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K-Gr 3 Melia admires her mother, who is a writer, and wishes that she could write stories also. With encouragement and some helpful suggestions from her mother, she is soon on her way. Some of the practical tips include showing what is happening instead of telling about it; looking for ideas in everyday occurrences and asking ``what if''; inventing characters to solve a problem; and making a story interesting enough that people want to find out what happens next. Melia tries out the advice on her young siblings and discovers, to her delight, that it works. Bright, bouncy illustrations capture the enthusiasm of Melia, who begins to exercise her imagination so that she, too, can be a writer like her mother. This engaging picture book could show the way for other youngsters as well, making writing seem exciting and within their grasp. Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, N.Y.
When Melia begins to ask her mother questions about what she does, her mother has all the answers. ``A writer doesn't work just with a typewriter. A writer works with words. If you were a writer, you would think of words that make pictures.'' Later, Melia discovers that her mother asks, ``what if,'' when she sees a scene, how she might expand on the story ideas around her, how she gets readers to want to keep reading more, and how she begins with a character and a problem to solve, and then thinks of interesting ways for that to happen. The fundamentals of creative writing are passed along, even the adage to ``show, not tell'' the story, but much of this is wordy. And using the girl and her mother to stage a discussion still has all the trappings of didacticism. Degen's pictures lighten the atmosphere of learning, offering neighborhood scenes of a writer's life at home. The work, despite shortcomings, will be of value to readers, for it gives serious answers to the question of what a writer does. Ages 5-8. (September)