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Crafting A Lead

from Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8 by Ralph Fletcher and  JoAnn Portalupi
Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi argue that too often we concentrate on the beginning and ending of the writing process - conceiving and correcting - while leaving students on their own to make a thousand critical decisions in their writing about crafting leads, voice, structure, supporting detail, setting, mood, and character.

What elements of craft can we teach student writers, and at what age are they ready to learn them? This book answers both questions. Craft Lessons is the practical text for the over-scheduled writing teacher who wants to give students fresh challenges for their writing but doesn't have time to pore over dozens of trade books to do so.
 

He lists for crafting a lead:

  • ~Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull
    The author does a wonderful job of telling how Wilma Rudolph overcame a physical handicap to win the Olympics, of showing that there are great benefits to being born into a big family, and showing how Jim Crow affected people in that time period: this is a book with an inspiring heroine.

The Give-Away Lead

  • ~Louis the Fish by Arthur Yorkinks
    Louis is a butcher with a problem: he hates meat. But will he find happiness after he's transformed into a fish? Louis, a man who has been pushed into the butcher business by his well-meaning parents, hates meat and loves fish. One day Louis wakes up and he's a salmona very happy salmon. In PW's words, "Imaginative, full-color paintings are tuned into the odyssey. The dizzy doings provoke laughter, but the story also serves as a parable on the importance of being yourself."

Arresting Sentence

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
    Does Jerry Renault dare to disturb the universe? You wouldn't think that his refusal to sell chocolates during his school's fundraiser would create such a stir, but it does; it's as if the whole school comes apart at the seams. To some, Jerry is a hero, but to others, he becomes a scapegoat--a target for their pent-up hatred. And Jerry? He's just trying to stand up for what he believes, but perhaps there is no way for him to escape becoming a pawn in this game of control; students are pitted against other students, fighting for honor--or are they fighting for their lives? In 1974, author Robert Cormier dared to disturb our universe when this book was first published. And now, with a new introduction by the celebrated author, The Chocolate War stands ready to shock a new group of teen reader.

    Spoken Words
     

  • The Barn by Avi
    Grade 3-6-After their father suffers a "fit of palsy," three motherless children try to keep their struggling farm going in 1855 Oregon. Although nine-year-old Benjamin is the youngest, he is the cleverest of the three, and also the one who truly believes that the man can recover. His sister Nettie wants to marry and start her own life, but agrees to help the family for as long as she can. Harrison is much bigger and stronger than his younger brother, but not quite as quick thinking. After Benjamin figures out a way to communicate with his father, he convinces the others that if they can build the barn that the man had been planning, he will somehow find a reason to live. The family relationships are well drawn, as the siblings react to each situation in their own way, though Benjamin's obsession with curing his father makes him a hard character to empathize with at times. Ultimately, the boy is forced to question his own additional motives for building the barn. While focusing mainly on his characters, Avi presents a vivid picture of the time and place, including fairly involved details about how the barn is constructed. This novel may not have the wide appeal of some of Avi's earlier titles, but it is a thought-provoking and engaging piece of historical fiction.

    Setting the Mood
     

  • Poppy by Avi
    Newbery Honor author Avi (Tom, Babette and Simon, reviewed June 12) turns out another winner with this fanciful tale featuring a cast of woodland creatures. As ruler of Dimwood Forest, Ocax the hoot owl has promised to protect the mice occupying an abandoned farmhouse as long as they ask permission before "moving about." Poppy, a timid dormouse, is a loyal, obedient subject-until she sees Ocax devour her fiance and hears the owl deny her father's request to seek new living quarters. To prove that the intimidating ruler is really a phony, Poppy embarks on a dangerous and eye-opening quest, which ends with her one-on-one battle with Ocax. While the themes about tyranny and heroism are timeless, Avi leavens his treatment with such 20th-century touches as Poppy's jive-talking boyfriend and Poppy's own romantic vision of herself as Ginger Rogers. An engaging blend of romance, suspense and parody, this fantasy is well-nigh irresistible. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 9-11.
     
  • Charlotte's Web
    An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads "Some Pig," convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.