Monday, July 02, 2012
GUY-WRITE by Ralph Fletcher
As many of you know, I received a copy of Ralph Fletchers book, GUY-WRITE: WHAT EVERY GUY WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW a little bit early. If you must know, he actually handed it to me at the All Write dinner. I felt terribly guilty about getting a copy when my good friends did not. (I am sure you can see the guilt and worry on my face in the photo above.) Anyway, I was thrilled to get a copy before its release date and started reading right away. (The book is available this week-I would not be so mean as to review it before you could actually get your hands on a copy:-)
Ralph Fletcher has a knack for writing books about writing for kids. I have always loved his books and my students have learned so much from his wisdom. One of my favorites to use with kids has always been A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK: UNLOCKING THE WRITER WITHIN YOU. But I think after finishing GUY-WRITE, it might now be a tie.
GUY-WRITE is directed at middle grade/middle school boys. It is chapter book length with chapter titles like: "Riding the Vomit Comet: Writing About Disgusting Stuff", "Sports Writing", and "Draw First and Write Later". The book will definitely appeal to boy writers, and it has lots of wisdom for teachers as well.
Ralph Fletcher talks directly to boys in this book. He talks with honesty and purpose. Readers will sense this right away. Not only does he talk with honesty but he includes a lot of humor. Ralph talks to boys about writing "disgusting stuff", when and how to include bloody scenes, the importance of drawing for some writers, and how to improve your sports writing. The booked is packed with tips on how to improve your writing--how to get better as a writer--focusing specifically on things like this.
The thing I maybe like best about this book is the balance Ralph finds between understanding the needs of boys as writers and understanding the limitations teachers/schools often put on them. He knows that many schools don't allow any writing about weapons and he talks honestly to readers about this. He gives them advice on ways to talk to teachers about the importance of some of these things to their stories and he also talks to them about how to know what works for school writing. In the process, he also teaches kids the when and how of writing "gross" or "battles". He pushes the point that there needs to be a point to including these and shows readers lots of examples of ways in which the writing is done well and in context of a good piece. And he is very honest when talking to readers about stories he's read by boys that are just episodes of grossness or violence without a plot or purpose. He makes strong points throughout the book about the place of these things.
Another thing I love about this book is the set of Author Interviews sprinkled throughout the book.
Ralph interviews some great authors who are pros at the kinds of writing Ralph writes about. Jon Scieszka's interview focuses on writing about disgusting stuff. Greg Trine talks about superhero writing. Five author interviews are included and each will be interesting to writers.
There are some good lessons here for teachers too. I feel like Ralph is writing to boy writers, but he is also writing to the adults in these writers' lives. Ralph reminds us how important it is for some boys to draw before they write. He reminds us that there is good writing that includes bloodshed and that sometimes gross stuff does belong in a story. And since most of us (teachers) don't include this kind of thing in our own writing, he gives us ways to support kids who do include it. His work helped me see that there is a craft to all of this writing and learning to do it well will help writers grow in all areas of their writing. He is an advocate for boy writers and is sometimes working to help adults better understand the ways in which we can support them.
The first book I read written by Ralph Fletchers was WHAT A WRITER NEEDS. It is still one of my favorite books on the teaching of writing. It was this book that defined for me what was meant by mentor text and how to use great text to teach students the craft of good writing within a good Writing Workshop. I thought of this book again when I was reading GUY-WRITE. Ralph embeds mentor pieces throughout the book--letting young writers and teachers see all that is possible. He focuses on boy writers and issues that seem to be more common with this gender, but as always, Ralph is speaking to all writers--reminding them about the qualities of good writing and helping them to grow.
My book has about 30 sticky notes stuck throughout. I tabbed so many pages that would make for a good minilesson. This book has huge possibilities. It provides me with a great resource to use not only for minilesson work, but in writing conferences. It will certainly be read cover to cover by many writers this year, I'm sure. And it will be a book I go back to for my own understanding. I am pretty sure I'll need several copies of this one in the classroom this year and one that is just for me!
(Patrick Allen has another review of this book up on his blog. All-en-A-Day's Work.