Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Where Do Joy Cowley's Ideas Come From? Find Out in Her Own Words!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Nov 25, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Joy Cowley Logo image 150This is the fourth in a series of letters that Joy Cowley, author of the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books, wanted to write to show teachers some love and gratitude. Pass them around to all the teachers you know who love Joy's work, and show them that Joy loves them back!

Dear Teachers,

I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”  The answer, of course, is from childhood—my own and that of young friends. As an author, I’ve worked in schools in many countries, with many cultures, and I am convinced that the world of childhood does not change. There are superficial differences dictated by culture, era, fashion, but children everywhere have the same fears, the same desires, the same likes and dislikes.

Most people know the personal memories that produced my series featuring Mrs. Wishy-Washy, The Hungry Giant, and The Meanies. Here, I’d like to write a few words about the characters in some of the new books.

THE MISS DOLL SERIES: Miss Doll believes that she is in charge of the toy room. She can be caring, but sometimes she overdoes it and is dictatorial. Confession time! As the eldest of five children with parents who were often ill, I had responsibility at an early age. I would like to see this as a virtue, but I was also bossy, pompous, and at times, considered myself the source of all wisdom. I guess I’m not alone in this. Many families have a Miss Doll.

THE MINIBOY SERIES: The world is full of stories of big super-heroes, but what about a hero who is smaller than the smallest child in any classroom? A hero who has great adventures riding on the back of a timid mouse? Miniboy is for all children who need to know that small is strong, small is clever, small is powerful, and small is famous for being small.

THE AFTER-SCHOOL CLASSROOM SERIES: When I was young, I told my younger siblings stories, and some of these were about the way pencils, chalk, and crayons came to life when the teacher and children had left the classroom. In those days, New Zealand teachers had a leather strap for punishment, so it was the strap that kept the unruly crayons etc., in order. I reinvented the stories and now it is a computer that becomes a tittle-tattle, threatening to tell the teacher of the antics of the materials on his desk.

You may like to reflect on your own childhood and all the stories stored in your memory bank.  Maybe, in the same way, you can clothe them in fiction and make your own series.

With love and gratitude,

Joy Cowley

~~~

To learn about Joy's books, including her Mrs. Wishy-Washy titles, click here to visit the website, or click the images below to download series information sheets!

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Topics: Joy Cowley, Letter to Our Readers, Teacher Appreciation

To Teachers, On Writing: Another Letter from Joy Cowley to You! (#3)

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Nov 4, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Joy Cowley Logo image 150This is the third in a series of letters that Joy Cowley, author of the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books, wanted to write to show teachers some love and gratitude. Pass them around to all the teachers you know who love Joy's work, and show them that Joy loves them back!

Dear Teachers,

It can be said that all writers are teachers. Their published words are like stones thrown in a pond. The ripples go out and affect lives. It is also true that all teachers can be writers. You all have stories to tell, stories that you can shape and make into books that children will enjoy.

I see hundreds of manuscripts in a year—a wide range of stories from an equally wide range of authors—and I rejoice when I see work that is going to empower and entertain children. May I share with you here the elements that make a good story?

1. ORIGINALITY. The author has not used ideas already published in other books but has pushed back the boundaries of the ordinary to give children a delicious tale. Think what Eric Carle did with an ordinary caterpillar. Look at Dr. Seuss’s version of ordinary eggs and ham. Taking an ordinary subject and dealing with it in an extraordinary way can produce a wonderful story.

2.  CHILD-CENTEREDNESS. The author is writing from a child’s point of view, and not from some adult desire to “instruct” children. All books usually contain messages that will empower a child, but an adult message is not the reason for the story. Preaching usually has an adverse effect. As authors. our first duty is to entertain.

3. AUTHENTICITY. If a story feels real to the author, it will be real to the reader. A wise author will remember that fantasy is not the opposite of reality but an extension of it. Stories need to be logical, otherwise the reader will not relate to it in a personal way. A good book creates an environment in which the reader can exist as one or all of the characters, and in doing so can feel right at home.

4. PLOT. This is a simple word that is the backbone of any story. Plot is what happens, and if nothing happens, we don’t have a story. I have seen manuscripts that have no plot at all, or plots so slight that they don’t take the weight of the words placed on them. Most plots have some kind of tension or problem that gets resolved.

5. HUMOR. Although humor isn’t essential in a story, it means a lot to a young reader. Children laugh more than adults, and they love jokes. Because humor releases tension, I use it in stories for reluctant readers. Often I will put a little joke at the end of the book. This is encouragement to read to the last page, a bit like dessert after vegetables.

 These tips come from personal experience, but you will know from your students what makes an effective book. You will be guided by their pleasure in reading.

With love and gratitude,

Joy Cowley

