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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ralph Tells A Story, written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon. Amazon Children's Publishing. 2012. $16.98 ages 5 and up

"Can I use the stapler?" I asked. I was really good at stapling. "But you have nothing to staple!' said Daisy. "You have to find a story first!" So I looked for stories out the the my desk."

"Stories are everywhere!", or so says Ralph's teacher. It would seem so when you look around Ralph's classroom and see how busy the students are at putting print to paper...all except Ralph, that is. He uses his imagination to dream up excuses for getting out of the classroom. He even offers to help the lunch ladies.

Perhaps his friend Daisy can help. She jumps at the chance, and shows Ralph that he is the main character in her book full of stories. It doesn't help at all. While lying on the floor trying to think up a story, a little memory comes to Ralph. At share time, his teacher asks him to be first. There's no story on his paper, but he begins with the inchworm that he remembers from a day in the park. Thanks to his classmates and their questions, Ralph is able to fill in the details and lo and behold, Ralph's got a story to tell. It begins with a simple sentence, "I was at the prk."

Ralph's skill lies in his oral storytelling and he entertains his classmates with a wild and funny adventure. That is just the beginning for Ralph. Now, he is a master at writing and is ready to publish a book of '100 funny stories by Ralph'. He even some tips to help other writers:

"1. Get comfortable.
  2. It's okay to ask for help.
  3. You can always write about what you had for breakfast.
  4. Eat lots of chocolate."

The author's illustrations perfectly complement her story. She uses watercolor and colored pencils to create cartoon-like endearing characters, spot drawings, and funny, typical classroom shenanigans. The children are expressive, the background classroom environment boasts posters of some favorite book characters: Frog and Toad, David, Olivia, Madeline, Pigeon. The scenes from writing workshop are idyllic for everyone but Ralph; that's where the fun lies. Ralph's expressive face captures his fleeting feelings about the work that is writing, or not being able to find a story.

Don't miss the endpapers. The ones at the front are a real look at Ralph's distress over the whole writing experience. Eighteen pages of blank paper, except for his name. Flip to the back to see what finally finding his writing voice has generated: eighteen stories, titled and illustrated. I'll share just a few: The Case of the Missing Ice Cubes, The Worst Staple Jam Ever, My Bathroom Emergency, and When My Baby Brother Ate Hot Sauce.

Has it got you thinking? What's your next story?

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