The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
A truly fantastic compilation of 14 mysterious pictures each with a title and a simple caption (the newest portfolio edition has a 15th picture!). The pictures were supposedly left for Van Allsburg one day with a promise by Burdick to return the next day with the actual stories. Surprise…Burdick disappears and all that remains are these mysterious illustrations just begging for a story.
If you are working on fictional narratives, this is the book for you. No child can look at these photos and not have some fantastic ideas ready to go. I actually took one paperback edition, tore out the pages, laminated, them and made it part of our permanent writing center in a narrative writing ideas folder. We did complete the writing process for at least one idea, however. And now there’s a huge BONUS! Fourteen well-known authors wrote their own versions of each story in “The Chronicles of Harris Burdick” including Louis Sachar, Lois Lowry, Jon Scieszka, Stephen King, and an introduction by none other than Lemony Snicket. I saved these until the end of the year to share what these authors envisioned during our publishing party. The kids had fun comparing their creations to that of the “pros!”
2. The True Story of Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciesczka
I am totally biased as I think ALL of Sciesczka’s books are inspiring and hysterical, but this one in particular offers a great starting point for kids as writers. Told from the perspective of the wolf, he offers a tale that stretches what we know of the original three little pigs. After all, wouldn't YOU eat a hamburger just sitting there?
It’s a simple story and idea but we analyzed this story to death as we compared it to the original. My students not only grasped the idea of perspective but also developed a better feel for voice and plot development as we picked each section apart. As a class, we brainstormed other well-known stories with antagonistic characters, and each student selected a story to rewrite from the antagonist’s perspective.
3. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
My fifth graders absolutely loved the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, almost to the point of obsession! There are hundreds of tales to share with similar themes and patterns that run throughout. The tales are generally short and not so sweet like the newly revised fairy tales, which is what the kids just loved! There is even a fabulous app, Grimm, that includes a large number of the most popular tales for free.
4. The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee
This book holds a special place in
my heart thanks to Aaron from my fourth grade class about 10 years ago. He brought this book to me in wretched
condition and recommended it as our next writing project. How could I resist? Felix Clousseau is an unknown artist who
enters his not so fancy duck painting in the kingdom’s premiere art
contest. After, being mocked and shamed,
something mysterious happens and leads to an interesting change of events with
a nice little twisty ending the kids get a kick out of. It’s a very simple story and a super quick
read but such a charming little story!
Aaron came armed with his writing idea already, but we found several ways to inspire writing as students actually brainstormed possible venues to explore. This was a LOT of fun and something we did later in the year, making sure they were good and comfortable with exploring their creative sides! (I have to keep the ideas somewhat vague to preserve the surprises you have in store for you when you read the book!) Several students wanted to make themselves the lead character and create their own gallery in comic book form or a version of one of the mini books we had created earlier in the year (accordion/flap/index card). Another group wanted to create one specific Clousseau painting as a springboard for an entire story. Others wanted to rewrite Clousseau’s tale altogether, starting with the last page and moving forward. However, you decide to use this little gem, your students’ will be sure to love it!
5. My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
An inspiring book Illustrated from the perspective of a child with two-page spreads of the stuff that is important to kids, mapped out. There are ordinary maps like the neighborhood and school, and then my favorites…a map of my heart and a map of my dog. LOVE IT! Each “map” points out the important aspects like mud, chocolate, and mommy and daddy.
Read about five OTHER books that have driven us to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE on Minds In Bloom and grab your freebie that correlates with "The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups," my #1 favorite book that inspires writing for kids!