Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (Random House, January 2013) is a volume about what makes nonfiction great. Using their own experiences as a writer of nonfiction (Tracy Kidder, bestselling author) and an editor of creative nonfiction (Richard Todd, Atlantic editor), the two friends provide a compelling tale of what makes good writing good, and what makes a good writer a good writer, covering everything from how to begin and how to structure a narrative to the more complicated specifics of memoirs, essays, style, and writing as job in today’s society. (more…)
This week’s Cybils batch includes some fantastic books. I’ve decided to focus on some that are (more or less) based on the concepts of Friends and Telling Stories. These are common themes for picture books, and these books I list below are some fantastic examples. (more…)
I mentioned last year that my son is a very creative child. He is regularly having imaginary adventures with his imaginary friends, and he constantly comes up with stories for me, stories he tells as if he’s surely experienced them. Given his intense interest in creative writing, I was seeking further instruction on how to nurture his creativity in his early years.
No More “I’m Done!” by Jennifer Jacobson (Stenhouse Publishers, 2010) is an inspiring how-to manual for early primary grade teachers. Subtitled “Fostering Independent Writing in the Primary Grades,” Jacobson’s book describes a system of nurturing creative writing that lets children take control of the process. After she describes her system, she provides a year’s worth of mini-lessons for encouraging development of ideas in various segments of writing (including voice, organization, word choice, fluency, details) all using well known and beloved children’s picture books as examples. Although I am not a teacher in a classroom setting, her ideas have given me the confidence to institute some similar casual instruction during our “school time.” It is informative and inspiring, helping one think outside the traditional box of writing prompts.
I decided to start my son on a formal spelling program this year (his K4 year). Although Raisin is quite young, he is constantly asking me “how do I spell _____?” so he can write notes or type on the computer (I opened a private blog for him to post his pictures and thoughts). He loves the power of words, and since he’s reading at a third- or fourth- grade level now, he naturally wants to progress to writing his own thoughts down.
For his spelling “curriculum,” I decided to go for the multiple interactions that come from All About Spelling. This relies on learning the phonograms of English with physical magnetic tiles to manipulate and flash cards with which to practice. Because handwriting is so very difficult for him (he is deadly slow in writing his letters, but he forms them correctly), I decided to dispense with the handwriting component. So far, he’s progressing well, and we practice a few words a day, spelling with the tiles. He also sometimes spells things to me orally, or he takes a “quiz” on a spelling app I downloaded to my tablet. In general, it’s working very well for him.
All that said, the curriculum I spied that I really wanted for its prettiness factor was The Logic of English, a program that presents the main rules of spelling quickly and thereby arms people with the ability to spell just about anything. The curriculum is new and is currently geared for older kids who need a crash course in spelling (although levels for younger kids are coming in the future). I did not feel it would be a good fit for my son (and the price was not right) but I did manage to snag a copy of the book that started Ms Denise Eide’s homeschool curriculum: Uncovering the Logic of English.
Although Uncovering the Logic of English is a slim book, Ms Eide manages to convince me that I too can learn to spell. I don’t have many memories of spelling tests in school, but I have always felt like spelling is one of those annoyingly random things about English. Spelling is one of the reasons I always prefer typing something to hand writing it: where would I be without spell check?
In less than 200 pages, Ms Eide discusses the building blocks of words (consonants, vowels, and syllables) as well as the basic rules over each of those. The other rules (silent e, suffixes, plurals, etc.) all seem so easy and so practical. I’ve found myself noticing the words I type and read more carefully. (more…)
I don’t often read middle grade fiction, but when I heard about The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright (published by Peachtree Publishers, October 2011) at BEA in May, I was excited to read it. After all, the subtitle is “A Dickens of the Tale” and I knew that Charles Dickens and his friends were characters in the tale about animals, friendship, and finding a place. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Victorian literature. What could be better?
Further, since BEA, I’ve seen dozens of reviews in the blogosphere and at Goodreads, etc. talking about how fun it was to join Charles Dickens in a small inn in Victorian England. I was excited to read it, although it did take me a while to get to it.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. It was mediocre writing, the historical aspects did not feel grandly Dickensian or Victorian (the story simply had Dickens as a character), and overall, it was just a okay story. While the tie between Dickens’s novel and Pip and Skilley’s story was creative at the end and it may give kids a positive perspective on Victorian literature (simply because Dickens is a friend), there was nothing spectacular that made me excited about the book throughout my reading of it. (more…)