Firework scenes


Using examples from The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, children will explore great descriptive writing and then have a go at creating their own descriptions of fireworks. There is an optional art response which will help children engage with the writing and to stimulate ideas for vivid descriptions and figurative language.



In The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Philip Pullman writes descriptions of firework displays that really bring the scenes to life. In this activity you can read some extracts from these scenes and have a go at creating your own.


What you need

  • Access to the examples from the text below (or from the book if you have it)
  • (Optional) Any art materials needed for children’s chosen art response
  • Pen and paper or alternative way of recording ideas


What to do

  • Step 1: Explore descriptions
  • Step 2 (Optional): Art response
  • Step 3: Try writing your own interesting description
  • Step 4 (Optional): Write your descriptions as part of a story



Step 1: Explore descriptions

Read these fantastic and interesting descriptions of firework displays from The Firework-Maker’s Daughter.

Red, green and white rockets whizzed up in the air to explode with enormous bangs that echoed all round the city.

Colonel Sparkington galloped in on a white horse made of tiny Catherine wheels.

Then a red light shivered downwards, leaving a trail of red sparks hanging in the air, like a crack opening in the night…a great cascade of brilliant red, orange, and yellow lava seemed to pour down and spread out like the carpet of fire in the Grotto.

(From The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, by Philip Pullman, Corgi Yearling, 1995)



Step 2 (Optional): Art response

Choose one or more of the descriptions to do an art response for. Here are some ideas, but children can do whatever they like.

  • Painting
  • Collage
  • Sketch
  • Digital art
  • Animation
  • Make it with flower petals or other colourful natural objects and take a photograph of the finished work
  • Different colours of chalk on a dry pavement/driveway

If you have the book, you can look and choose a different display scene to do if you like.



Step 3: Try writing your own interesting description

Explore the different descriptive writing examples. Children can try similes, metaphors, or interesting and powerful words to describe a firework of their choice.

Similes and metaphors

Look at some similes Philip Pullman has used. Similes are ways of describing something by saying it is like something else. Two examples are:
Like the carpet of fire.
Like a crack opening in the night.

Take a moment to picture these in your imagination. Can you think of some interesting ways to describe any fireworks you have seen or imagined by comparing them to something else?

You could have a go at writing a metaphor. Metaphors are way of describing something as if it is something else.
For example, you might describe a bonfire as: burning tongues licking the coolness of the dark night sky.
Rather than saying the flames are like tongues (which would be a simile), they are described as actually being tongues.

To write your own simile or metaphor, think about what the fireworks are like – what do they remind you of? Think about how they move, what they look like and what they sound like.
Do they act like an animal? Like a lion leaping with sparks roaring from its mouth.
Do they resemble something? For example, flowers blooming, lightening, or dancers.


Interesting words to describe sounds and movement

Look at the different words Philip Pullman uses to describe the sounds of the fireworks and how they move, such as whizzed, shivered and cascade.

Think of some of your own words to describe how the fireworks are set off, how they move and what sounds they make, like burst, explode, shoot, bang, dazzle, wiggle, bloom.



Step 4 (Optional): Write your descriptions as part of a story

Imagine yourself as a great Firework-Maker who has been invited to take part in the king’s firework display competition. What would you create?

Let your imagination run wild. In the story of the Firework-Maker’s daughter the displays included a horse made of Catherine wheels, a rocket the Firework-Maker sat on and was shot off towards the moon, a giant octopus attacking a ship, a great battle, and even a giant prawn!

Draw, talk about, or write down your ideas. Use any descriptions you came up with in Step 3 to help you.


You can use your display description as part of a firework adventure story.