I am always surprised by student work, particularly when it comes from young children. But what struck me most about this group of lower-elementary writers at Our Lady’s Maronite Catholic Church? From the first day, they demonstrated an inherent curiosity in one another and a sincere interest in each other’s opinions, writing, and ideas. The grace my students exhibited when listening to each other helped to propel each student’s confidence and voice so that the work they produced garnered a new importance and creative authority.
At sharing time, after each student read a poem—or perhaps a story she hadn’t finished (so that part of the story was spoken from memory, in front of all of us, eyes wide with anticipation and the wonder that comes from performance)—hands shot up from the inquisitive audience, and their responses to each other’s work (which ranged from quoting the funniest line of dialogue to appreciating the story’s tension and mystery) were thought-provoking and remarkable in themselves.
When I first started writing creatively, I wasn’t much older than the girls in my class, but I did not have a community like this one to encourage me to write and to think about what I was writing. I believe this community they so easily and automatically fostered will help not only their writing but other experiences as they grow and enter the world, making them better prepared to embark on their own potential realities and yet-unwritten futures.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
I went downstairs and opened the door. No one was there.
Then I heard a meow.
I looked down and there was my kitty, Buttercup! She had something in her mouth. I took it. It was a… Before I could tell what it was, she took it right back. Then she meowed again. Then a whole alley of cats appeared.
I dropped my mouth open and looked down to see Buttercup, but she was with her family.
Every day, I see a lady sitting on a bench with a piece of paper and a pencil, writing day and night. I wonder: what is she writing?
The next day, I notice one piece of paper lying on a bench. I read it. It doesn’t seem like it’s finished yet.
I look up. On all the other benches, a single piece of paper sits on each. I soon read all of them and it makes one big story.
The Other Side of Oz
So, you’ve met Dorothy, but have you met her twin sister? I don’t think so. She’s from California, but she is the bad twin.
Oh, no! Another tornado is coming toward us!
Are we back over the rainbow?
Yes! But we need to go back.
No! I never want to go back. I want to see that wizard. So, which way to the Wizard?
Well, you have to follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Fine, I will do that.
So, they did. Until the road became two different roads. There was a red road and a yellow road.
Oh, yeah. I don’t care about the Wizard now. I want to see where that road goes.
So, they went.
Then they saw a sign. The sign said they had reached the Haunted Forest.
I don’t want to go in there, said Dorothy.
Well, I do, said the sister. This will be so cool. Come on.
So, they went.
Then they saw a wolf! It was growling and barking.
It’s trying to bite us.
It’s trying to bite you, not me. I’m going to pet it.
No. Don’t do that.
Why not? It’s not going to bite if you do it right.
I’m sorry I had lunch with
you and I didn’t offer you any.
I’m sorry that I tried to pop
you. You just make such a satisfying sound,
and I’m sorry that you are dragged
around every day just to be forgotten.
I’m sorry that I let you go. I
just love the way you gracefully float
up to the ceiling.
Please forgive me, balloon.
One day, Eva and Story were riding horses. Story’s horse was Cozy. Eva’s horse was Crystal. There were racing over jumps, like Cross Rails, Oxers, and Verticals. They were in a big field full of emerald green grass and trees with perfect green leaves and chocolate-colored trunks. They jumped for hours after dinner and lunch. They rode forever.
One day, a fox arrived. Eva’s horse Crystal got spooked and ran. Eva fell off, but luckily she landed on a soft patch of grass. Her horse Crystal slipped and fell. She twisted her ankle.
Story had a ranch. Story offered her one of her horses from her ranch. Eva was riding Good Night.
The next day Crystal, was all better. Eva rode Crystal. Story rode Cozy.
They were all BFFs. Best Friends Forever.
Little Pink Riding Hood
Of course you’ve heard of Little Red Riding Hood, but have you heard of Little Pink Riding Hood? No, no you haven’t? Well, here’s the story.
Once upon—okay, let me back up. If I don’t tell you this, you’ll be totally confused. Okay, Little Pink is Little Red’s twin sister. Back to the story.
Once upon a time, Little Red and Little Pink were playing Rocket outside. Their mom came out and had a long present and a basket of candy. It was their grandpa’s birthday. “Little Pink, can you get these two presents to Grandpa, please?” said Mom.
“Okay,” Little Pink said with a cheesy smile.
“Why can’t I?” asked Little Red.
“Because,” said Mom. “Last time Grandma almost died when you delivered the gift! I’m still so mad at you. Plus, I want to give Little Pink a turn.”
Little Red wasn’t sure of this, so when Mom went back inside and Little Pink went in the woods, Little Red Riding Hood followed her with her Mom’s phone so she could videotape it.
Before long, Little Pink went off the path into the woods.
“Oh, oh!” said Little Red, and she followed her sister while videotaping.
Little Pink went into a cottage. Little Red followed and quickly hid where she could videotape when she got in the cottage. There were The Seven Dwarfs and Snow White.
Okay, of course you didn’t think Snow White would be in this story, but she is. So, yeah. Anyway.
“Dwarfs, why do you have this cane? It’s a piece of junk,” said Little Pink.
“We have a sticker to put on his car!” said one of the Dwarfs.
“Silly! He ain’t have a car!” said Little Pink.
“Good. We made it into a saddle. It extends,” said Stinky. “That will hurt his butt!”
“You guys are useless,” said Little Pink and left.
No one saw Little Red go. Wow, she’s awesome at this, Little Red thought.
Anyway, Little Pink went to Grandpa’s house, and do you know what she said? She said this: “OMG, Mom and Little Red are terrible. Grandpa will only like my present.” Little Red did not know Little Pink was sassy, but apparently she was. Back to the story.
Little Red took a shortcut so she could get to Grandpa’s first. Little Red said this to Grandpa: “Happy Birthday. Me and Little Pink’s present will come in a minute, but Little Pink is a bit slow.” Grandpa laughed.
When Little Pink got there, Little Pink was confused. She said Happy Birthday strangely.
P.S. Little Red stopped the video after Little Pink said happy birthday.
Grandpa opened his presents. He liked both of them.
When they headed back, Little Red took a shortcut, so she got there more quickly. She immediately showed her mom the video. Mom was mad. Little Pink got home. Mom showed her the video, and Little Pink got in trouble.
“Little Pink,” said Mom. “As long as you live with me, Red does the delivering.”
To Pink, that wasn’t much of a punishment, but it still was.
Okay, so I’m only telling you this now so you don’t think I’m lying. Little Pink’s the mischievous and bad twin.
Well, to be continued… because it’s not the end of their lives. Or is it?!
No, to be continued.