with Bruce Van Patter 2009-2010 School Visits

My visit to Shongum Elementary!

On my last sheduled trip to a New Jersey school this year, what a treat to come to a school as full of energy and ideas as Shongum. Want proof? Just look at these stories.

The assembly stories

The four ingredients: a cat in the jungle looking for a way out up against a dragon

The story: The fun of this drawing wasn't so much in the telling of the story as it was in the revealing of the drawing. I drew the cat first, and I asked the kids how he would be able to see a way out of the jungle. One student said, "Climb a tree."

So I drew the cat sitting on top of what looked like a tree. Only after a while did I slowly transform the tree into the dreaded Tree Dragon!

I love how this turned out. This may be one of my favorite drawings of the year.


The four ingredients: a teenage girl in the Antarctic looking for a pool with a silly sidekick of a lizard

The story: When a girl finds a strange lizard floating on a melting tiny iceberg, she rescues it. What kind is it? A rare Ice Lizard. She realizes it needs to go back to the waters of the Antarctic.

But she's afraid of it being eaten by a predator, so she carves a hole in the ice to make it a pool.

I don't think that has stopped the predator!

Wow -- that killer whale used up most of one marker!


Workshop fun!

Check out these stories which all came from our 40-minute workshops:

This woman is a lonely woman. She's so afraid of people, her only friend is a frog she found croaking in the forest. The frog, though, turned out to be a magic frog that requires her to catch magical insects in the forest. The more she feeds them to it, the bigger it grows and the more bossy it becomes.

So she uses what little magic she has to create a new kind of bug that will give the bossy frog some serious trouble. What is it? A firebreathing ladybug!

This shows her taking the frog out to let it catch the ladybug. But I think the frog might get fried instead! (Gross -- fried frog!)

Little did I know that the librarian is seriously into ladybugs. I guess I wasn't very good at noticing!

I love this doodle, showing a boy leaping out of water. We imagined he was a boy who lived near the ocean but was very afraid of swimming. When he goes to a carnival, he meets an old, ex-pirate who gives him a magical shell that shows him that treasure awaits in a cave that can only be reached by swimming underwater. He decides not to try to get to it.

But his friend does! Now his friend has to rely on our hero to come and save him. How? Our boy will trade the baby starfish he keeps in a vial for his buddy.

I like, whenever possible, to make the final drawing of a character we invent look like the original doodle we start with. Here, I even got the pose right. This boy has invented a device that can make kitties in trouble fiy right to him. And he catches them.

But a bully wants to embarrass the kid, so he takes the remote.

What I've pictured is that the fattest neighborhood cat is flying through the air, but not at our hero. He's ducking. The bully is going to have his hands full in just a second with one angry, huge cat!

This is the first koala story I've ever done. And I love the pose we came up with in the doodle. We imagined that he was an angry koala who lives in a tree house that he built. All the other koalas live in trees, too. They do that to keep away from their enemies, the bears.

One day our hero comes back from a walk to find that someone has taken over his tree!

Worse than that, his only friend, a mouse is trapped in the tree house! So our koala sneaks up using a rope-pully and scares the bear right out of the house!

This girl dog was once on a mountain top (we thought she might have been doing disco dancing up there because of the pose) and she sees a strange balloon come down out of the sky. In the basket is a bearded cat! After talking, the cat goes away but promises to return soon.

Our dog goes to tell the town about what has happened.

But they don't believe her! She's known for having a wild imagination. No matter how hard she tries to convince them, they think she made this up.

Except for the king. He's worried that these bearded cats might be trying to invade his kingdom and take it over. They already have invented balloon travel -- they must be really smart. So he comes up to the mountain on the day the dog is going to meet the cat. The king tries to throw the dog into the basket and make them both go away.

Think twice, kingie! Not only does she stop him, but dogs from the town see how mean his is!

Kids do love stories about chickens! In this one, a chicken thinks it has superpowers. It leaps off of farm buildings and "flies" down to rescue other animals. He even sneaked into the kitchen of the farm and stole a napkin to have as a cape. The farmer's wife isn't happy about that chicken!

So imagine how dangerous it is for our hero to return to the kitchen to save his friend, a hen that's going to become dinner.

Unless, of course, he can rescue her with his smart thinking! Here he's putting his cape napkin in front of her face so that the hen can escape!

Here, we have an alien girl who has been sent to earth to spy on humans. But while she is going to high school, blending in, she finds that she likes humans -- and one boy in particular. She decides she doesn't want to go back to her planet.

But the problem is that she has a special cell phone that her alien bosses use to contact her. It also can make her transport back to the ship.

She tries to leave it behind in one of the abandoned buildings in her run-down town. But one day, the boy she likes brings her a present in a box. It's her cell phone! He found it in the building and is returning it as a nice gesture. And just as the boy opens the box to show her, the phone goes off! He starts to be transported!

Now the girl has to make a hard choice -- let him go or take the phone and go herself! Wow -- I wonder what the boy will do?

Here's a boy who's an armchair explorer. Literally. He stays in his amazing armchair that is also an instant travel machine. It can take him anywhere in the world. He's been hired by a mysterious guy to collect rare animals. The boy hasn't asked any questions about what the guy wants them for... until the boy brings back a Monktopus. He's grown quite fond of the weird little guy.

So he confronts his boss. But the boss knows that if the chair touches the ground, it will stop working. So his plan is to keep the kid in his headquarters rather than letting him tell what he's up to!

Want to motivate young writers in your life?

This book can help!

I've collected 39 of my weekly emails to teachers on creative writing into one downloadable book. Kids Can Love to Write captures the essence of my approach to making writing fun for kids. Whether you have an enthused young writer or one that needs big motivation, this book will show you how to get the most out of their imaginative minds.

Find other creative writing helps at my store!


New on my site!

I love random connections! Here's a page that will create random What If Questions to help you start stories!

That was a fun two days! We really invented some wild stories. Who knew we'd dream up yelling koalas, monkeys with eight tails, dragon trees and super chickens? I sure didn't!

But that's what's so much fun about the imagination: it can surprise us all the time. Your imaginations are up and running now. So what will you do with your ideas? I hope you'll put them down on paper. Write them or draw them, but remember to share them! The most fun is the sharing part.

And thanks for sharing your ideas with me!

Keep up the good work!

And while you're here, check out the fun stuff on my site!

back to main page
programs Fun stuff for families schools reviews bio store
Pick the ingredients to stories and click through to see how I've started them. Then you finish the story!

Make a character out of some funny people I've drawn for you!
Strange news is happening! Let my Headline Maker give you a really weird headline. Then write a story!

click on the images to go to the writing activities