Great Books for Future Authors and Illustrators!

The pen, marker and crayon prove mightier than the sword! Parent organizations, please use these lists to help create and fund classroom writing centers! Teachers, Don't forget to click here to teach an author/illustrator study unit, or click here for 150 story starters for your reluctant writers!

How a Book is Made by Aliki
A Book of Your Own: Keeping a Diary of Journal by Carla Stevens
Author: A True Story by Helen Lester
What Do Authors Do? and What Do Illustrators Do? by Eileen Christelow
If You Were a Writer by Joan Lowery Nixon
From Pictures to Words: A Book About Making a Book by Janet Stevens
A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists Share Their Path to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard S. Marcus
A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher
Talking With Artists Volumes I, II and III edited by Pat Cummings
Author Talk edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Fiction for Future Writers
Hey, World, Here I Am! by Jean Little
Author's Day by Daniel Pinkwater
Amelia's Notebook or anything else by Marissa Moss
Love From Your Friend, Hannah by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos
Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise
Fourth Grade Celebrity by Patricia Reilly Giff
Edwina Victorious by Susan Bonners
The T.F. Letters by Karen Ray
The Long, Long Letter by Eizabeth Spurr
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Dear Diary by Sara Fanelli
Skinny Melon and Me by Jean Ure
Scooter by Vera B. Wiliams
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Only Opal by Opal Whiteley, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Age 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (mature readers)
My Angelica by Carol Lynch Williams (mature readers)
Dear Great American Writer's School by Kate Bunin (mature readers)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (mature readers)
Charlotte the Starlet by Barbara Ware Holmes (out of print---find it at the library or!)
King Kong and Other Poets by Robert Burch (out of print---find it at the library or!)

Fiction for Aspiring Artists
The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer
The Paper Dragon by Marguerite Davol
The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle by Barbara McClintock
The Boy Who Loved to Draw by Benjamin West
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
The Boy Who Drew Cats by Arthur A. Levine
Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera Williams
Defenders of the Universe by D.V. Kelleher
City of Light, City of Dark: A Comic Book Novel by Avi
The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Bulla
Simon's Book by Henrik Drescher
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Mice Make Trouble by Becky Bloom
Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

Yes, Kids Get Published, Too!
Teen Angst? Naaah...A Quasi-Austobiography by Ned Vizzini
Ten Second Rainshowers: Poems by Young People compiled by Sandford Lyne
A Walk in the Rainforest by Kristen Joy Pratt
The Diary of Chickabiddy Baby by Emma Kallok
The Pain Tree and Other Teenage Angst Ridden Poetry collected and illustrated by Esther Pearl Watson and Mark Todd
The Diary of Latoya Hunter : My First Year in Junior High by Latoya Hunter
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (mature readers)

Periodical Power!
My favorite magazine that publishes wonderful stories and artwork by children around the world is Stone Soup. To visit their website, click here, or snail-mail them at P.O. Box 83, Santa Cruz, CA 95063. Teens can get published through Merlyn's Pen. To visit their website, click here, or snail mail at P.O. Box 910, East Greenwich, RI 02818.

And speaking of snail mail...having an old fashioned "penpal" is a great way to practice writing. Penpals from one hundred countries are available to children ten and up from International Youth Service (IYS), and order forms may be requested by clicking here. I know there are other services available, but this is my favorite...I was hooked up by IYS with a penpal in India when I was fourteen, and now she lives in St. Louis and is my son's godmother! Never underestimate the power of the post!

150 (or so) Story Starters!

Story starters? Ink impetus? Writing workouts? Jumper cables? Whatever you want to call them, I wrote these at the start of my teaching career. I used them all the time when children complained, "I can't think of anything to write about!" These may be reproduced for classroom or homeschooling use; cut them out and put them on index cards, and let children pick them at random. These are also very helpful for journaling exercises. I always tell children when they are writing not to use four-letter words: nice, good, bad, pretty, kill (all right, "pretty" isn't four letters, and I guess "bad" falls a little short). You will be amazed at how different the quality of writing seems when the clichés and adjectives that don't really describe anything anymore are removed. Children have also asked me "how long does it have to be?" and I tell them, "as long as it takes to tell me what I need to know." I've gotten four page essays from the most reluctant middle graders this way!

