Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two Great Books for Writing Workshop

by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
illustrated by Benji Davies
Candlewick Press, 2016

"Every story starts the same way...with nothing."

Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes us through the process of starting with nothing, then finding our characters (not a little girl, not a OCTOPUS!) and figuring out what our character wants and how they're going to have to work to get it.

Just like in the stories we'll write and tell, things don't exactly go the way the octopus plans, even when it has help. "So the octopus plays the ukulele, because music is good for the heart," and things start to change. 

When the reader is on the brink of being given a satisfactory ending, Tokuda-Hall leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens, and she reminds us, "When one story ends, it's just making room for another story to begin." 

The illustrations in this book go with and go beyond the written text in wonderfully priceless ways. You really have to see it for yourself to get a sense of its awesomeness! I can't wait to use this book to launch writing workshop next fall.

by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney*Hyperion, 2016

This book is not just about the process of writing a story, it gives the reader insight into the steps a story or manuscript goes through in order to become a book. Early in the book is my favorite part, in which we learn about the role of editors: "An editor tells you what parts of your story are good and what parts you need to fix. She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches."

This book pairs perfectly with Also an Octopus in the way the illustrations work with (and go way way beyond) the text, making this book also all kinds of awesome. You've read books by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, haven't you? Then you know why I'm not even going to try to describe and explain the elaborate silliness that ensues as the book in the story goes through the publication process. There is a tiger all the way through the book (including tiger-fur end papers), and there are astronauts. Also dogs playing poker. 

The best part is the end, "Because a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn't a book, not really, until it has a reader."

Another fabulous book you will want for your writers, your writing workshop, AND your readers!


  1. Love these titles and their possibilities!

  2. I think I need both of these.

  3. I need Also an Octopus (and almost bought it last night at my favorite independent bookstore but my pile was a bit large, as usual).

    A few years ago I got to hear Mac Barnett tell the story that became this book (along with Jon Scieskza) at a local book festival. I'm not sure I've ever laughed as hard. I find the book extra funny because I'm picturing the two of them.


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