Another Squiggly Story
Another Squiggly Story
Sometimes I daydream in class. About sharks… About space… Or about nothing at all – I just stare at the clouds. But the sound of Mr. Lopez’s voice always brings me back down to Earth.
Mr. Lopez: This weekend I want you to think about the things that MAKE YOU WHO YOU ARE. Next week, you’ll be writing stories about YOURSELVES.
How am I going to do THAT?
Mr. Lopez: You can write about ANYTHING… As long as you write about YOU.
“I’m going to write a story about my HAT collection,” says Marcus.
“Can I write about VAMPIRES?” asks Alia.
Marcus: Are you a VAMPIRE?
Alia: No. But I think about them all the time.
What am I going to write about?
Another Squiggly Story finds a young boy being tasked with the assignment of writing a story about himself for school. The trouble is that he cannot think of what to write about! Everyone seems to have something that makes them who they are, like his best friend Marcus who loves hats, or Alia who thinks about vampires all the time. When he gets home, his older sister helps him out because she had the same teacher, Mr. Lopez, and also had to write a story similar to this when she was in his class. She teaches him that a story by you and about you is called an autobiography, and she has kept her autobiography going since completing this assignment. She lets him know that this is his story, and he is the boss of it. She helps him through his mistakes by telling him that it’s called ‘editing’. If he worries about things being perfect, then he’ll never get anything done; it’s okay to cross out mistakes and keep going!
Despite his sister’s help, the boy is still stuck on what to write about himself. With some help from Mr. Lopez, who instructs the students to do some brainstorming and make lists, the boy does come up with some things that he likes, things that he knows, and things that he wants to be, but he still doesn’t know how to connect it all into a story! He goes home frustrated and disappointed and confides in his sister that he’s stuck. She encourages him to forget about all of that for a little while, and maybe some connections will happen after he takes a break. At school the next day, with some help from Marcus, he writes a simple story about himself travelling to space, eating spaghetti there, and landing on Mars… all with his best friend Marcus – because he’s the boss of his own story, and he can add whatever he wants!
Another Squiggly Story is a great tool for younger readers (grades 1 up to developing grade 3s) to learn to cultivate their writing skills by teaching them that there is no wrong way to go about writing. ‘Mistakes’ are viewed as part of the writing process and are not to be seen as a negative, or even something that you have to get rid of. Leaving mistakes shows that you are editing, changing, and growing as a writer. Readers will also be delighted to find that Another Squiggly Story is not written like a ‘traditional’ story either; it is written in somewhat of a ‘comic-book’ fashion which will be appealing to nontraditional readers and will encourage those that feel they are not good enough writers to write a text-heavy story. In fact, the character Marcus states that he is going to write his story like a comic book because those are the kinds of books he likes to read, and drawing is easier for him than writing.
Mike Lowery, who has published some of his own books and illustrated many others, adds simple and highly effective pictures to Another Squiggly Story. These simple illustrations are also sure to inspire young readers as they are cartoon-style and not overly complicated, bolstering readers’ confidence that their artwork is also good enough to be featured in a story! This book should be used cautiously, however, when beginning to get into traditional text-based writing with young students. Another Squiggly Story is somewhat chaotic with writing standards, particularly with dialogue, as it utilizes both speech bubbles and traditional dialogue, and it’s also sometimes not clear whether the young narrator is thinking the things that are printed on the page or saying them out loud. Sometimes his words are in quotation marks, sometimes they are in speech or thought bubbles, and sometimes they are just words on the page. General writing conventions are also inconsistent, with some sentences being all capital letters, some sentences having random capitalized words or phrases, and notebook writing being a mix of capital and small letters (not always in the correct places).
Despite these few difficulties, Another Squiggly Storyis a good addition to classroom teaching materials. It may not be a classically re-read book as it doesn’t have a lot of humour or highly engaging storyline, but it is effective for its purposes. This book is recommended for younger readers and writers from about grade 1 to beginning grade 3; above this age, readers will find the story too juvenile and the story suggestions below their abilities.
Dawn Opheim, an avid reader with an M. Ed. in Teacher-Librarianship, works at an elementary school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.