~~~

To learn about Joy's books, including her Mrs. Wishy-Washy titles, click here to visit the website, or click the images below to download series information sheets!

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Topics: Joy Cowley, Letter to Our Readers, Teacher Appreciation

Dear Teachers: Another Letter from Joy Cowley to You! (#2)

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Oct 21, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Joy Cowley Logo image 150

This is the second in a series of letters that Joy Cowley, author of the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books, wanted to write to show teachers some love and gratitude. Pass them around to all the teachers you know who love Joy's work, and show them that Joy loves them back!

Dear Teachers,

Because you are so important in the lives of your students, they will be greatly influenced by your love of story. They will especially value the stories from your childhood that you share with them. You can go back to your early years and pick up the memories that still have a strong feeling attached to them. What were the jokes you enjoyed? The food you liked? The games you played with your friends? Was there a time when you had to be brave? A time when you were proud of an achievement? When you were young, what were your fears? I can remember when I had no idea of the relative size of objects and was afraid of going down the bath plughole, or being sucked up the vacuum cleaner.

We know that childhood is not behind us but within us, and it is helpful to reflect on the events and conditions that shaped us. Most of these provide the basis of great stories.

As a writer, I know the value of connecting the child within me with the child out there. You can do the same. You have a wonderful resource in the library of your own experience.

With love and gratitude, 

Joy Cowley

~~~

To learn about Joy's books, including her Mrs. Wishy-Washy titles, click here to visit the website, or click the images below to download series information sheets!

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Topics: Joy Cowley, Letter to Our Readers, Teacher Appreciation

Dear Teachers: A Letter from Joy Cowley to You! (#1)

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Oct 7, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Joy Cowley Logo image 150This is the first in a series of letters that Joy Cowley, author of the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books, wanted to write to show teachers some love and gratitude. Pass them around to all the teachers you know who love Joy's work, and show them that Joy loves them back!

Dear Teachers,

You and I have much in common: we loving working with children and we want the best for them, to teach them skills that will empower them, give them respect for themselves and others, and make a difference to the future of the world. 

You may not know how far the ripples of your influence go, but be assured that the love and enthusiasm that is passed on to your students will stay with them all their lives. They will act and react from that every day.

I get letters from children about my stories. I know that my books are the silent partners in the child’s enjoyment. The pleasure and empowerment comes from the teacher who uses the books in the classroom. I also know that pleasurable learning leads to pleasurable recall, and years from now, your students will walk by a book store and get a warm, positive feeling that relates directly back to you.

Next to parents, a teacher is the most important person for a child. Sometimes, the teacher is also the parent. Much is demanded of you. Much is given. So I want to thank you for all that you do for little people. Systems of government come and go, celebrities fade; but the teacher lives on in the hearts of her or his students.

With love and gratitude,

Joy Cowley

~~~

To learn about Joy's books, including her Mrs. Wishy-Washy titles, click here to visit the website, or click the images below to download series information sheets!

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Topics: Joy Cowley, Letter to Our Readers, Teacher Appreciation

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