logoRave means an extremely enthusiastic recommendation or appraisal of someone or something. Other words for rave include very enthusiastic, highly favorable, rapturous, glowing and ecstatic. I’m writing to rave about our recent online class from Brave Writer and our compassionate and insightful instructor Ms. April.

We spent the month of January in the Just So Stories online family class. The goal of the course was for each child to write a little tale based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Ms. April gave us assignments and guided the kids in crafting their very own Kiplingesque short story. Our instructor proved not only to be a writing instructor to my kids but also a coach for me. Observing her interactions with my crew I learned how to walk my own children through the writing process.

thumb-just-so-storiesThe first week of the course I worked with the kids to help them pick the animal they would write about. We gathered encyclopedias and books to read. We watched documentaries and BBC Earth snippets on YouTube to learn all about each of their chosen creatures. We discussed various ideas together and the kids spent a few days just freewriting on their animals. We played with words and really enjoyed our time together. Taking cues from Ms. April and The Writer’s Jungle I stepped away from my usual role as critic and grammar nut and embraced being their supportive coach. My Children responded to the Brave Writer way with enthusiasm and surprised me with their creative, funny and sweet stories. We turned in a few rough drafts and Ms. April gave gentle suggestions and lots of enthusiastic encouragement.

So here are their stories along with a few of Ms. April’s comments:

Oldest needed very little help writing his story. He knew exactly what he wanted to write about and the basic events of his story from the first week. To my astonishment he even spent time as Sparkles’ scribe when she got frustrated and tearful. Below is Oldest’s story.

How Lawe’s Parotia Got Its Dance

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, before Papa went to New Guinea in the Tar Lands of Indonesia on an island in the wettest of wet seas where the pretty birds fly there was a bird of glamorous colors unseen.  He possessed feathers of a pinkish greenish sort and a purplish yellowish type which made all gasp at the site of him. And his blueish orange-ish feathers made other beautiful bird look plain beside him. But his splendorous beauty made him vain. He continuously bragged of himself and loved himself so much he gazed at his own reflection at every opportunity. He refused to marry until he found a bird as beautiful as him.

He was very splendid and supremely superior in his looks. Surely, none could be surprised that the lady birds swooned at his feet deeply in love. He never had to do anything for attention and enjoyed ruining other birds’ performances. For instance, one time Mr. Nightingale sang a song of love and the bird of glamorous colors unseen interrupted his melody with a horrifying shriek. Once the females saw him they forgot the beautiful song of love and turned their attention to the bird with glamorous colors unseen.

What could the other birds do that was better than their rival? As anger swelled in their hardy-hearts they planned the downfall of the vain bird with glamorous colors unseen. All of them gathered together to plan how to make the Tar Lands fair.

The extravagant bird was washing his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. He looked at himself and wondered if anyone was a beautiful. He wanted none to be as splendorous as just one of his superior feathers. He failed to hear a rustle in the bushes behind him because he was gazing at his reflection in a mirror-like puddle of water. He turned to see an angry mob of birds running and jumping over tar pits in his direction. They tackled him and dragged him to a tar pit. He pushed and shoved but could not escape. Then he was pushed in and covered in tar. The other birds left him.

The tar was a gloopy disastrous messy mess. It stuck to his feathers of glamorous colors unseen. When he attempted to wipe it off he smeared it over the remaining feathers. Now only a few of his feathers remained clean. Depression struck the bird with glamorous colors unseen because most of his feathers turned a boring grey. Over time he learned to dance for the lady birds and to clean their perches and decorate his dance floor with bright red berries. Finally he found a female bird as pretty as he was but not as he once was.

Note: I changed my children’s name in Ms. April’s comments to the names I use for them on the blog.

Ms. April: My goodness, Oldest. You have crafted a most magnificent piece! Not only did you “complete the assignment” – you embraced it, owned it and nailed it. It’s time for me to do my Happy Dance and (while I’m still your instructor-of-sorts!) give you one final assignment: CELEBRATE all of this Goodness…pop some corn and read your stories aloud for Dad and any lucky friends and neighbors. It’s share-worthy. Be proud. Congratulations! 🙂

Sparkles had the hardest time writing her story. She wanted to write about tiger’s but she loves them so much she just couldn’t write anything bad about them. After obtaining permission from the instructor Sparkles was allowed to write a positive tiger story.

How the Tiger Got Its King Mark

Once upon a time, O Little Friend, when wise dragons walked the earth in the Crystal Mountains of China, kind Tiger waited and waited for Tigress. He remembered running through the leafy green forest nestled between the sparkling crystal mountains with their tops in the clouds. He had hunted his prey, a dear of the forest and drug it back to the cavernous cave. Hungrily he began to eat.

While enjoying his meal he heard Tigress and her mewling cubs. When he heard the hungry kits he knew the hunt had not gone well for Tigress. Stepping back from his meal Tiger dragged the carcass to Tigress and her mewling cubs to and let them eat the deer. The other forest animals in trees and glades nearby watching in amusement asked, “Why did you let Tigress and her cubs have your meal?”

“Because I choose to care for my friends,” answered Tiger kindly.