  • Write a diary entry for a famous person in history.

  • Make a character move from one end of the toom to the other. Then, do it again, only make the character take a long time to get there.

  • Write a story from the point of view of someone with a very difficult job.

  • The title is: "the kids on my block."

  • What an awful bully! How will you ever escape his/her clutches!

  • Sometimes people are so silly. Write a "things to do" list for a very silly person.

  • Who did you meet one day on the street?

  • Write from the point of view of a raindrop.

  • Bring nature to life. For example: "the wind is like a girl turning somersaults." "The trees are old men waiting for a bus."

  • Write a diary entry for a famous person in history.

  • Write a diet plan for a hippopotamus.

  • Go outside and look at a tree. Write that tree's life story.

  • Why do leaves fall? Why does snow fall? Why are there rainbows? Write a fantasy story explaining something in nature.

  • Did you ever want to visit a faraway place? Describe how you imagine it would be.

  • What is the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower? From the bottom of Niagara Falls? From the middle of Mount Fuji? Use your imagination to describe a landmark from your own perspective.

  • Write a speech about something you feel is important.

  • Write a note of excuse to your teacher.

  • Write a note of excuse from your teacher.

  • Start at your toes, end at your hair...describe how it feels to be happy.

  • Describe giving a speech at a whole school assembly from the point of view of your stomach.

  • Write a will.

  • Write a love letter.

  • Write a letter to the child you might have in the future.

  • Make a list of 15 questions your parents would answer "no" to.

  • Make a list of 15 questions your parents would answer "yes" to.

  • Make a list of compliments.
    Make a list of the things another person would say in response to the compliments.

  • Make a list of insults.
    Make a list of the things another person would say in response to the insults.

  • If you were a skywriter, what would you write for everyone to see?

  • Write a script for a puppet show.

  • Write a school song.

  • Write a list of things to remember for an elephant.

  • Choose a brief, interesting article from the newspaper, and rewrite the story from the point of view of somebody involved in the incident.

  • Describe how it feels to dance.

  • Describe your worst fear.

  • Some people are unusual. Make up an unusual person. What unusual thing happens to this unusual person?

  • Super power for a day! What will it be?

  • Pretend you are a ghost, haunting a house or apartemnt. Describe the people who live there, and how you haunt them.

  • What do you think somebody who just won ten million dollars would be thinking? Would a person change after acquiring so much wealth? Write a story about change due to a loss or gain of money.

  • Write the lesson plan of a very mean teacher.

  • You are the last dinosaur before extinction.

  • Describe something blowing in the wind. What is it?

  • Look down from the ferris wheel.

  • Describe the first time you crossed the street alone.

  • Pretend you are a painter. What wil you paint? Why do you choose the colors that you choose? How do you feel as you paint this picture?

  • Red, blue, black, yellow, pink. White, green, brown, purple, orange. What things do you imagine with these colors? Make a coloring book.

  • Write down the thoughts of a crazy person.

  • Some people talk to themselves. What do they say?

  • Sometimes people say things that you remember all your life. Write down such a conversation.

  • Write a goodbye conversation.

  • Listen to other people's conversations. Write down what you hear, word for word.

  • Write a jump-rope rhyme.

  • Make up ten modern superstitions.

  • Write a horoscope for each sign in the zodiac.

  • Write the rules to a new game.

  • Write a ransom note.

  • Write a pretend advice column. Use your own problems.

  • Write a script for a soap opera.

  • If you could say something over the school intercom, what would it be?

  • What is the difference between a person and a robot? Express this difference by imagining you are a robot turning into a person, or a person turning into a robot.

  • Does everybody have something special about them? Pick a character from regular, everyday life and show how special that person can be.

  • Write a story. At the start, make the character very likeable. By the end, make the character a real stinker! (or, vice versa!)

  • Look out of your window. Write your first impression of each passer-by.

  • Who is the funniest person you ever met? Why?

  • Imagine somebody absolutely rich and absolutely famous. Follow that person on his/her heels from the time he/she wakes up to the time he/she goes to bed.

  • Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny---invent someone new.

