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From The Asian Reporter, V15, #34 (August 23, 2005), page 16.
Like a burp with a smile
You Have to Write
By Josephine Bridges
Janet Wong’s volume of ideas and encouragement for young scribblers is like a writing workshop in miniature. Brimming with the author’s characteristic compassion, good humor, and quirks, You Have to Write leads kids all the way from the first word to the final draft.
Before they’ve even gotten the pencil anywhere near the paper, the young writers here already want their words to be good, to make readers cry and laugh.
You want the laugh
to come from the belly,
a surprise, like a burp
with a smile.
It must be easy for all the other kids:
She’s been to France.
And him, with his big house, his mother’s car —
Wait. Did you forget who you are?
What follows is a treasure trove of ideas for topics, from "the fish you wish you had" to "your grandmother cracking her knuckles." Janet Wong encourages kids to write what they know, even if it’s the fights between their parents. A pair of stories about a rain-soaked library book and a wonderful librarian illustrate the author’s instructions to:
Write about the dark times ...
Write about the bright times.
You Have to Write is full of examples of strong writing. There’s a sad and scary meditation on night wind and a beautifully detailed fantasy about all the terrible things that can happen if you don’t put the garbage out exactly right.
And if that’s not enough, Teresa Flavin’s splendid illustrations could inspire even the most reluctant writer. In addition to the pictures that illustrate the text, there are lots of tiny images like snapshots: a palm tree, a penguin, a tombstone, a snowman, spaghetti, and even, yuck, something brown on the bottom of a shoe!
By the time Janet Wong’s young writers have reached the editing process, they’re already dancing with the words they’ve written and selecting the best from papers laid snakelike on the floor:
them together —
half of Draft 1, a word from Draft 4,
a whole line from number 5.
In the last illustration, the four kids who have worked through the writing process are shown sitting together reading. Their expressions are exactly what every writer wants to see on the faces of his or her readers.