Although I remember my puffy pink diary with the curious brass clasp, I don’t recall writing in it much. Age nine, I may have experimented with writing on the first page. Something like, “Today was my birthday. I had a party. Nothing else happened.”
If only I’d had books about writing stories … I loved to tell stories and I would have spent hours in the summertime writing them down, but no one told me I could. I didn’t know how. A story on paper is different than telling a story out loud … isn’t it? It felt overwhelming, daunting, and something that somebody else did.
I read plenty of books in the summer. I came home from the library with 10 books in my bike basket every other day. That’s all they’d let me check out. But it never occurred to me that I could write a story myself. I could write a page in school, but a whole book? Nuh-uh.
If only I’d had books like these. You’ll find them appropriate for children up to age ten or as discussion tools for a an older group of kids.
A Book by Mordecai Gerstein (Roaring Brook Press). Story telling happens in many ways, but author and illustrator Gerstein turns conventions on their ear and invites us to look at stories in a new way. The people in this book live inside the book. They go to sleep when the covers are closed. You’ll have fun discussing this book with your kids.
For inspiration, Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Two books in one: coping with a new sibling and realizing that inspiration is all around us. Lizzie loves to write and draw … but an inspired teacher helps her pull it all together.
Do you have a budding comedy writer in your house? Need an example of the diary form? Born Yesterday: the Diary of a Young Journalist by James Solheim and Simon James (Philomel) will fill the bill and it’s funny to boot. “If I’d known I was going to be born in public, I’d at least have put on a tank top.” Journalism has never been this inspiring.
My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven (Schwartz & Wade) Similes and word play. A family is described with found object illustrations (what a great way to get kids to pick up the house so they have choices!) and words that inspire creative writing play: the title and “my mommy is as soft as the softest fluff.” Dryer lint … you gotta love it.
Show Me a Story: Writing Your Own Picture Book by Nancy Loewen (Picture Window Books). You’ll read about the tools for writing a picture book and understand how they’re applied in a concurrent story. Using these tools, your youngsters can create their very own picture books.
You Can Write a Story: a Story-Writing Recipe for Kids by Lisa Bullard (Cooper Square Publishing). With a step-by-step cookbook approach, story writers will learn about character, setting, and action, brainstorm about the elements they want to include in their own story, and feel satisfied with the knowledge giving them confidence. The bright and lively illustrations are inviting. This is a good book to give kids to work through on their own. It would work well on a vacation-bound car trip.
Meanwhile. Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga (Abrams / Amulet). You (or Jimmy, if you must) wander into the lab-or-a-tor-y of a mad scientist where you must make a choice, using a mind reader, a time machine, or the Killitron. That’s just the first of many mind-boggling choices. It’s a great example of how many stories there are in the world.
Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost (First Second). With simple, nearly stick figures, this book tells us a story in such a clever way that it’s easy to understand how to write your own comic book, something many kids want to try. From the humorous tone to the swift action to the changing setting to the twist at the end, this will get kids thinking.
We’ll cover books for older kids about writing in our next article.
In the meantime (and don’t tell anyone I told you this), you (yes, you the adult) will have fun reading through these books, too.
It’s summer. Relax!