I read a great book this week. It was penned on my living room carpet (the one wearing three years' worth of stains from juice boxes and wine boxes, unsupervised Sharpie markers, vomiting and potty-training children, and who knows what else).
The book is called The Furious Dragon that Blows Fire and is Not Nice. The title, as you can see, tells you a lot about the temperament of the main character. It also tells you a little bit about the temperament of the author, who is currently and lunatic-ly a 3-and-a-half year-old. He narrated it as I wrote. I will relate it in its entirety, with commentary:
"First, the dragon gets in his cave. He walks around it and tried to get lions and tigers and bears.* Then the dragon gets very mad and very fast.** Then the knight comes and looks for that dragon. Then he gets on his horse. The dragon looks for that knight. The dragon keeps blowing fire and trying to look for the knight. Then the dragon finally finds the knight. The knight kicks the dragon. Then the knight dashes the dragon down.*** They still fight mean.**** Then they hit each other. Then they stop being mean. Then they hear a noise..."*****
*Scribe's note 1: Oh my! Yes, we are VERY into The Wizard of Oz. The author is planning to be the Tin Man for Halloween.
**Scribe's note 2: The author also gets very fast when he is very mad. I think like most first novels, this book is partly autobiographical.
***Scribe's note 3: I'm not sure the exact meaning of "to dash down" but it is clearly violent and said with a lot of volume and emotion. (Volume and emotion go together in the same way as the previously mentioned qualities, speed and anger.)
****Scribe's note 4: This page was written after I reminded the author that he only had a few pages left. (We had created and bound the book before writing it.) I think it was his way of saying "So what? you can't force a peaceful resolution on me!"
*****Scribe's note 5: Showing that he's learning something about stories, if not his own temper, he decides when faced with the last page to end the fighting. But not the suspense. You should hear "DUH, DUH, DUH..." playing as the story ends.
Follow up with the kids
No, you can't find this book on Amazon.com. Not yet, at least. But you could find one a lot like it in your own living room. Sometimes the best stories for finding a connection with your kids aren't already published and on a shelf somewhere. Sometimes you need to take a stack of paper, punch some holes, tie it together with ribbons (Halloween ribbon in our case) and let imagination fly. Chances are, you will find out something your child won't otherwise tell you (like when he's frustrated and doesn't always know what to do with his anger he wishes there were a dragon he could dash down).
Writing a book like this with your child not only gives you insight into what they are feeling and thinking, it also helps them practice story-telling skills, using their imagination, feeling empathy for characters, and problem-solving (unless, of course they decide to solve the problem in their story by just continuing the fighting...)
You can be creative about how you make the book. Don't stop with just stapling (or tying) paper together. If you have an older child who has worked hard on the book, consider scanning in the drawings and printing the book out. Or sending it to a printer as a photo album and getting a nice hardbound copy printed out. (Think holiday presents!)
If drawing isn't your child's thing, or they are searching for inspiration, consider cutting magazine photos for the pictures, or printing out family photos for an entertaining family-inspired story.
Have fun with this! And I hope your knight and dragon, or your princess and unicorn, or whatever the story is, becomes a wonderful family memory.
Also by Wendy Lawrence
Wendy Lawrence is a Seattle native who is now living with her husband and two young sons in Nashville, Tenn. A longtime educator and former middle school head at Eastside Prep in Kirkland, she now blogs about parenting and books at The Family that Reads Together.