It's a Story, Rory! by Frances Watts

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Ill. by David Legge. HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9780733335938
(Age: 5-8) Storytelling. From the creators of the standout picture book Parsley Rabbit's Book about Books comes this similar look at stories and storytelling conventions. Regardless, this doesn't quite live up to the highs of Parsley Rabbit and his tutorial about the book making process. This clearly aims to give children some tools and inspiration to create their own stories but the three layers of text (the author talking directly to the reader, the story narration and the characters dialogue) make it hard to follow and needlessly complex. At one point, the reader is asked 'Do you remember how the story began?' and it is poignant as by then most children probably won't. There are so many twists and turns in focus and probably a bit too much text altogether. What it does do well is explain how visual elements contribute to storytelling (e.g., how a character's reactions can help a reader to understand their personality) and how language can be used effectively (e.g., how reactions can be conveyed through words). It also touches on genre, uses visual techniques like close-ups and appropriate technical language like plot, characters, setting and narrator. As a tool for teaching story writing this will be handy but children will require teachers to help them unpack it substantially and it will probably need to be read a few times before it is grasped fully. While it aims to educate it has a frenzied pace which helps to emphasise the creative joy of story telling. It also uses humour effectively, particularly through the character speech bubbles.
Nicole Nelson