How to Write a Story–A Book Review

In a recent Horn Book article, Kate Messner offers five tips to get kids writing.  I’d like to offer a sixth: read aloud How to Write a Story by Kate Messner to a child. It will offer joy and excitement to the writing process. 

In this picture book beautifully illustrated by Mark Siegel, Kate offers step by step directions to write a story. She begins with searching for an idea.  As writers, we know ideas are everywhere.  We collect them in writing notebooks and save them for the moment we know we must write about them. Through the illustrations and words, Mark and Kate bring the process of collecting ideas to life.

In the remaining steps, Kate gives tips on how to develop setting, characters, and plot.  She delves into the introduction and organization of the story. She encourages writing a draft and returning for revision after the story has had time to “blossom and grow.” Kate concludes with what to do with a story when it is finished–– share it with friends.

If you’re looking for a way to spend an afternoon, read aloud How to Write a Story to a child.  Be sure to have a writing notebook and writing utensil on hand for you and the child. You won’t be able to resist the urge to write!

~Dr. Anastasia Gruper, A to Z Board Member & Contributing Writer

The One and Only Bob

Katherine Applegate won our hearts in the beautifully crafted Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan.  Ivan, a Silverback gorilla, was trapped off exit 8 at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. As the story of Ivan’s journey to a zoo unfolded, we fell in love with him and all his friends.  In the sequel, Katherine steals our hearts again.  

Bob is a mutt of uncertain heritage.  Although, he believes to come from Chihuahua and Papillon descent.  Through his journey to rescue his friends and family in the wake of a devastating tornado, we learn how he becomes to be known as The One and Only Bob.

The character development of Bob is masterfully done through unique craft moves.   A canine glossary appears in the prologue.  We are introduced to terms such as crazy mutt, me-ball, and water bowl of power.  In the first chapter, the voice of Bob brings laughter from the first line, “Look, nobody’s ever accused me of being a good dog.”  It doesn’t stop there.  HIs obsession with food, his harassment of squirrels, and his desire to roll in garbage to enhance his aroma gives us a clear idea of the type of dog Bob is.  

As the story continues, we are reunited with Ivan and Ruby.  We also meet a few new characters: Snickers (Bob’s nemesis), Nutwit (a gray squirrel), Kimu (a grey wolf), Kinayani (a female gorilla), Kudzoo (a baby gorilla), Stretch (a giraffe), and so many more.  Each character brings depth and pivots to the story.  In the aftermath of a tornado, Bob searches his inner self to realize he does not look out for numero uno. With the help of his wise friend, Ivan, and his playful friend, Ruby, Bob finds out he is not as selfish as he proclaims. He is, in fact, a hero. 

(Special thanks to Dr. Stasia Gruper for this week’s blog post)

A Book A Day


By Kalan Gott

Several months ago I was in the waiting room at my doctor’s office.  I was excited for my eight-month pregnancy check-up.  As I sat there, an already experienced mom entered with her daughter and son. Both children were elementary school age.  The mom and daughter sat down next to each other and pulled out books.  The boy, poking his mom, talked non-stop about being bored.  The mom set her book aside and said with seriousness and love, “Oh I am sorry.  That is why your sister and I bring our books with us.  Don’t you wish you had your book? Maybe next time you’ll bring it.”

I couldn’t help but smile! Three months later, I have my own child.  A daughter.  Almost every day I think about what I want to teach her, share with her, and the example I want to be to her. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around literature. As a parent, I am now thinking of ways to foster a culture of reading in our house and build fond memories for my daughter.  Here is what I envision so far:

  • Magazines that my husband and I read lay on every flat surface
  • The cornerstone of our bedtime routine is a read aloud each night
  • Every Christmas we buy a new Christmas book to create a collection for her
  • We each have our own book next to our bed
  • There is a library in our room
  • There is a library in her room
  • We will read the Harry Potter series aloud when she is old enough to listen for at least 20 minutes

How do you foster a culture of reading in your house?  How do you grow readers, thinkers, and lovers of books?  I have my list started, but I would love to hear other ideas!