~posted by Ruth
Picture books about the writing process are terrific for the youngest of authors; they can help toddlers imagine themselves in the role of writer and nudge them to take up pencils, markers, crayons, and write their own books and stories. The following books–all published in 2010–are wonderful additions not only for little ones, but for older writers as well. I’ve been sharing these picture books with classrooms of elementary and middle school kids as part of their writing workshop as a fun introduction to writing process and concepts of audience, reading aloud your work, drafting and revising, elements of plot–and even the process of having editors read your work and review it! Happy writing…
The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
Henrietta the chicken loves to read. When she has read all the books her farmhouse has to offer, she treks to the local library and tells the librarian, “buk, buk, buk,” and is handed three books, guaranteed to be of interest to chickens. “Henrietta was in reading eggstacy.” She reads, reads, reads. . .and soon decides that because reading is so much fun, “writing books must be eggshilerating!” She checks out several books on the craft of writing and begins to type her story (hunt and peck method, of course). Along with Henrietta, readers learn some rules of creating a story from finding a main character to developing a plot to making your story come alive by using all five senses. The illustrations are outstanding–colorful and humorous. This book is a gem!
What’s the Big Idea, Molly? by Valeri Gorbachev
Molly is a writer–I mean a real writer–even though she’s a mouse. She is in the throes of writer’s block when she and her other animal friends try to come up with a perfect gift for their friend Turtle’s birthday. It’s a charming story in and of itself, as the friends decide they can’t all choose to draw a picture of a flower as a birthday gift and collaborate on a present they create together. But beyond that, it’s a wonderful reflection on how different people go about doing their best thinking. Rabbit thinks while exercising, while Pig naps under her favorite tree for inspiration. As each animal thinks, Molly remains stuck–until she collaborates with her friends and creates a poem that ties together their ideas. I especially love the ending, where Molly has a pad and pencil by her bedside, ready for her next “big idea” whenever it may strike!
The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
The heroine of this tale is a would-be author who is planning to submit a story to her library’s contest. The prize is a ride on a Sooper Dooper Looper Roller Coaster with her favorite author! When she needs advice on her story, she turns to her brother, who tells her to include a lot of action, her father, who says to should have plenty of humor, her aunt who pines for a story that make you cry, and her cousin who tells her stories need plenty of romance. In the course of writing her story, she discovers her mother’s advice is the best: write from the heart. We never do discover who wins the contest, which is a nice touch, I think. It doesn’t really matter. Another subtle introduction to the ups and downs of the writing process woven into a heartfelt story.
Library Mouse: A World to Explore by Daniel Kirk
Do you prefer to learn new things by exploration, or reading and research? In Library Mouse: A World to Explore, children will be introduced to “the best of both worlds.” They will not only see the importance of reading, researching, and writing, but also be encouraged to get out and experience some of the things which they might read about. In this third book about Sam, the library mouse, we meet a new character: the adventurous Sarah, who loves to explore new things as much as Sam, but through hands-on experience rather than reading and writing. I really appreciate the way the book reminds its readers that literacy and actual experience go hand-in-hand, and friends working together can make new learning possible.
The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman
The Pencil is a creative, imaginative, and decidedly odd picture book about a pencil who just sits there, very lonely for a long time. “Then one day that little pencil made a move, shivered slightly, quivered somewhat. . .and began to draw.” The pencil first sketches a boy, who asks him to draw a pet dog for him. Then he needs a cat for the dog to chase, a house and family for the boy, a whole town. . .When he wants a more colorful town, he draws a paintbrush to color things in. But his creations are still not happy with his drawings, so he draws an eraser to help him revise. But the eraser runs amok! How can he stop it from erasing everything the pencil draws? Readers are intrigued to find out how this dilemma can be resolved.
Children often want to draw a story after hearing the book, narrating what each character wants. The book can also spark a fascinating discussion in classrooms about how much power characters can exert on their authors.
More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt
OK, I know I just reviewed Kenn Nesbitt’s newest book–but here’s the thing. It’s perfect for this list of great new picture books on being an author! How much should an author re-craft her writing to meet her audience’s expectations? What happens when readers put pressure on the writer to include exactly what they think they want? For more information on this wonderful new resource, check out our review More Kenn Nesbitt with MORE BEARS!