A child directly addresses readers and potential writers to share one way of getting stories started.
The unidentified student narrator shows off their male teacher’s idea jar, a place where all the kids contribute story ideas on slips of paper, and his words of wisdom: bad story ideas don’t exist; you can write, draw, or recite your tale. In Pilutti’s gouache-and–pen-and-ink illustrations, the slip-filled jar gradually morphs to contain the characters indicated on the papers (“Viking,” “monkey,” “unicorn”): the space robot uses rocket boots to escape the jar; the horseless cowgirl climbs over the rim into a desert landscape. But then the characters start to intrude a bit, giving advice to the diverse class and demanding to shape their stories. And when the idea jar gets tipped over? Watch out! Teachers will certainly welcome the notion of story ideas as living things that need to be written about in order to be happy, and the mix-ups that happen when the ideas escape and interact reflect some of the creative writing already going on in classrooms—for example, each student contributing a single sentence in turn. But unfortunately, Lehrhaupt and Pilutti don’t avoid didacticism, and their audience isn’t clear; the narration reaches for a younger audience than the snarky comments of the characters seem to imply.
A stellar idea for the idea jar, but the result may stay on the shelf. (Picture book. 4-8)