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!
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.
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!