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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Squiggly Story, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Mike Lowery. Kids Can Press, 2016. $18.95 ages 4 and up

"You have a BEGINNING. Now we're in the MIDDLE of the story. Something else has to happen so we can get to the END. I'm stuck again. I start doodling. I doodle another V. But this time I doodle it UPSIDE DOWN. OH, NO! It's a SHARK! It's getting CLOSER and CLOSER! I flip the page to get away from the shark."

I like to read books to kids that encourage them to try something new - and that make it feel doable. The little boy who shares his story with us is in awe of his big sister. She loves to read and write, and she loves all kinds of words. Because he doesn't have the same skills, he pretends that he can do the same. In fact, he is doing what most kids do when they are learning the intricacies of literacy.

Every so often, there is a real word or two. They come from his environment, and are special to him - cat, hat, mom, etc. That is how it begins. Watching others, asking questions, copying what you see others do are important first steps. The allure of being like his sister drives the boy to share his dreams of writing, and his sister responds.

"I wish I could
write a STORY.

It's EASY.

I know my LETTERS,
but I don't know
many WORDS.

Write what you KNOW."
Can he start with a letter? Of course, he can. It's a great way to begin, she assures him. And off he goes to try his hand at making his own story. With her encouragement and guiding questions, it all begins to make sense. He uses symbols, letters, ideas. Soon, he has a beginning. On they go to doodle a middle filled with action.

The story goes to school with him the next day, and he shares it at show-and-tell. His teacher has some pertinent questions, his classmates have suggestions for careful thought. They give him pause to think more carefully about how he wants his story to end. His sister remains helpful, but does not do it for him. Starting with a few illustrations, he is able to construct an ending and even a beginning to his next story. He's off ... just like his rocket ship!

Simple line drawings, speech bubbles, and a growing ability to get his ideas down on paper are shown in Mike Lowery's enjoyable artwork. Backgrounds are filled with print and books. All are sure to encourage listeners in the audience to take a risk and see what they can do. It's a worthy pursuit.

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