Monday, February 8, 2010
Middle Grade Mondays: SPILLING INK
Author: Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer
Publisher: Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12 years
When I first read Ellen Potter’s book SLOB, I was deeply touched and emailed my reactions to her. She was kind enough to respond back. Once I posted a review of SLOB here a few months ago, I again found myself going back and forth on Twitter and email with her. From there, I found myself connecting with author Anne Mazer. Through our correspondence, I have come to deeply admire both of these fabulous women. Over the months, I shared my thoughts and student examples with them. As a result, Anne and Ellen graciously agreed to share with me their upcoming book Spilling Ink.
When I received my advanced reader’s copy of Spilling Ink, I was excited but also a tad bit nervous. It is one thing to review a book when you have no connection to the author(s) but a totally different situation when it is someone you respect and really like. I decided it was best just to dive into the book and see what I thought.
Remind me though the next time I decide to dive into a book not to do it at 10 p.m. I started reading Spilling Ink and nearly had trouble putting it down. However, I realized that as a non-fiction book I should probably slow down and process the writing advice being shared by Mazer and Potter. The next morning I brought the second ARC to one of my teachers. I asked her to share it with her students. Over the next several weeks, she set up writing journals for her sixth graders. I stopped in to see what the students thought and to watch her use the activities as part of her writing time.
Though this isn’t a book that teaches the grammatical and technical aspects of writing, it does an amazing job with helping students understand the components of a story and how to craft a tale. I watched my students who frequently struggle to write become excited about writing for the first time.
You may be asking what it is about Mazer and Potter’s book that is so special. Through humor, frank dialogue, and practical examples and activities, the authors lead aspiring writers in the process of writing. In the chapter on Characters for example, children are taught how to not only create a character but how to bring their characters to life. I especially enjoyed the activity where Ellen encourages her readers to grab a cookie, a notebook and pen, and to sit down and pretend to have a conversation with their character.
Each chapter is filled with similar kinds of instruction, activities and small “dares” which challenge children to practice what they are learning. Ellen and Anne take turns sharing their own writing practice and lessons learned with their readers. And though the book is written for children, even adults can learn from the activities provided. I have to admit that thanks to the chapter on “Who is telling your story?” I finally understand second person narrative.
Before I even finished the story, I found myself telling booksellers, parents of elementary age children, and school librarians about Spilling Ink. When the book is finally released, I plan on purchasing quite a few copies to give to teachers that I know. I encourage you to pick up your own copy when it is released and enjoy trying out some or all of the writing activities with an aspiring child writer in your life.
On Wednesday, please check back in to Young Adult Literature Review. I will be posting another Spilling Ink related piece which will include comments from Ellen & Anne, as well as some of my students and their teacher. Readers will have a chance to win a signed ARC of Spilling Ink courtesy of Anne, Ellen, and their publisher.
Until then...happy writing,