The Webweaver and the Squid Squad

part one of a two-part story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify and analyse how an illustrator demonstrates mood and emotion through their character drawings so that I can practice my skills of visually communicating with my audience.


Success Criteria:

  • I can connect character illustrations with their experiences in a story
  • I can discuss similarities and differences between different character illustrations
  • I can create my own character illustrations that depict different moods and emotions
  • I can give feedback to my peers on their illustrations.



Essential knowledge:

To assist students in understanding the process of creating characters, watch the English Textual Concepts video Character.


Understanding text:

After reading the text, ask students to look at the illustrations and consider how they depict the characters’ experiences in the text. Discuss the way the illustrator communicates their emotions through actions, body language and facial expressions and how this lends to the mood of the story (e.g. calm, urgent, suspenseful).


Analyse each illustration and ask students to identify what aspect of the story they feel is being depicted in each one, as well as how the characters demonstrate the mood of that part of the story. Students should also explain how they can determine this through the way the character is illustrated. Sample answers may be:


  • The first illustration shows Bob tinkering with his new invention. The way his mouth is tight and twisted and his eyebrows are pointed down in the middle shows that he is concentrating and feeling a little frustrated.
  • The illustration on page 28 shows Captain Ahab steering the ship towards the island. He looks focused, but the music notes above his head suggest that he is humming a tune to himself, giving it a calm, relaxed mood.
  • The illustration on page 29 shows Shasta and Bob on the deck together. Both are smiling and have their eyes wide, showing their excitement at getting closer to the island. Captain Ahab is poking his head out of the porthole, his face is more serious, and his fingers are gripping onto the frame, suggesting he may have just spotted something startling.
  • The illustration on page 32 shows Shasta with her pot of chocolate. She is frowning and beads of sweat are jumping from the top of her head, representing the stress that she is under. Her wings are tightly gripping the pot and chocolate is spilling out everywhere, suggesting that she is running, giving the mood a sense of panic and urgency.


If available, repeat this process with part one of the story, which can be found in the Countdown, Issue 1, 2024. Or here if you have a digital subscription.


Visit the website of the story’s illustrator, Douglas Holgate, and have students look at the different character illustration on the homepage. Have students compare and contrast pictures of their choice by noting the similarities and differences between them and what each communicates to the audience. For example:


  • The Last Kids on Earth and Skeleton Road show the characters as a group with one being the main focus at the front. Their facial expressions demonstrate fear and anxiety and their body language of being all huddled together and facing outwards suggests they may be fighting a threatening presence and will protect each other.
  1. The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade shows only the main character. His eyes are narrowed, and he is smirking, depicting him as confident and determined. He is holding a weapon, and his legs are apart with his knees bent, suggesting he is running or lunging forward.


  • The picture on the bottom right shows a crocodile slinking through the water. Its mouth is wide open, flashing its sharp teeth and a broad smile, and its eyes are menacing. Its focus and stance suggest it is about to attack something or someone, creating a dangerous and threatening mood.
  1. The tiger in the picture further up the page also has its mouth wide open in a smile and is showing its sharp teeth, however it has its eyes closed and its tongue out, suggesting it is actually laughing. It is joined by a child and a penguin, and they are all playing instruments, with musical onomatopoeia words surrounding them, giving the picture more of a fun, light-hearted feel.



Assessment for/as learning:

Have students create their own page of character illustrations that depict different moods and emotions using facial expressions, body language and behaviours. They may like to recreate familiar characters in their own styles or come up with new ones themselves. Explain that there doesn’t need to be any writing to go along with it, they should simply focus on communicating visually through their characters.


They may wish to create a grid of illustrations, as shown on Douglas Holgate’s website, or arrange their illustrations any way they would prefer, but they should aim to draw 5-10 pictures of characters depicted in different ways. They may wish to use the same character throughout or different characters all over the page.


Once completed, students should swap with a partner and give feedback as modelled above with the text illustrations and Douglas Holgate’s website.