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Never Too Young for Writer’s Block

Debbie Glade shares with us how she can relate to a story about a very young boy with a blank sheet of paper.

Ralph Tells a Story ($16.99, Amazon Children’s Publishing, Ages 6 and up) written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon is a darling little book fit for young Ralph Tells a Story coverreaders, but I found it to be equally as applicable for adult writers like me. I could write volumes about writer’s block. Now wait a minute. That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Ralph’s teacher asks her students to each write a story. But for Ralph, that’s easier said than done. You see, nothing ever happens to Ralph, so he simply cannot think of anything to write about – or at least that’s what he thinks. He wracks his brain, stares at the ceiling, crawls on the floor, and his blank paper just sits there waiting for him to write something on it – anything on it! When Ralph is called to the front of the class by the teacher, all he can do is nervously blurt out, “I was at the park. An inchworm crawled on my knee.” What follows that turns out to be a wonderful solution to Ralph’s writer’s block.

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This book teaches young readers that it’s normal to find it challenging to get started writing. Professional writers who have been writing their entire lives experience the writing block monster here and there, and sometimes everywhere. It’s a real live problem all writers know all to well!!! But Ralph’s experience is proof that we can work through that often cruel, frustrating block and create wonderful stories to be read, shared and treasured. You’ll find the simple cartoon-like illustrations to be a delightful addition to the story.

So go ahead and buy a copy of this book for your child, or maybe even the adult in your life who longs to write but fears the wrath of the ugly writer’s block monster.

Writer’s Block, Not Just for People

This book may have been written for children, but it certainly resonated with today’s reviewer, Debbie Glade.

Looking at the adorable front and back covers of Rocket Writes a Story ($17.99, Schwartz & Wade Books, Ages 4-8) by Tad Hills, made me eager to read what’s inside. And I wasn’t disappointed. Rocket is a lovable mutt who loves to read. (An earlier book, How Rocket Learned to Read was a NY Times Bestseller and a winner of several children’s book awards. Click here for our review.) Rocket also loves to write down words on small pieces of paper, and he hangs them on a beautiful tree. His friend and teacher is a tiny yellow bird, who encourages Rocket to write his very first story.

But Rocket experiences something all too familiar to me and all the other writers out there – writer’s block. Ugh! He walks through the wilderness by day and looks up at the stars by night searching for inspiration for his story. He gets frustrated and irritated and he doesn’t know what to do.  But then one day, he meets a bright-eyed owl, who is perched up in her tree on a nest. That owl inspires Rocket to start writing his story. Will meeting that owl be enough for Rocket to finish what he starts? Read the book and find out.

What I love about Rocket Writes a Story is that it lets kids know that writing doesn’t always (actually maybe never) comes easy. You’ve got to work at it. The way Rocket writes words down is also a great tool for teachers of young readers, since that’s one of the best ways to learn new words. Kids will see Rocket’s frustration and determination by reading the story and looking at the wonderful illustrations. They too will know that this is a perfectly normal part of the learning process. Now we all know that writer’s block is not just for people; it’s for dogs too!

Author/illustrator Tad Hills has a dog named Rocket at home, which obviously inspired him for the character in this book. Even though Rocket is clearly original, I have to wonder also if another dog inspired him to write his stories? Let’s just say he’s a well known white dog with black spots, who has a small yellow bird as a sidekick.

This book is a real winner. It’s beautiful to look at, inspiring to read and it enchants the reader. I’d even buy it as a gift to some of my fellow (adult) writer friends. After reading this, it’s all the inspiration I’m going to need to get me through my writing deadline this afternoon. I think I’ll start with jotting down a few words and hanging them on a tree . . .

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