“A lot of strange things can happen while you’re writing a story. You can start thinking your characters are real and begin to talk to them. You can feel nervous when they’re trapped, or excited when they’re rescued, or happy when they meet up with someone who might be a friend-even if you made these things happen by writing about them. Your story can get very weird and begin to haunt you. Or very scary and begin to scare you. Or very real and begin to come true.”
My class loves How I Became a Writer and Oggie Learned to Drive. This is one of those books that just works as a read aloud. The main character Archie and his little brother Oggie shuttle between their newly separated parents’ respective apartments. When Oggie gets mugged by a local street gang, Archie promises to get his red leather wallet back and their adventures begin.
This book has nice short chapters and you can find a nice cliffhanger to end on every few chapters. I also like that the street gang is one of those “old timey” gangs who all wear matching leather jackets. Throughout the book is a second story where Archie is writing a book about a group of mysterious mole people. The students inadvertently get a few writing lessons as Archie explains the qualities of good writing.
Although the book is big fun to the students it also deals with some pretty serious issues like divorce, “gang” violence, and telling the truth. You will find many opportunities to extend and enrich this book through conversation with students.
Read it with gusto and make Oggie a whiny ham, and your students will be captivated. I would recommend this for grades 4-5.