A Letter From His Lordship

poem by Jonathan Sellars , illustrated by Greg Holfeld


Learning Intention:

I am learning how the ideas represented in texts can shift according to viewpoint so that I can understand multiple interpretations of a text.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify the viewpoint of a text and summarise the ideas outlined.
  • I can offer alternative viewpoints of the ideas explored in a text.
  • I can locate other texts that offer similar viewpoints and opinions about the ideas.


Essential Knowledge:

More information about how a theme invites the audience to think more about their own lives and what they value can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Theme.

Guiding Question:

How does a story’s point of view help us explore themes?

Prior to reading the text, remind students of the definition of a theme. Use the stage statements from the ETA’s Textual Concepts page on Theme to guide discussion. Themes:

  • are different from subjects or topics
  • arise out of the actions, feelings and ideas of people or characters
  • may be explored in different ways by different texts
  • relate to social, moral and ethical questions in the real world!

Ask a series of pre-reading questions that link to the theme of the text and relate to social, moral or ethical questions in their own lives:

  • Do you have pets?
  • If you have pets, what are their names? How did you choose their name? Do you think their name suits them? Do you think they like their name?
  • If you do not have pets, imagine that you do have one. What name would you choose? Why would you choose this name?

Next, read the ABC Everyday article Pets with human names deserve a story, so we gave them one. Conduct a class poll on whether students think that pets should have human names, or whether it is more appropriate to use specific pet names (Fido, Milo, Tibbles).

Explain that while considering this social question, we have only considered the viewpoint of humans (the pets’ owners). This could also be an ethical question, as animals might have an opinion about what their names are.

Read the picture book “You’re Called What?!” by Kes Gray. In this book, many animals visit the Ministry of Silly Animal Names in an attempt to change a name that they hate. Ask students how they would feel if they were called a cockerpoo, a pink fairy armadillo or a shovelnose guitarfish.

Then, read the poem “A Letter From His Lordship” to the class. Alternatively, if you have a digital subscription, you can listen to the audio recording. After listening to the poem, ask students to explain its theme (humans have given pets ridiculous sounding names, instead pets would like to be called sensible, human names). Challenge them to explain how the theme of the poem is similar to “You’re Called What?!” (Both texts are about animals being embarrassed by the names they have been given by humans). Record these points.

Finally, ask students to write their own persuasive text modelled on the points raised in the previous discussion. Model how these points can be crafted to form the perspective of unrepresented animals and title the text “Considerations from a Furry Friend.” For example:

Human names for pets Human names help us to gain the attention and respect we deserve. It is very hard to respect a creature who goes by the name of Snooffles. Clark, on the other hand, is short and snappy. It gets peoples attention.
Personality Just like humans, we Companions have many different character and personality attributes. By giving us human-like names, not only does it help people connect to us, but our owners can also choose names that reflect our personality.
Filing the void Often, our human companions bring one of us into their homes to help fill the void of loneliness. This can happen if someone has moved into a new area, or they have sadly lost someone. Choosing a human-like name for us, can help fill that void, as it sounds like you are speaking to a human when you talk to us. You may even like to call us after your favourite person who can no longer be with you as a sign of respect for your loved one.