How To Build a Story…or, the Big What If

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Jul. 2020. 128p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534438422.
Gr 4-8–Dowell provides a step-by-step manual for young writers. The great strength of this tutorial is Dowell’s casual, humorous tone. Each chapter is focused on an element of creating a story. Step one is the “Big What If,” followed by the inclusion of obstacles. The final part of the story is the “Big Blow-Up” and a conclusion. Dowell also includes a chapter on the importance of a good editor. Each chapter features writing samples, prompts, and key takeaways. The bulk of the book is focused on the art of crafting a story; an appendix offers standard writing advice, such as “Show, don’t tell.” The message is positive and encouraging; Dowell urges young writers not to give up. Ebert’s fun illustrations add to the appeal.
VERDICT This lighthearted, entertaining instruction guide is perfect for upper elementary and middle school students. A worthy addition to library collections.

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