These days, schools focus so much on reading that it seems like they are not paying as much attention to the importance of creative writing. That kind of makes me sad. I remember being allowed to just draw pictures and then write the stories or dictate them to a teacher when I was younger. It is a vital part of the education process that I wish we could nurture more. So when I found one book that was about the writing process, it got my mind churning about the others out there.
Our library is somewhat limited in availability, so while I was in California I used the public library there to get a number of these books. What was even more fabulous than reading the books with J was that afterwards, she wanted to write a story of her own!
The Plot Chickens, by Mary Jane Auch. This was a very cute book about a hen who loves reading and decides to try her hand at writing a book. She checks some books out of the library about writing and the follows the rules that they set forth. Henrietta the hen is assisted by her many aunts who at time need to have terms explained, like that a plot isn’t a piece of land, but what happens in a story. After finishing her story, she sends it to a publisher, gets rejected, publishes it herself, get a bad review and then discovers that all of the children at the library love it. The book is a wonderful telling of the writing and publishing process. As someone who worked in publishing, I loved seeing the chickens using CMYK plates (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). It was also useful to explain to J how different people enjoy different stories and how we can’t always trust the reviews that are out there – we need to make decisions for ourselves.
Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub. In another take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood story, this version follows a brave little red pencil as she goes on a journey to write a story. Her teacher has given her a story path to follow and she dutifully goes along. As she goes on her quest, she comes across aspects of the writing process. She tries out verbs to make her story exciting and then wanders into the adjective forest. In the forest she learns that while adjectives add wonderful description, too many can bog down a story. Stories also need movement and for “something exciting” (aka a growling sound) happens to little red in the middle, right where it apparently should. Who should it be but the ravenous Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener who has attacked Principal Granny and is now pretending to be her. Luckily, her trusty word basket contained dynomite, so she “took aim and threw.” It is a fun way to see how a story can develop while also showing that classic tales can inspire us.
Fanny & Annabella, by Hollie Hobbie .We loved reading Fanny, a book about a little girl who makes her own doll when her mother refuses to buy the expensive doll that all of the other little girls have. In this edition, Fanny has decided to write her own picture book one rainy day. One thing that is awesome about this book is that on the page that are supposed to be Fanny’s story, the words are in a font that looks like a child’s hand-writing and the pictures are more childishly drawn. Fanny realizes that starting a story is easy and fun, but after a few pages her story gets stuck. She asks people what they would do in a situation similar to what Annabella, her main character, is in. This is a fun way to see how a story develops as well as the wonders of having a finished product.
Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk. This might very well be one of our favorite books. Sam is a library mouse who lives in the children’s section of a local library. When the library is open, Sam sleeps, but when the library is closed he comes out of his hole and reads all of the books. One night Sam decides to write a book of his own and leave it in the library. So starts Sam’s foray into the world of being an author. When the librarians want to meet the elusive Sam he comes up with an idea to show all of the library patrons that anyone can write a book. It is a wonderful book about the power of reading and the power of storytelling. J says that she would like to be a library mouse because it would be amazing to live in the library!
by Eileen Spinelli. This is a sweet story about finding your own voice and listening to your heart when writing. The local library is having a contest for the best story and the quirky narrator just has to win that rollercoaster ride with her favorite author! But what makes a story the best? Her brother Tim says the best stories have lots of action. Her father thinks the best stories are the funniest. And Aunt Jane tells her the best stories have to make people cry. Every time she tries one of their suggestions, she feels like something just isn’t right. She ends up with a jumbled story that simply doesn’t feel right. Then her mother tells her that the best story is one that comes from the heart. She sits down and re-writes her story, no longer worrying about whether it will win the contest, but writing a story that she is proud of. This is a great introduction to the creative writing process.
Henry’s Amazing Imagination by Nancy Carlson is about a young mouse with a giant imagination. When it came time for show and tell, he would tell outstanding stories rather than bringing in items. One day his teacher encouraged him to use his vivid imagination to write down stories rather that fibbing during show and tell. Henry’s biggest concern was “what if I can’t spell all of the words?” An understandable concern of many young authors. This story was less about the writing process than the other books, but still a nice book for the younger set about using your imagination to create stories. You can read the book at We Give Books.
As I said, while we were in CA J got to work on her own story. I love my little writer!