Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Picture Book For Writers

I don't recall how I happened to stumble upon Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, a thirteen-year-old picture book by Roni Schotter with illustrations by Kyrsten Brooker. It came from the library, but I found it weeks later on the book pile in my living room.

Little Eva is told by her teacher to "Write about what you know." So she sits out on the front steps of her building on 90th Street with a cinnamon Danish and a notebook waiting for something to happen. But nothing ever does. While she waits, various neighbors come by and give advice.

"Watch the stage, observe the players, and don't neglect the details," says an unemployed actor. The man who runs a dessert shop tells her, "There's always a new way with old words." "You can ask, 'What if?' and make up a better story," says another passerby. Everyone has something excellent to suggest, and Eva puts their advice to good use in her story about how nothing ever happens on 90th Street.

This is a lovely book, both in terms of text and illustration. It's a little wordy for your hardcore picture book readers, and I don't know if its embedded writing message will mean much to them. This book might be better as part of a writing unit for grade schoolers. In fact, you can find plenty of lesson plans on-line relating to this title.

Plot Project: My feeling is that this plot is developed around structure--it reads as if the author knew what writing elements she wanted Eva to hear about, created characters to present the material and actions that would illustrate them.

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