Despite the fact that 30 years have elapsed between my second grade and my daughter’s, one thing is apparently the same: It’s the school year in which teachers encourage you to start writing stories and themes, and give you a green composition notebook to write them in.
My daughter is currently much more interested in studying penguins in Antarctica when she grows up than being a writer. But she likes making her teacher happy, so we’ve had a fair number of conversations about writing in the last few months.
One of the things she has to do weekly is write a short paper about the best book she read that week. This was a hair-pulling project until we started sitting down and talking about what she’s read before she gets out her notebook. She reads a mix of things each week — newspapers, magazines, comics (she’s very fond of Calvin and Hobbes), Nate the Great books, old picture book favorites.
A couple of weeks ago, we got to talking about that week’s pick, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.
"Look," she said, and opened the book to a page where the mouse had left crayons lying around. "There’s no red crayon…but on this page…" she flipped a few ahead, "…there’s a picture and the mouse used red to draw it. Where did he get a red crayon? Sometimes I want to draw one onto the page with the crayons."
"Why not say that in your report?" I asked her.
"No way!" she laughed. "I’d get into trouble."
"You’re not actually DRAWING the crayon into the book, you’re saying you WANT to draw the crayon into the book. And you have a pretty good reason, I think. Why would that get you into trouble?"
My daughter looked over at me, and I put on my best if your teacher gives you crap for this, I’ve got your back face.
Here’s what she wrote:
I like how the mouse gets a cookie at the beginning of the story, and a cookie at the end of the story. The mouse draws a picture with a red crayon, and puts red in his picture. Isn’t that weird? The crayons he has are: green, orange, black, yellow, blue, and brown. But not a red crayon. Not even a brokin red crayon. I wish I could draw a red crayon into the book. I wonder how the boy can understand the mouse.
You’ll be happy to know her teacher thought she did just fine.
(By the way, in case anyone is wondering, to date my daughter’s most glowing review has been for the Ricky Ricotta series.)