day 27 – write a book

It sounds huge, I know, but it’s not really. You can make a simple book from A4 sheets cut in half, then folded in half, and stapled down the back. Fill the book with words and pictures. But with the help of a computer, books can look like the real thing. Making a book is not a 10-minute activity though – think of it as a holiday project, and a series of 10-minute tasks. A six-year-old and I just produced a book called Ruby’s Turtle Party, and we both had heaps of fun.

The first thing is to write a story. My advice is to wait until one happens – Ruby’s Turtle Party started while we were walking around that gorge on Stradbroke, and the six-year-old spied a turtle swimming below. Then it was a matter of asking questions: Where is it going? What’s it’s name? What did she say? Is everything okay? What happened next? And that all important question – Why? Before long you’ll have a story by the tail. Kids are great at making stuff up.

Write down the story you told each other. You’ll have to do this for young children. Try to use the child’s words, and resist ‘fixing’ them up. Read the story together, asking extra questions if you need to. Remember, all good stories have a ‘hero’ or main character, a problem to solve, and a ‘happily-ever-after’ ending that pulls it together. It was months before we got back to our story. That’s okay, writers like to revisit their work with fresh eyes. Now’s the time to make last-minute changes – kids are learning that writing is a process.

First page introduces the main character, Ruby, and her problem: she’s late for a party

Find the natural breaks in the story and decide what words go on each page. Now you know how many pages you need. Don’t forget a title page. Type the tale into a Word document – your job if the child is six, but sit them on your lap so they see the words forming. If you use the folded half-A4 format, type the story as two columns in sections that match the size of your pages – quarter-A4. Print your story out.

The easiest way to make the book is to fold half-sheets of A4, and then glue in story ‘blocks’ cut from the Word Document. Glue the text on every second page and let the child do illustrations opposite. Again, they can do them on separate pages and glue them in. Ruby’s Turtle Party illustrations were drawn on prints made from the bubble activity described on day one of this blog. Bubbles – perfect watery background. The cover (front and back) is an extra special, double illustration with title and author’s name. We pasted in foil shapes for fish and bits of paper doily for Ruby’s dress. No rules.

To make it look really professional, hand-stitch the leaves together – show your kids the stitching in the books on your shelves – and put clear contact on the cover. Don’t forget page numbers, probably best left til last. You will be astounded at the joy on your kids’ faces when the project is completed. As my six-year-old said, ‘I feel so proud of myself.’

Published by Dr Toni Risson

Dr Toni Risson is a storyteller and a cultural historian who has penned everything from children’s picture books to a PhD on the Magic of Lollies. An expert on the Greek cafe phenomenon, Toni curated Meet Me at the Paragon for the State Library of Queensland, and her latest book, Brisbane’s Greek Cafes: A Million Malted Milks, was a finalist in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards. Having encountered the elegant Paragon Cafe in Katoomba as a child, Toni developed a fascination with silky oak panelling, bevelled mirrors and Art Deco wall lights long before she understood the stories behind Australia's iconic Greek cafe. She continues to document our lost café culture.

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