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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Get Kids Writing!

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Book Cover Chester

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Inspiring kids in the primary grades (kindergarten included) to get writing is easy with these literary gems.

Chester, by Melanie Watt, is the first in a trilogy for a sophisticated young reader. A power struggle between author and character takes the plot hostage. Chester, the cat, trumps Watt's mouse-story by attacking the mouse's happy home, substituting mouse pictures and cheese for cat pics and fish snacks. Watt fights back (her story is in black font as opposed to Chester's red scrawl) with a scary bulldog, and a downpour of rain, which smudges Chester's version of the story. Watt gets the final word by drawing the humiliated cat wearing a cinch-waisted tutu.

Book Cover Chester's Back

The feud ramps up in the sequel, Chester's Back!, with Chester graffiti-ing Watt's author photo. The author counters with open auditions for Chester's replacement. The cat's egomaniacal needs are finally satisfied (or so he thinks) when Watt makes him a star, but not the kind of star he intended.

Book Cover chester's masterpiece

The final book, Chester's Masterpiece, addresses how to construct a story. Chester's red pen completely takes over, right down to the bibliographic data. Watt's comments are relegated to post-it notes demanding Chester plan his story, addressing genre, setting, villain (Dr. Mean Mouse) and alternate endings. Chester runs out of ink but he definitely gets the last laugh. Very advanced humour.

Augustine, also by Melanie Watt, motivates young readers to draw their story. Augustine the penguin is a lover of all things art. He moves from the South Pole to the North Pole and nervously faces his first day of school, expressed through his "Blue Recess Period" (Picasso-inspired) drawings.

Book Cover Jeffrey and Sloth

In Jeffrey and Sloth, by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Ben Hodson, Jeffrey's having trouble writing. Should he start with pictures or words? He draws a sloth, who distracts him until he gets an idea, writing the sloth into an active cross-Canada search for a blanket. This one emboldens children to turn doodles into a narrative.

Book Cover Mr Zinger's Hat

In Mr. Zinger's Hat, by Cary Fagan, playfully illustrated by Dusan Petricic, Leo meets Mr. Zinger, the old man who walks the courtyard, the one with the dark suit who looks like an elf. When Mr. Zinger's hat blows off and lands on Leo's head Mr. Zinger says there's something inside...a story. One which Leo and Mr. Zinger create together with Leo providing a simple, perfect plot solution. It turns out Mr. Zinger is a writer and after he heads home to write, Leo is inspired to create his own tale.

Book Cover Any Questions

The voice in Any Questions?, by Marie Louise Gay, is first-person Gay. She's test-driving a story, making decisions in full colour with her little characters contributing ideas, i.e. What if the paper were sea-blue? Gay writes out ideas, makes changes, deletes words, until suddenly she knows what the adventure will be about. A story within the story unfolds: "The Shy Young Giant." Gay stops to brainstorm with her illustrated kids about what will happen next, modelling the true writing process in a most kid-friendly way. 

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On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

September 20, 2016

Books mentioned in this post

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Chester

illustrated by Melanie Watt
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover Paperback
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: cats, humorous stories

Chester is more than a picture book. It is a story told, and retold, by dueling author-illustrators.

Mélanie Watt starts out with the story of a mouse in a house. Then Mélanie's cat, Chester, sends the mouse packing and proceeds to cover the pages with rewrites from his red marker, and the gloves are off.

Mélanie and her mouse won't take Chester' …

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Chester's Back!

illustrated by Melanie Watt
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: cats, humorous stories

In this uproarious sequel to Chester, the battle of the picture-book makers continues. Which author-illustrator will come out on top --- Chester or Mélanie Watt --- is anybody's guess!

This time, there's no denying (in Chester's mind) that he's the star of the show. His already outsize ego has ballooned even more due to a spate of “fan mail” on …

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Chester's Masterpiece

illustrated by Melanie Watt
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: humorous stories, cats, pets

Chester's finally ready to write his own masterpiece --- he just needs to get pesky writer-illustrator Mélanie Watt out of the way.

Chester's solo attempts at storytelling are messy, to say the least, but he's determined to go it alone. But where's his story going? After several alternative (but always unhappy) endings, Chester is confronted by a p …

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Augustine

illustrated by Melanie Watt
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback Paperback
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
tagged: new experience

Moving all the way from the South Pole to the North Pole isn't easy for the young penguin Augustine. Uprooted from her home, she misses her friends, her grandma and grandpa and her old bedroom. There are all kinds of unfamiliar faces at the North Pole, and everything looks strange and different. When it's time to go to her new school, Augustine get …

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Jeffrey and Sloth

by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Ben Hodson
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
  • age: 6 to 8
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: imagination & play, art & architecture, mammals

Jeffrey can't think of a thing to write, so he doodles instead, only to have his doodle begin to order him about. Jeffrey struggles with the situation until he discovers that the most strong-willed doodle is powerless against a well-told tale. Jeffrey and Sloth is bound to have children rushing for their colored pencils and their pens to see who an …

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Mr. Zinger's Hat

by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dusan Petricic
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 4 to 6
  • Grade: p to 1
tagged: imagination & play, multigenerational

Cary Fagan is the award-winning author of several young adult novels and picture books. This wonderful new story is about stories, and story-telling, and is sure to enchant and instruct children at home and at school for years to come.
 
This is the story of a bored little boy, who meets a man, and together they build a story. This story within a s …

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Any Questions?

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 6 to 9
  • Grade: 1 to 4
tagged: books & libraries, imagination & play, art & architecture

Many children want to know where stories come from and how a book is made. Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book provides them with some delightfully inspiring answers in a fictional encounter between an author and some very curious children, who collaborate on writing and illustrating a story.

Marie-Louise has scribbled, sketched, scrawled, doodled …

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