Cogheart by Peter Bunzl – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are you looking for an engaging and exciting book to use in the classroom? Cogheart by Peter Bunzl is an excellent choice!

This thrilling novel follows a young inventor, Lily, as she solves the mystery of her father’s disappearance. The story combines historical fiction with steampunk elements, making it a unique reading experience your students will enjoy.

To make integrating this novel into lessons easier for teachers, here is an overview of how you can plan activities and discussion topics around Cogheart.

Related: For more, check out our planning overview on The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit  here.

Cogheart Storyline

Cogheart is the story of Lily, a brave and determined girl who lives with her adoptive father, Robert. When a mysterious airship appears in the sky one night, bringing the talk of mechanimals and their makers from ‘across the sea’, Robert sets off on a secret mission, leaving Lily alone.

To help her ailing father and uncover the truth about her past, she teams up with Malkin, an unpredictable mechanical fox, and Robert’s former apprentice, Mr Tarkin. Together they travel across the country searching for Robert and discover strange creatures called Mechanimals — mechanical animals capable of thought and emotion — and dark secrets that lurk in their world.

With danger at every turn and powerful forces determined to keep them quiet, they must use all their resources to stay alive. Ultimately, Lily discovers the shocking truth behind her identity: she is part human and part machine. With courage and resilience, she comes to terms with who she truly is and reunites with her beloved family.

Key Themes in Cogheart

Technology and Human Connection

The story of Cogheart explores the delicate balance between technology and human connection. While technological advancements are shown to be a powerful tool to extend people’s capabilities, they also risk weakening the relationships between them.

The mechanical fox Malkin exemplifies this, his unpredictable behaviour complicating Lily’s mission and bringing danger to the people she loves. Ultimately, the story shows us that it is essential for people to come together despite their differences and celebrate the bonds of family, friendship and love that make us all unique.

Discovery of Identity

Lily’s journey in Cogheart is more than finding her adoptive father, Robert; it is about discovering her identity. Lily learns more about herself through her interactions with the Mechanimals she meets as she embarks on her quest.

By understanding their stories and experiences, Lily gradually uncovers her hidden powers and finally accepts her actual self — part machine, part human — at last. In doing so, Lily finds Robert and rediscovers a newfound sense of purpose and belonging in a world full of surprises and possibilities.

Key Characters in Cogheart


Lily is the brave protagonist of Cogheart. Her journey to find her adoptive father, Robert, leads her to uncover the truth about her identity and helps her understand what it truly means to be family.

Determined, resourceful and compassionate, she uses her newfound powers for the greater good, helping those closest to her and ensuring justice is served.


Robert, Lily’s adoptive father, goes missing early in the story. Although initially an absent figure throughout Lily’s journey, we later see a different side to him as his true character unfolds.

He is revealed as a kind-hearted yet naive loner hiding from society due to dark secrets from his past. Despite all odds, he is reunited with Lily at the end of their journey, bringing his beloved daughter closure and peace of mind.

Mr Tarkin

Mr Tarkin is Robert’s former apprentice who joins forces with Lily on her mission. Witty and intelligent but also cautious and distrusting, he serves as an invaluable ally until a series of events force him into a more complicated role between hero and villain in the story.

Inevitably, he plays a crucial part in Lily’s discovery of herself and helps restore balance by protecting those closest to him when it matters most.

Learning Opportunities in Cogheart

Exploring Technology and Human Connection

Cogheart provides an excellent opportunity to explore the balance between technology and human connection. Students can discuss how technology affects our relationships, how it can lead to positive and negative consequences, and what strategies we can use to limit its impact.

This conversation could also be extended to considering other complex issues, such as when relying on machines over humans is appropriate.

Discovering Identity

Lily’s journey of self-discovery provides an essential lesson for students about the power of identity. Here, students can learn about concepts like self-reflection, accepting one’s uniqueness, understanding different perspectives and finding a purpose. They can also discuss family dynamics, friendship, trust and resilience.

Encouraging Creativity

The world of Cogheart celebrates creativity in all forms – from painting pictures with lightbulbs to building mechanical foxes from scraps. Here, students are encouraged to think outside the box and develop their problem-solving skills through innovative solutions.

