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The gift of friendship

‘The Quangle Wangle's Hat’ by Edward Lear and the story of Zacchaeus

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To look at the importance of friendship to happiness.

Preparation and materials

  • Find a copy or print out the text of the poem ‘The Quangle Wangle’s Hat’ by Edward Lear, available at:
  • You can simply read the poem or you could use drama to build on it.
  • Ahead of the assembly, the children could design and make masks to represent each of the animals mentioned in the poem. The masks could be created entirely from the children's imaginations or you could find various illustrated versions of the poem, discuss them and use the illustrations as a starting point from which the children could develop their own ideas.
  • Two illustrations, of Lear's cat Foss by him and a self-portrait, could be shown during the assembly, but this is optional.
  • Familiarize yourself with the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.1–10.
  • Choose one or more songs about friendship to sing or play at the end of the assembly, such as 'When I'm sixty-four' or 'Side by side' by The Beatles (both can be found in Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay, A. & C. Black, 2001).


  1. Read ‘The Quangle Wangle's Hat’.

  2. Ask the children, how many of you have pets? What kinds of pets are they? What are their names?

    How many of you would like to have one of the animals mentioned in this poem as a pet? Which one? The Blue Baboon? The small Olympian bear?

  3. ‘The Quangle Wangle's Hat’ was written by a man called Edward Lear. He lived over 100 years ago, in the nineteenth century, and he was an artist. He travelled all over the place, painting pictures to sell to make his living. He also wrote many daft poems. In fact, he was the first person to write and illustrate a book just for children. In the end he grew quite rich and built himself a splendid villa, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, and he had several servants.

    Despite all this, he was a rather unhappy man. Why?

    Well, the main problem was that he was really rather lonely. He never got married and he never had any children. He was often ill and he thought that he was very ugly. He couldn't believe that anyone would really like him, so he was very shy, but he did have several pets. The most famous of them was his enormous tabby cat called Foss. 

    Show picture of Foss, if using. 

    As you can see, Foss only had half a tail! Lear loved Foss. He drew lots of pictures of him and gave him his own coat of arms. He was deeply sad when Foss died. In many ways, Foss was his best friend.

  4. ‘The Quangle Wangle's Hat’ is very zany, like many of Lear's poems, but it's also in some ways a very sad poem. The Quangle Wangle is really Edward Lear – as you can see from Lear's own drawing of himself. 

    Show self-portrait of Edward Lear, if using.

  5. At the beginning of the poem he is all alone, but then come Mr and Mrs Canary, then another animal, then another, until the poem ends in a great jamboree of animal friends:

    And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon
    They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon
    On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
    And all were as happy as happy could be,
    With Qwangle Wangle Quee.

    Lear would have liked to have lived like this, surrounded by friends, but he never did – except, perhaps, for Foss.

  6. Jesus told a story about a man who didn't have any friends. His name was Zacchaeus. Perhaps some of you have heard it. 

    Zacchaeus was rather a mean person, dishonest; no one liked him. When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for tea, however, Zacchaeus changed. Instead of being mean, he wanted to make up for what he’d done and became generous. Guess what, people began to like him better.

  7. Sometimes even people who are not mean can be lonely. Everyone needs friends. Everyone needs to feel loved and valued by other people – or even by animals! If we are not loved, if we don't have friends, we become sad. 

    So, next time you read or hear a poem by Edward Lear, think of the gentle but unhappy person who wrote the poem and be thankful for the people who love you. 

Time for reflection

Let's be quiet for a few moments.

Think, first of all, of those people who are your special friends. Picture them in your mind. Say thank you to God for those friends.

Now think about someone you know who, perhaps, doesn't have many friends. Is there anything that could be done to help that person find a friend?

Finally, let's think about how Jesus loves and cares for everyone. 


Chosen song or songs about friendship 

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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