Wow! After just finishing reading The Whisper written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, (Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) I am completely inspired. This book is by far one of my favorite picture books of all time.
The premise is a little girl who loves stories. She notices a unique book in her classroom on a high shelf, the teacher lets the little girl borrow the book and take it home for the night. As the petite rushes home in anticipation of reading this story, all of the words fall from the pages, once she has a chance to sit down and read she is devastated to the point of tears that the book is filled with wordless pages. However there is a small whisper:
Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed.
You can imagine the words.
You can imagine the stories.
Start with a few simple words and imagine from there.
Remember: beginnings, middles, and ends of stories can always be changed and imagined differently.
There are never any rules, rights, or wrongs in imagining – imagining just is.
Pamela Zagarenski, The Whisper, 2015
The little girl looks at the enchanting mix media illustrations in the book and creates her own stories. It is the perfect book to let your imagination run wild. Zagarenski provides enchanting images that inspire you to create your own tale. The color and vibrancy of the illustrations are what make this story so magical. After a long night the little girl drifted into a dream filled slumber to awake the next day missing her newly created friends and almost missing school. My petites loved the twist of the clever fox.
Enchanting, right? As someone who aspires to write children’s books this book really spoke to me. I do think that this story is for everyone who wants to tell a story, regardless of what age they are. This book is the perfect stepping stone for thinking about writing to actually picking up a pencil and jumping in.
As a teacher, my wheels immediately started turning and thinking about ways in which this book could help students to build their confidence as writers in an incredibly fun and engaging activity.
Here are a few ways in which I would love to share this book with students.
- First, read the book aloud to the class. Then have students choose one of the illustrations and story starters that speaks to them and have them start writing. upper elementary – high school.
- Read the book aloud and have students share their stories aloud to a partner using the illustrations as inspiration. lower elementary and English language learners of all ages.
- Another idea, read the book aloud, then group students in 3-5 groupings. Have them choose a story starter they each write one line of the story and take turns passing the story around the group in 3-5 minute intervals so that they have a collaborative story. Read it aloud when they are all done. upper elementary – middle school
- Finally, have the illustrations be the starting point without words and have the students create the hooks and then subsequent stories based on the illustrations. middle to high school
If you use any of these ideas in your classrooms, I would love to hear how they turn out.