They will also be able to explore their unique talents while exploring new tasks with friends or family members.

Lesson Plan 1: Exploring Technology and Human Connection


Students will gain an understanding of the effects of technology on our relationships and discuss strategies for limiting its impact.


Introduce the concept of technology and how it can affect our relationships in both positive and negative ways. Talk about examples from Cogheart, such as when Lily’s invention of a lightbulb, the painting machine, brings her closer to her adoptive father, Robert but ultimately ends up causing tension.

Main Teaching Points:

  • Introduce students to digital literacy, media awareness, and online safety.
  • Discuss topics such as how technology has changed communication, whether machines can outsmart humans and the ethical issues around using technology.
  • Explore different strategies that we can use to limit the negative impacts of technology on our relationships. For example, setting boundaries regarding screen time or having meaningful conversations with family members/friends instead of relying solely on technological devices.

Key Questions:

  • What are some examples of when technology has changed communication?
  • How have machines been able to outsmart humans?
  • What are some possible ethical issues with using technology?
  • How can we limit the negative impacts of technology on our relationships?


At the end of the lesson, ask students to reflect on their learning by writing down one thing they learned about exploring the balance between technology and human connection.

Lesson Plan 2: Discovering Identity


Students will explore identity, understand different perspectives and reflect on their uniqueness.


Introduce Lily’s journey in Cogheart, which is full of self-discovery. Discuss family dynamics, friendship, trust and resilience. Guide students to think about how Lily’s experiences can help them better understand their experiences. Explain to students that although we all have unique qualities, we must recognize our similarities too.

Main Teaching Points:

  • Introduce concepts such as self-reflection, understanding different perspectives and finding purpose through identity.
  • Please encourage students to discuss and write down examples from their lives demonstrating when they explored or challenged their identity or beliefs.
  • Lead students in more profound reflections on belonging, self-confidence, regrets, mistakes, growth mindset, etc.

Key Questions:

  • What do we learn from Lily’s journey?
  • How can our life experiences help us understand our identity better?
  • What are some examples of when you have challenged your identity or beliefs?
  • How can recognizing similar traits among people be beneficial?
    • What did you learn today about discovering your own identity?


At the end of the lesson, ask students to write down what they learnt today about discovering their own identity by reflecting on this experience with the class.

Website Resources

Peter Bunzl Website:  This website offers a range of resources for teachers and parents, such as activity ideas, worksheets, book-based units, author visits and discussion guides.

Literacy Shed Plus Resource: This resource provides free teaching materials related to the book Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. It includes lesson plans and activities targeted at children aged 9 to 11, including roleplays and group discussions based on critical themes in the story.

Twinkl Cogheart Book Page: This page provides further information about the book Cogheart by Peter Bunzl, with additional downloadable resources such as fun game ideas, worksheets and activities to do with friends or family members to the novel’s theme and characters.

Luddenham School Comprehension Questions Page: This webpage provides optional comprehension questions for each chapter of the book Cogheart by Peter Bunzl, which can be used to enhance pupils’ understanding of the storyline. At the same time, they read through it in class or at home.


What is Cogheart?

Cogheart is a middle-grade fantasy novel written by Peter Bunzl. It follows the adventures of twelve-year-old Lily, her mechanical fox Malkin, and their mysterious and daring new friend Robert. The story contains self-discovery, family dynamics, friendship, trust, and resilience.

What resources are available to teach Cogheart?

Several resources are available for teaching Cogheart, such as activity ideas, worksheets, book-based units, discussion guides and author visits provided by the author’s website Peter Bunzl. There is also free teaching material related to the book Literacy Shed Plus Resource. Finally, Twinkl provides additional downloadable resources such as fun game ideas and activities to do with friends or family members related to the novel’s theme and characters.

What topics can be explored through teaching Cogheart?

The topics which can be explored from teaching Cogheart include self-reflection; understanding different perspectives; finding a sense of purpose through one’s identity; family dynamics; friendship; trust; resilience; belonging; self-confidence; regrets; mistakes, and growth mindset, among others.

Are there comprehension questions for each chapter of the book?

Yes! Comprehension questions for each chapter can be found on Luddenham School Comprehension Questions Page to enhance pupils’ understanding of the storyline while they read it in class or at home.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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