Creative Writing!

Introduce creative writing with these three fun and beautiful picture books!

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a gorgeous ode to the power of imagination that lies within each of us.

A wise teacher loans a precious book to an eager young reader. But anticipation turns to tears when she finds all the words missing, having tumbled out on the way home. Upon the guidance of  magical whisper, she begins to construct her own stories for the elaborate and curious images. What begins as reticent descriptions  evolves into complex and engaging tales of adventure. She becomes so immersed in her stories, that she drifts to sleep and continues the adventures in her dreams. As she returns the book the teacher, she enthusiastically recounts the joys of her tales to her smiling teacher.

This book practically begs to become part of a creative writing exercise. Beautiful and elaborate images give each page the sense of stepping into a magical world. Paired with brief snippets of stories intentionally left incomplete, they compel the reader to construct their own conclusions to the stories. Whether formalized into a writing assignment, or read at the bedside with storylines casually constructed, this book celebrates the power of creative thought. I could easily see it used as an introduction to a broader creative writing assignment with images used as prompts. What a delight it would be to share and compare all the stories that can sprout from one image!


Once home, the little girl greeted her dog and ate supper, and when she was just about to burst with excitement, she escaped to her room to read. The little girl opened the book and began turning through the pages one by one. Each picture was more beautiful and curious than the next. By the time she arrived at the very last page, she could scarcely see, for her eyes were filled with tears. Where were the words? Where were the stories? It’s just not a book of stories, without any words, she thought.


The words began to come more and more easily to the little girl. Then the words grew into sentences and the sentences became stories. THE QUEST Their hundred-mile journey began in a sturdy wooden boat. “Are we there yet?” asked Rabbit. “In another two days and one night,” replied Lion. “Oh, that’s a very long time. I forget, please remind me again—where are we going?” asked Rabbit.


THE MAGICAL CLOAK One night, a mysterious man in an elaborate cloak sailed into our harbor. Quite quickly it became obvious to us that he was some kind of wizard or magician, for he could blow bubbles in the shapes of things. What was more extraordinary was that the bubbles, once released, became real. Before long, enormous white whales filled our once calm harbor. Amazing as it was to see, we had to do something quickly to . . .


Word by word, hour after hour, the little girl imagined an entire story for each page. And when the moon was full and bright, she grew sleepy and drifted off into a dreamworld woven out of the threads of the pictures and the stories she had imagined.


Idea Jar by Adam Lehraupt, illustrations by Deb Pilutti (extra cover art added by my 2 y/o)

Idea Jar by Adam Lehraupt, illustrated by Deb Pilutti, (Simon & Shuster) is a wonderfully fun romp through a world where ideas come alive!

Kept in a special jar, ideas wait not-so-patiently for their turn join a story. If cooped up for too long, they burst from their jar and wreak havoc. There’s a simple solution—pull out some ideas and give them a story! A written story, an illustrated story, any story.  There’s no wrong story, and there’s no bad idea.

Fun and energetic images bring these eager ideas to life. And by the end of the book, readers are developing story lines for seemingly incongruous ideas—Viking, space robot, dragon, horseless cowgirl—which provide just enough structure to get the creative juices flowing without leading them in any particular direction. Each reading has the same characters, but the stories we develop are always unique. We have great fun adding our own ideas to the idea jar, as well. And this concept could certainly be more formalized into an actual jar full of written ideas to mix and match for creative writing exercises.


When it’s part of a story, an idea is happy.


These ideas need a story. Will you help? Let’s start with one idea. Viking


You can even combine ideas to make your story time better. Bored Viking It’s important to create stories for your ideas or else your ideas get rowdy. That can be trouble.


And there are tons of was to make a story. You can write it. PSST! Put a Viking in it. Vikings are cool. Draw it. That ship should be way bigger.


Once Upon a Zzzz by Maddie Frost

Once Upon a Zzzz by Maddie Frost (Albert Whitman)

The author has fallen asleep! What should an illustrator do? Write the story, of course! Should she worry about story structure, spelling, or grammar? Nah. She should follow her ideas where they take her—Llama princesses with stinky cheese feet, penguin princesses with a dragon for a pet—there’s no wrong idea! And if your story gets stuck? Just try again! And you can always ask for help from the author.

This is the creative genius of Maddie Frost’s Once Upon a Zzzz: a balance between letting creative ideas run free and fixing the rough spots with revision. Although the author and illustrator personas are represented separately, the cover makes it clear that the book is created by the same person playing both roles. Essentially, it’s an introduction to the process of creative writing, editing and rewriting with a lighthearted story that’s accessible to young readers and sure to result in giggles. After our first reading, my oldest related the storyline to a dream and I can’t think of a better starting point for the concept of creative writing!


Just kidding. She was a llama princess! Her feet smelled like cheese and she was very hairy. Princess Llama had a younger sister. She was a penguin! And Princess Penguin was sweet and cuddly and so much cuter. Aww, look at that cute face!


One night before bed, she went out on her balcony to look for a shooting star. She made a wish that her sister would go far away, to another state. No, to another country! No, to the moon!


Well, Princess Penguin thought Princess Llama’s bedroom was nice but she decided to walk run out of the castle to figure out how to get her sister down from the moon. And fast! First, she tried a ladder. No, that wouldn’t work. Next, she tried flying. Oops, penguins can’t fly.


Just relax. It’s going to be all right. We can fix it together. But did you make sure to check your spelling and grammar? And a llama and a penguin princess? Really? The story structure seems a little off and— I’M SORRY, BUT I NEED HELP!!!! Okay, okay! How about. . . Princess Penguin uses the castle’s space glider to rescue Princess Llama? That might work. . . ROAR! OR HOW ABOUT THIS?

Lucy At Home