Earth Can Wait

story by John O'Brien , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning Intention:


I am learning to analyse how the emotions of characters are conveyed so that I can understand how this influences the emotions of the readers


Success Criteria:


  • I can identify how emotions are conveyed through characterisation in a narrative
  • I can locate evidence to support my ideas in a text
  • I can express my reactions to and opinions about a narrative text


Essential knowledge:


Information on characterisation in narratives can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Character on The School Magazine website.


Understanding text:


As a class, read the beginning of the story up until the end of page 15.

Discuss how Cooper is feeling in this part of the story. Consider the following moments:

  • When Cooper discovers the new volcano
  • When Cooper is reminded that he must start packing
  • When Cooper thinks about life on Earth


For each emotion identified, highlight or underline a sentence that shows he is feeling this way. Suggested answers:

Excited: ‘His heart thumped with excitement.’

Sad: ‘Suddenly he felt a hint of sadness.’

Excited: “In truth he could hardly wait to go.’


Discuss the following:

  • How can one person feel both excited and sad at the same time?
  • Have you ever experienced a time when you have felt two strong emotions simultaneously?
  • In a story, is it better to show a character with mixed emotions, like Cooper, or develop a character who displays just one strong emotion?


Continue reading the story up until ‘Sadly, you’ll now have to spend another year with that piece of machinery.’ (at the top of page 17).


Ask students to complete the following table comparing Cooper’s feelings about EB8 with Aunt Dalla’s feelings about EB8. Where possible, students are encouraged to give evidence in the form of quotes from the text.

Cooper's feelings about EB8 Aunt Dalla's feelings about EB8
Description of each character's feelings


Evidence from the text


Ask students to write down their own perspective of EB8, and then consider if their feelings correspond to Cooper’s or Aunt Dalla’s feelings about EB8.

Before reading the end of the story, as students to vote on whether Aunt Dalla’s news was bad news or good news for Cooper. Tally the results on the board.

(Note for the teacher, it is probable that your students will vote that Aunt Dalla’s news is good news for Cooper as readers of this story have been positioned to see things more from Cooper’s perspective than Aunt Dalla’s. Students also have been able to identify that EB8 has played an important role in Cooper’s life and therefore they will likely feel affection towards EB8 as well.)

Continue reading the story until the end. Discuss the following questions as a class:

  • How did Cooper feel after receiving Aunt Dalla’s news? (he was relieved and happy)
  • How do you know that he is feeling this way? (he was sprinting through the wrecked spaceship, filled with delight.)
  • As a reader, how do you feel when you find out that Cooper is going to be able to share another year with EB8?
  • Why do you think that readers are able to form an emotional connection with Cooper? (Authors help the reader to develop empathy with the characters they create in their stories. Readers feel the way that Cooper feels because readers understand that bonds between children and the people who raise them are strong and filled with love.)


Creating text:

Give students the following task:

Write a review of the story ‘Earth can wait.’ In your review, outline what you thought about the story, with a particular focus on the characters and the way that readers can connect with characters through shared emotions.

Extension: Students can be extended by being encouraged to use persuasive techniques in their writing to convince others to also read the story.


The following scaffold may be helpful for students:

An introduction to the context and plot of the story
A discussion of the characters in the story
An opinion on how enjoyable the story is for readers
A rating out of 5 stars

Assessment for/as learning:

Ask students to complete a peer review by forming pairs and reading each other’s review. Once students have read their partner’s review, encourage them to discuss each other’s work. Some useful discussion questions include:

  • Did the review show what the story was about?
  • Did the review give a clear opinion about the story?
  • What other information could have been included?
  • Are there any problems that can be fixed together?