Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Putting That Creative Spark into Book Form

Inspired by an I.N.K. post by Anna K. Lewis (Books to Ignite a Creative Spark), I‘ve compiled several titles that help kids put their own ideas into book format. For my purposes, a book is defined as a sequence of words and/or pictures that tells a story or conveys information. It may be as simple as a folded piece of paper that provides four pages to fill, a ready-made journal, an accordion book, and so on.

Over the years many people have asked me for a book about how students could write their own books. Not once did anyone request info about how kids can learn to illustrate, i.e. combine artwork with words. Perhaps that‘s because “art” isn’t prominent in standardized tests? Yet this world is jam-packed with images and surely it‘s an important skill for children to be able to analyze and work with images, is it not?
 Since I think art is indeed useful, the title I created is Look at My Book: How Kids Can Write and Illustrate Terrific Books. It follows three characters from brainstorming to rough drafts, revising, lettering, and binding as they create an adventure story, a nonfiction bird book, and an autobiography (age 5-9).

There are quite a few children's books about writing and/or drawing… for this post I tried to focus on some that are likely to inspire a child to create a book project, rather than just enjoyable stories with a writing theme or directions about how to draw cats, dogs, etc. The recommended age levels are included as a guide, but kids often defy such labels, of course. Please add your favorite titles in a comment!

Books for kids:

Max‘s Words 
Kate Banks and Boris Kulikov (illustrator) (age 4-8)
Max finds out his collection of words can be arranged to create stories, with amazing results. An inspiring introduction to the power of words, as well as wonderful illustrations.

You Have to Write 
Janet S. Wong, Teresa Flavin (illustrator) (age 8-12)
This picture book speaks directly to kids about common fears they may have about “what to write about” and other dilemmas.

How to Write Your Life Story
Ralph Fletcher (age 9-12)
In addition to this title, Fletcher has written numerous books to help kids develop as authors, including A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You; Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices; and Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out.

In Print! 40 Cool Publishing Projects for Kids

Joe Rhatigan
(age 9-12)
Innovative ways to showcase writing and illustration projects, some book-like and some not.

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make it Bad 
Mark Gonyea (age 9-12)
The sequel to A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make it Good, one of very few resources about design directed to children.

Art for Kids: Comic Strips: Create Your Own Comic Strips from Start to Finish 
Art Roche (age 9-12)

Children love comics and this gives them a guide to making their own. For older students, Making Comics by Scott McCloud is a comprehensive how-to presented in a comics format.

Books for Teachers:

Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8
Stepanie Harvey
One of the few books to concentrate on teaching nonfiction writing (also next entry.)

Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8
Joann Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher

Notebook Know-How: Strategies For The Writer's Notebook
Aimee Buckner

Personally, I never once made a book
while attending elementary and secondary school in the late 60s and 70s, Lots of paragraphs, reports, a poem or two, but that was about it. The first book I made was as an adult, a dummy to try and get my first book published. Once I began visiting schools in the 1980s, it was so nice to see that writing by very young children seemed to be everywhere. Many schools sponsor Young Author events to showcase the students’ writing and illustration in book form, and some even put those books in the library to be checked out. I would have loved a supportive atmosphere like that.

For students who want to try to get published, the Kids Are Authors contest sponsored by Scholastic is a wonderful impetus for the creation of thousands of books every year.


Anna M. Lewis said...

Fantastic post!
The books you listed are great.

And, I love your book. My right-brain is somewhat picky about book layouts but the content, style, and graphics are perfect for the creative brain... and FUN!

Stacy Dillon said...

Max's Words just inspired my 2nd graders this year to create stories from found words. The results were hilarious.

Unknown said...

I recently heard about a new book by favorite authors and friends Mary Jane and Herm Auch. Known for their chicken-inspired books such as Poultrygeist and Bantam of the Opera, their spring 2009 book is...
The Plot Chickens. It tells the story of the difficulties a plucky hen runs into while writing her first book. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like great fun.