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Celebrating budding authors and illustrators

Image: Ariella Zfati introduced the name of her book, My Dad, to a group of students at the Read Aloud book launch on December 20, 2011. (Photo: Heidi Burns)

Ariella Zfati introduced the name of her book, My Dad, to a group of students at the Read Aloud book launch on December 20, 2011. (Photo: Heidi Burns)

Image: Cat Ha Ha Bully by Christian Leggett tells the story of a cat who missed Thanksgiving dinner.

Cat Ha Ha Bully by Christian Leggett tells the story of a cat who missed Thanksgiving dinner.

Image: Taode Ogden read from his book, The Crazy Pool Party, at the book launch. (Photo: Heidi Burns)

Taode Ogden read from his book, The Crazy Pool Party, at the book launch. (Photo: Heidi Burns)

Image: “Taylor comes to school in a submarine” from Christian Leggett’s book, My Crazy School.

“Taylor comes to school in a submarine” from Christian Leggett’s book, My Crazy School.

Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) fourth grader Christian Leggett wrote and illustrated an original story about his cat missing Thanksgiving dinner. He called the story, "The Cat Ha Ha Bully."

Leggett opens the story:

This is my cat. One day my cat was sleeping. I snuck up on her. I yelled. I scared the cat. The cat jumped to the ceiling. "Ha-ha! Cool!" I said. "Good." She slept. She missed Thanksgiving.

The cat hangs from the ceiling for a month until the Mom rescues it and gives it the Thanksgiving dinner it missed. The illustrations of the orange and black-striped cat clearly convey the its moods as the plot progresses from the first scene where it is blissfully sleeping, to spiked out hair when it is startled awake by the boy, to hanging from the ceiling upside down with a bubble showing it dreaming of the turkey leg it missed at Thanksgiving. This is one sample of a fiction book the fourth grade students created using a writer's workshop to guide them from creating an initial idea in words or drawings to finding topics, generating a story from the most promising idea, and producing a final published book. One of the important elements of the workshop focused on "word choice," to bring their story ideas to life through use of expanded vocabulary.

"We spent the first quarter of the year on introduction to story writing, and how to develop a good story," said Heidi Burns, the fourth grade teacher who led the students through their writer's workshop. "We read the book, Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, by Reni Schotter. The main character, Eva, thinks nothing exciting ever takes place in her neighborhood. Then she discovers, with the help of some people who live and work in her area, four ways to use familiar things from her life to make stories. We did the same in our class."

The new authors celebrated their works of fiction at a book launch on December 20. They invited the students from the Kindergarten through fifth grades to a "Read Aloud," where they shared their books in American Sign Language with an audience. In the spring, the class will produce non-fiction books.

For teachers interested in using Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street as part of a lesson plan, check out this website: A Picture Book Writing Lesson from Writing Fix