This last For Young Writers post leaves advice (mostly) behind in favour of story. The writers described in these stories may approach the task with eagerness or doubt, teacher expectations, or a deep need of their own to write. What they have in common is a growing understanding of the potential of their own words.
Once Upon an Ordinary School Day written by Colin McNaughton and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
On a perfectly ordinary, ho hum day, a new teacher arrives who challenges his students to open their imaginations to music and story. In bare handfuls of words, McNaughton captures a multitude of approaches to creativity, as well as the effects that creativity can have on those willing to give it a try.
The Fruit Bowl Project by Sarah Durkee
An eighth grade writing class is assigned the task of approaching a story like a painting — everyone is to tell the same story, but with their own perspective, media, colours and tools. The first part of the book describes the two week period during which the stories are to be written, and is fascinating in its insight into the group and its members. The second part offers the stories themselves, each with hints of the authors that readers have already gotten to know.
Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan
When a famous author comes to coach their class in writing for a few weeks, a group of friends begin to explore the ways in which words can help them to understand and tell their own stories. While the kids are somewhat idealised, their struggles are familiar ones, and each character’s discoveries feel genuine.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Francie and her family live in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. Hard work, a tense relationship with her mother, and her father’s alcoholism are the reality of daily life for Francie, but her love of reading and talent for writing allow her first to escape, and eventually to begin to make sense of her circumstances.
Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire written by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Nancy is thrilled when her teacher announces that her class will be studying poetry, next — poetry is just full of fancy things! But when the time comes to write a poem of her own, Nancy finds herself stuck with a terrible case of writer’s block.
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Tilda is heiress to a freehold in medieval Europe, and responsible for the well being of her people. What she’d really like to do, though, is write — ideally, something important. When a cousin reveals his plan to steal her freehold, Tilda gladly leaves it behind in favour of a dragon hunting trip with her maid and a disgraced young apprentice. While a twisted foot keeps her out of her friends’ battles, Tilda is certain that this is the perfect opportunity to begin her great work: a Handbook for Dragon Slayers. The research her book requires, though, might put an end to the project long before Tilda can finish.
Larger-than-Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall
Laney and the rest of her grade four class have been learning lots about writing and how to put a story together. So when new classmate Lara appears, Laney decides to use what she’s learned to tell what happens. Under chapter titles like Setting, Conflict, and Rising Action, Laney describes the class’s reactions to Lara’s weight, Lara’s surprising response, how everything finally blew up, and what happened after.
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Hattie didn’t set out to be a writer, or, really, a farmer, either. But when opportunity presents itself, Hattie steps up. While she struggles to complete the requirements for full ownership of her Uncle Chester’s land claim, Hattie writes a monthly column that fills city readers in on the trials of homesteading, the dangerous frenzy of WWI patriotism, and the strength and resilience of neighbours working together.
The Jacky Faber Series by L.A. Meyer
While Jacky is the one prone to high adventure, her best friend, Amy Trevelyne, has a knack for capturing those adventures in writing, and a growing audience for her tales. As Meyer’s series progresses, Jacky encounters Amy’s books (and the reputation they confer) on both sides of the Atlantic, and suffers the consequences of having her secrets known — mostly accurately — all over the world. Amy’s writing is not a major part of the story, but it does raise questions about the circumstances under which it’s justifiable to tell someone else’s story, and the potential cost of putting one’s story out in the world.
The Emily of New Moon Series by L.M. Montgomery
When Emily’s father dies, she is taken in by relatives: a household of adult siblings who view the child in their midst with a mix of perplexed affection and wary determination to bring her up properly. Emily makes her own space in the world by writing — an activity that becomes increasingly important to who she is and who she is becoming.
I’m still working on Sharon Jenning’s Home Free and Veronica Bennett’s Cassandra’s Sister: Growing Up Jane Austen, but so far I’m liking both. Any other stories about young writers you’d recommend?