A staple in every literacy coach’s toolbox is a library of mentor texts. Coaches share these books with teachers as well as students in minilessons to show them how published authors make word choices, develop characters, show and don’t tell, craft transitions, create openers and closers, and in general, make magic with words.
Lately, I’ve noticed the emergence of picture books that directly address the writing process. The main themes of these books are about components of the writing process or individuals navigating the writing process. Imagine that — an engaging picture book and an explicit resource for teaching the writing process all in one volume! Who could resist? I couldn’t, and I’m guessing that you won’t be able to either. Here is a list of books categorized by the stage of the writing process that they address.
Overview of the Writing Process
These books take the reader through the writing process using a likeable character as a tour guide.
Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watts
Chester has managed to commandeer Melanie Watts’ (author of the Scaredy Squirrel books) red marker and has his heart set on writing his very own masterpiece. He quickly discovers that creating a masterpiece isn’t so easy. With Melanie’s help, he learns what it takes to write a story.
The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli
A budding writer wants to win the story-writing contest at her local public library. The prize is a roller coaster ride with her favorite author. Determined to write “the best story,” she asks her brother, father, cousin, and aunt what she needs to do to write the best story. They suggest stories that are action-packed, humorous, or tear-jerkers. When the little girl tries to use their ideas, the results are not satisfactory. Then her mother suggests that she “write from her heart.” The little girl takes her mother’s advice and creates a story that is its own prize.
The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane Auch
Henrietta the hen is an avid reader, so it is not at all surprising when she decides to try her hand (claw?) at writing. Armed with a writing manual, she writes her own book. Henrietta just knows that her book is fantastic and is shocked when the prospective publishers and critics disagree.
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems walks young writers through the process of writing a picture book. The book is set up like a stage, and the action is being viewed by a flock of baby chicks in the audience. Willems shows us how to pick and develop characters, create an exciting plot, and draw expressive and informative illustrations. While he is creating the story, the baby chicks, and undoubtedly your students, watch and often warn the characters, “That is not a good idea!” At the end of the book, the reader is rewarded with a satisfying story and some insights into writing better stories.
Many young student writers resist revision. Once they have committed their words to paper, they are reluctant to change them. The following books just might make the revision stage of the writing process a little easier to endure.
Show; Don’t Tell!: Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso
Does your students’ writing contain sentences like, “He was very sad,” “The dress was beautiful,” or “The room was messy?” Then you need Josephine Nobisso’s book. She speaks through animal characters from her own experiences as a writer. The animals encourage writers to use their five senses to record the words that will help readers “see what is in your mind or imagination.” There are multiple instructional ideas, enough to fill four or five minilessons.
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett
Alex gets a golden book-like picture book called Birthday Bunny for his birthday. The book is about a sweet little bunny who is also celebrating a birthday. The book doesn’t appeal to Alex at all, but it does awaken his inner writer. Alex grabs his pencil and transforms “Birthday Bunny” into “Battle Bunny.” This book is a dramatic demonstration of revision and a great idea for a writing project. On Goodreads, Mary Lee Hahn shared her plans to buy lots of old books at yard sales and invite her students to transform the stories. After reading Battle Bunny, maybe students won’t think that revision is so bad after all.
Little Red Writing by Joan Holub
Ms. 2 gives her class of pencils a story-writing assignment. Little Red Writing eagerly embarks on the assignment armed with 15 words in case she gets stuck. She journeys through the school and the surrounding forest, finding better action words in the gym, descriptive words in the forest, and conjunction glue in the supply closet. Little Red also encounters a big, bad pencil sharpener but makes it back to class in time to share her story.
Feedback and Collaboration
A writer’s best friend is a reader who is willing to give the writer feedback to make the writing better. These books show our student writers the power of feedback and collaboration.
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley
A boy and girl are paired and given the assignment to write a fairy tale. The girl wants to write about princesses, golden curls, and ponies named Buttercup. The boy wants to write about giants, battles, and motorcycle dudes. The result is a delightful-to-read collaboration and an opportunity to discuss – or even try – the features of a successful writing collaboration.
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon
Poor Ralph! When it is writing time, his classmates get right to work, furiously scribbling and creating wonderful stories. He thinks, stares at the ceiling and the blank paper, and comes up with nothing. One day at writing time, he remembers finding an inchworm, but he can’t seem to get beyond that. Then his classmates begin to ask questions, such as “Was it squishy?” and “Did you name it?” – and this is just what Ralph needs to get his story going.