ground until a bushfire comes through. Does this new growth outweigh the destruction that a fire might cause?

Conduct a survey to find out how many people in your class use fire in their homes (eg. gas cooker, barbeque, open fireplace).

  • Make a graph based on the results.
  • Have you ever experienced a fire that is out of control?

Write a poem or short story based on your own experience or on reports you have seen on TV or read in the newspaper.

Analysis and application of knowledge

After you have read the novel:

In the Macquarie Dictionary, the word Irony is defined as ‘outcome of events opposite to what was, or might have been, expected.’

Can you think of any examples of irony in Black Earth? Re-read p104 and p138.
Can you remember any times in your own life when things turned out very differently (opposite) from what you expected? In Stone Circle, the second Eden Glassie Mystery, different views of ‘the truth’ were presented by the characters. In Black Earth, aspects of physical courage are explored.

Who do you think is the bravest of these characters from the book?

  • Tori
  • the honeyman
  • Maddie

Give at least one reason for your choice. For you, personally, would it be harder to confront the honeyman in a crowded hospital corridor, or run into the burning tackroom and drag Bronte out?

Describe what you believe to be an act of:

  • physical courage
  • social courage
  • moral courage

During a recent shark attack a surfer, having reached the safety of the beach, looked back to find that his mate was still battling the shark. He immediately went back into the water to help his friend. When he was interviewed later by the press he said: ‘I only did what anyone else would have done.’ Similar remarks have often been made by people who have carried out what seems, to the rest of us, to be incredible acts of bravery.

Form two teams and debate the following:
‘It takes more guts to say ‘sorry’ to your enemy than to save your friend from drowning.’


Find out what sort of training firefighters are required to do.

Visit an area of bush that has been recently burnt out. Record any new growth, any plants (or parts of plants) that seem to have been untouched by the fire.

Try lighting a fire:

  • the Aboriginal way, by spinning a stick between your hands until it creates a spark.
  • Using a magnifying glass and directing the sun’s rays onto a piece of paper.

Warning !!!!!!!!! 
Make sure that the fire you start is put out very carefully before you leave.