“Ha, ha, ha!” the animals laughed. “You should take care of yourself first. Or make her hunt for you like the lion.” The animals chuckled to themselves as they left to find their own dinners.

Tiger padded softly away ignoring their jibes. Spotting a weepy baby bunny he asked, “What is wrong?”

“I am lost!” wailed the little bunny.

“Follow me. I know the way to the Burrows,” Tiger said gently. Tiger led the way and soon the baby bunny was reunited with his mother in the Burrows.

Again the other forest animals in trees and glades nearby shouted, “Ha! Ha! Ha! You wasted your time on a snackling! Why would you help the little bunny?”

“Because I choose to care for the lost,” replied Tiger.

Tiger thought and thought and thought with sadness about what the other animals said to him as he fell asleep.  When morning came Tiger went out for another hunt. The wise dragon from ancient times flew down from the Crystal Mountains and said with a thundering voice, “I saw your actions yesterday.” With that statement Tiger received his King Mark.

“Why would you give me this mark?” puzzled Tiger.

“I gave it to you because you watch over those in your care,” proclaimed the wise golden dragon.

Tiger returned to his cave. The other animals noticed his King Mark and bowed to their new king. Tiger, King of the Jungle.

Ms. April: Lovely. Simply lovely. Sparkles, your story is so full of tenderness and compassion. PLEASE keep writing and sharing your writer’s voice with all the world.  I hope you will share your story with a co-op or family or neighbors. It deserves to be heard. You have a kindness about you that others can “hear” through your words. Keep writing. Keep sharing that heart of yours. Beautiful work. 🙂

After reading the first draft Ms. April commented: Sparkles, you are a kind soul. This draft oozes with gentleness and compassion. Thank you for challenging your readers to always choose Kindness. You should be proud. This piece is lovely. Just lovely.

The last comment above made me cry. I was stunned (and a little convicted) by how much of my daughter’s personality our instructor pulled from the first draft. I am with my kids everyday and sometimes I forget just how vulnerable they are to my words…especially Sparkles. She takes everything to heart.

Middle Boy sharing his story
Middle Boy sharing his story

Middle Boy blew me away with his piece. He mostly worked on his own. Mostly, I served as a living thesaurus for him. I didn’t realize just how much this boy loves poetry until I read his opening paragraph.

 How the Octopus Got Its Beak

I’ll tell a tale my Little Buddy when fish were friends, all except one, in the big blue ocean. Octopus is mean, green and he cheats in games calling people names. He’s just so rude he takes all the food. That eight armed pecky party pooper! His name is Wully and he’s a big bully. He inks all over the food. He’s really not that nice. Someday he will pay the price.

“Hey, Fluffer Puffer fish! You are a gassy guy!” laughed Octopus making gassy sounds. Then he went on leaving Fluffer sad and humiliated. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

Wully the octopus swam to the fish party where he met a jellyfish and called him “no-brainer.” It is rude to point they have no brain, even though it is true, because it makes them blue. Octopus spoils the rest of the party by stealing the food. Using his eight biting beaks he snatches and snaps the food from the partygoers. Then carelessly he swam away soaring and spinning.

He swam the way to the mazes of coral searching for gleaming glittering gold. He saw many colors of green, blue, orange and yellow. He found a cave in the rocky wreck of massive underwater avalanches and there he discovered gleaming glittering gold. He swam along listening to the bellowing bonging songs of whales soaring above him. He swam deeper into the cave soaring and spinning and found The Giant Magical Squid!

“I see how you have acted,” boomed the Squid when Octopus entered. “You have been bad too long” thundered the Squid.

“Who are you and where are you”, asked Octopus searching the cave.

“Above you.”

Octopus was speechless. The squid was huge…massive like a mountain. His eye was the size of a door and his head like a skyscraper.

“You will go through a change” said the massive squid.

The magic ink came charging at Octopus. In shame he went home. The punishment was so horrible and terrible. His many biting beaks were gone. His only mouth was on his rear end.  Then sorrowfully he swam home out of the maze ignoring the gold. He knew the others would scold. He was so full of spite, he wanted to fight and never picked on anyone again. And, that, my Little Buddy, is how the octopus got its beak.

Ms. April: You are a Kipling King, Middle Boy! This piece has it all…musical language, an animal with an unusual trait, a character flaw and the agent of change. Even better than allll of that, though, is the enthusiastic effort given to your writing. Your willingness to listen and apply feedback, to partner with your mom (and me!), and your flexibility with word play has been a treat to work with. Thank you for sharing your birthday month with us. Congratulations on a job Well Done.

Lulu publishing kits
Lulu publishing kits

As you can tell I am really proud of my kids and the hard work they put into their writing projects. Currently they are using Lulu to produce illustrated books. I can hardly wait for them to finish and get those books in my hands!

Brave Writer is all about supporting young writers and helping them find their own unique voice. I am so happy I gave this curriculum lifestyle a place in our home and school. My kids are finding their voice and the courage to share their individual viewpoints.

Legal note: This review is not sponsored and I received nothing in return. I am just so delighted with the experience and had to share.