review of picture book S Is For Story


S Is for Story: A Writer’s Alphabet
Written by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, December 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1585365111

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the things I wish I’d done much younger, when I knew I wanted to be a writer, is read about writing technique. I got so much praise from all my teachers about my writing, that writing and art were the two things I knew I did well. It took me a lot longer than I’d like to get into reading about writing technique, to seriously make my writing much better.

S Is for Story: A Writer’s Alphabet is a book I wish I’d had as a child and teen. It diffuses an incredible amount of valuable writing technique and advice into short, pithy paragraphs. If a reader isn’t yet ready to listen seriously to writing advice, or doesn’t want to take the time, there are short verses on every page that sum up some of the advice. But if a reader does read the text on each page, they will absorb a LOT about how story works, and how to make it better.

The first two pages are more about history–of the alphabet and books–but then, starting with the third letter, C, we get into Character, including a reminder that it’s the character who pulls us in and keeps us reading; characters need to be rounded, not flat; a writer needs to know their character from the inside out, and much more. The text is not simplified by taking out important information, but rather imparts deep information in easy-to-understand text. The entire book delves into techniques that make a story work. The book is also an alphabet book, which can be read with just the simple rhyming verses for a younger child, or explored more with the paragraphs of text with an older child or mature reader.

The illustrations are beautiful, with a great sense of atmosphere and feeling. The paintings are stylized, with the heads of children appearing much larger in proportion to their bodies than they actually are. The faces of each character stand out, especially, pulling the reader’s eye; the characters are vivid and unique. There is great attention to detail, even the shading of each face and article of clothing. Readers will delight in finding the pen or pencil that appears in almost every illustration; as a writer, I enjoyed that touch. I loved the cover art so much that I sought out the illustrator to purchase it.

I think this is a fantastic book for kids and teens, especially those who want to write. Teachers will find this an incredible resource. I also think it’s a good book for serious writers to pick up, those trying to get published. And even for established writers, some of the advice serves as a good reminder. Highly recommended.

source: I purchased this book myself.

3 Responses to “review of picture book S Is For Story”

  1. Cheryl Rainfield: » review of picture book S Is For Story | eMega Deals Says:

    […] this article: Cheryl Rainfield: » review of picture book S Is For Story Tags: 2009– · alphabet · alphabet-written · esther-hershenhorn · […]

  2. Laina Says:

    *adds to list* In response to your tweet about this, I don’t have a favourite picture book. I read (and love) way too many XD I like the look of this 🙂

  3. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Oh, good, Laina; so glad you want to check it out! I really think it’s an incredibly helpful, lovely book!

    And I know what you mean. I have SO many favorite picture books! And middle-grade, and YA. I could never pick just one favorite. 🙂

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