The kids in Miss Cash’s fourth grade class have their very own, real, live author for the last six weeks of school. Each day, Ms. Mirabel teaches them a little bit more about writing: that people might write for lots of different reasons — to tell a story or ask a question or figure out what they think or feel about something; that different people write in different ways; that writing gives you a chance to be brave. The story focuses on a group of friends within the class, and explores the ways that each child takes on Ms. Mirabel’s challenge to be brave. Russell, who helps his parents by watching his baby brother Oliver every afternoon, writes about missing his dog, Everett. May expresses her frustration with her parents’ determination to adopt another child, and her surprised affection for the funny-looking baby who arrives. Lucy struggles to write something free of the sadness that surrounds her mother’s cancer. Gradually their writing, and the conversations that surround it, help the children to understand and share their experiences a little bit better.
Word after Word after Word is a beautiful story. There’s no doubt that the children are more articulate — and certainly more sensitive to each others’ feelings – than most real people of any age. As Ms. Mirabel points out, though, sometimes writing something unreal — a parable, a metaphor, a remarkably compassionate child — helps to communicate something true. I think that MacLachlan may have managed just that.
Find some great questions and activities in the publisher’s teaching guide for Word after Word after Word.