Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine. 2006 HarperCollins Publishing New York, NY; 161 pages.
In looking at books for instructors, I am also looking at books to recommend for kids, after all, what's the point if all the books out there are technical and school like? Don't kids need a place to turn to for instruction and advice that speaks to them? What kind of books should teachers have available to students?
I have always liked Gail Carson Levine's easy style so I wanted to take a look at this book and found, like her fiction, this has an easy style to draw the reader in. Each of the 30 short chapters cover an aspect of writing and finish with a writing exercise.
For the student, Levine starts by making the reader "promise" to save everything they write for at least 15 years. Each writing exercise ends with "save what you wrote," harkening back to that promise without that nagging reminder: you promised. It is merely part of the writing exercise instruction.
She draws heavily on books of her own the students most likely know (Ella Enchanted, Dave at Night, etc.) but also on other books that they are most likely familiar. Just like teachers in a writer's workshop, she gives her own stories and examples along with advice.
For example, chapter 17 "Stuck," has the words, "There is no such thing as a perfect book or a perfect story," set in large, italic type so it truly stands out on the page and draws the reader's eye. She goes on to explain why perfection doesn't matter and options for approaches when a writer is stuck.
Geared for kids ages 9 and up, this is a great resource book for a classroom library or for exercises in the classroom. Like Lucy Calkins, Ruth Culham and others, Levine is hitting on writing habits and traits but her lessons are echoing what the students hear in the classroom in a language that is comfortable. Adults can benefit from this book as well in spite of the target audience as the quick mini lessons with advice and exercises are universal.
Overall, this book is well worth the price tag.