  • Write about a group of friends. Do they all get along? Are they all from the same background? How are their personalities different, or the same?

  • It was an unforgettable field trip!

  • Write a fable, with a moral at the end.

  • Write how somebody very scared would sound over the telephone.

  • Write a poem from the point of view of a musical instrument.

  • There is a conversation going on between the librarian and someone very, very loud.

  • Somebody is whispering a secret in your ear.

  • The peasant is having a conversation with the queen.

  • Pretend you are sorry. Write an apology. What are you sorry about?

  • Write a conversation between a brother and a sister, or a sister and a sister, or a brother and a brother.

  • How does it feel to fly?

  • Write words to a song for someone who feels left out.

  • Do not write "I was surprised," but make it clear to the reader that you were surprised. What was the big surprise?

  • What would a liar say?

  • How do things look when you're confused?

  • Write something using exclamation points as your only punctuation.

  • Write a poem about being tickled.

  • Look through the eyes of a fish.

  • Describe somebody blowing a very big bubble.

  • Go to a public place such as a library, restaurant, park or bus. Pick someone you've never met before as a subject, and describe that person.

  • Look up from the dentist's chair.

  • Imagine your family at a party. Describe what you see.

  • Sit at the kitchen table, choose three foods to eat. Describe how each one tastes.

  • Write a crazy T.V. Guide!

  • Look in a mirror. Write everything you see.

  • Hey, you were a baby once! Look up from your crib.

  • What would it be like to be in jail?

  • Describe the school of your dreams!

  • Write a dictionary for words in any subject area you choose: math, sports, dance, rocks, cooking, travel...

  • Write an advertisement for a new invention.

  • What makes a person ugly? Describe a very ugly person.

  • What makes a person beautiful? Describe a very beautiful person.

  • Hold something in your hand. Compare it to other things. Make a list, "this thing is like..."

  • The title is, "I'm someplace I do not want to be."

  • A martian has come to visit. Desribe this planet, Earthling ambassador!

  • Describe a room in your home.

  • Describe your neighborhood on a summer evening.

  • Make it happen again! Describe a memory you have.

  • Write a script for the master of ceremonies of a funny fashion show.

  • Write a pamphlet about how to give a theme party. Include an invitation, menu and party games.

  • Describe something very sharp.
    Describe something very smooth.
    Describe something very rough.

  • You are a stray cat in the park. Describe things through a cat's eyes.

  • Describe somebody you admire.

  • Title: "The Greatest Garbage Story Ever Told."

  • Title: "Jealousy in the Jungle."

  • The time machine works! What adventure is ahead?

  • Title: "The Difficult Choice."

  • It was a case of mistaken identity!

  • Sneaky, sneaky! Write a mischievous plan.

  • Write about any of the following: * A town at the bottom of the sea
    * An upside-down town
    * A city at the end of a rainbow
    * A land at the center of the earth

  • Spend the day as a balloon.

  • Grownups can be so unfair! Describe an incident in which you were treated unfairly because of your age.

  • Something mysterious has happened to your whole class! Only you can change things back to the way they were.

  • Run away and join the circus.

  • How did you ever end up on the moon? How will you ever get back to Earth?

  • Write a romance between an unusual pair of lovers.

  • Pretend you are one hundred years old and write a timeline of your life's highlights.

  • You have just met a fortune teller. What does he/she tell you? Does it come true?

  • Write a story about being on your own in the city or the countryside.

  • It was a great money-making scheme!

  • Tell a story about a pet you own, or imagine an incident with a pet you would like to own.

  • Describe a walk down the street from the point of view of a ninety-year-old person.

  • Write a cumulative story, like "The House that Jack Built."

  • Write and illustrate a comic strip.

  • Write a story about a big contest.

  • Write a story about how two lonely people meet.

  • Change a fairy tale around your way!

  • Review three restaurants.

  • Have a conversation with an angel.

  • Outsmart a devil in your own trickster tale.

  • Make up interview questions for a teacher, a movie star, a president, a neighbor...then, seek answers!

  • Make a list of things to say to a person who is having an awful day.

  • Pretend you are a basketball. Write a story about being in a basketball game.

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