Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rocket Writes a Story

Pictures from Tadhill.com

Rocket Writes a Story

Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books 2012 

I purchased this book last year at the Scholastic Warehouse sale because of its Title.  As a Kindergarten teacher I was always looking for books to help teach my children about the writing process and the front cover looked adorable so I bought it and like so many of my other books put it on the bookshelf thinking I would get around to reading it soon.  As it was I did not use this book because I had my little girl and have not been back to teaching yet so I just got around to reading  the book and I love it!  I will definitely be using to start writing in the future when I go back to teaching.  
Meet the Real Rocket
From Tadhills.com

Tad Hill whom you may notice for writing the Duck and Goose books has created a new series based on Rocket, a lovable dog.  Rocket, who is actually inspired by Hill's own dog Rocket loves words. 
"Rocket loved books.  He loved to read them to himself or to sit quietly by his teacher, the little yellow bird, as she read them aloud."  Rocket even liked the way books smelled."  

One day Rocket while Rocket was out collecting words he decided he wanted to write his own story with all the "splendid words" he had collected.  I immediately stopped and admired the words that Rocket collects and then hung on his word tree which reminds me of so many word lists, charts, and walls that my own Kindergartners made through the years and I loved it!  I also thought how exciting it would be for the children to create their own word trees and the teacher in me came out in full force.   I had to stop and went to Google and Pinterest and just as I had imaged there are tons of pictures of these created in classrooms and different variations.  Already in love with the book and the ideas for the classroom I kept reading.  

"Rocket left school that day with a very waggy tail. (Clearly excited) "I'm going to write a story!" he declared to Fred and Emma."  He tells everyone he sees and the next day at school he starts out trying to write a story but he struggles.  I feel like many young writers could identify with Rocket at this point.  His teacher helps
him with some ideas and he went for a walk to look for inspiration.  He found that inspiration in a tree with a small shy owl at the top.  He writes a story about the owl.  He worked for days, "He wrote words down and crossed words out."  He sometimes got frustrated by his teacher, the Little Yellow Bird encouraged him, "remember, stories take time."  She also asked him questions to further his writing.  (Did Tad Hill sit in my classroom at one time because I am sure I have asked those same questions to my beginning writers.)  He visited the owl every day and read the story to her.  "The owl was captivated" and although shy started coming down the tree with each visit.  Finally Rocket was finished and he read it to Owl, "she was right beside Rocket."  Owl even added the last sentence, that she"liked the story very much."  Rocket thought it was perfect and they became good friends.

I am not sure I can express into words how much the writing of this story is so fabulous.  It really captures what children go through and the process they take to becoming writers.  I wish I had this book back when I started reading because I am sure my students and myself would have worn out the pages every year.  Rocket struggles and he doesn't give up.  He gets inspiration from his everyday life and he works very hard to create something he is so proud of.  

The illustrations in this story are also wonderful.  They start on the end pages with a double page spread of a word tree covered in word cards.  Immediately you see how important words are going to be in this story.  The colors are bright and are done in oil paint and colored pencil.  They are perfect for a children's book.  They are inviting and yet have a child like feel to them.  The little illustrations on the word cards are also done much like a child would do when trying to remember a new word. Tad Hill creates movement by breaking up the page at times into different sequenced pictures with one of the best being owl coming down the tree each day intrigued by Rocket's story branch by branch.  

I loved this story so much I was interested to see what other people thought.  It got great reviews.  This Kirkus review  also has an interview with Tad Hill about the book.  My favorite part of the interview is when Tad Hill described his thoughts on the Little Yellow Bird...

"I have had some truly wonderful teachers in my life. Of course, teachers come in all flavors and are not always found in schools. I guess the Little Yellow Bird is a combination of the many teachers and people who have inspired me and made me feel that I was capable and had some talent. She is patient and wise and just gently forceful enough to make you listen and think."

We could all take something from this book.  Although I immediately think what my students can learn from it after reading this I thought as teachers we can learn something to.  We should all aspire to be a great teacher that inspires children just like The Little Yellow Bird!  

Other Interesting Sites 
Another Interview with Tad Hill 
Here is a great classroom video with children discussing the book. _ They even talk about the end papers.  I was really impressed!  
Random House has some great resources as does Tad Hill's own website. 
Rocket also as an IPad App that helps teach children to read and looks fabulous. 

Apparently Rocket is a big hit and I am a little ashamed that I am just now learning about Rocket, he even has a doll! There are so many resources for Rocket that I think he will become a class pet for me in the future to help inspire my children in literacy.  

And I can't wait to add  Rocket Learns to Read to my library, which was the first Rocket book that some how I missed! 


  1. I'll have to get this to help with a mini lesson. A book I just read about the writing process is Word After Word After Word. I plan on using that one too. I think it's a bit longer than this one, but it was easy and good. The author is Patricia MacLaclan. It's too much for K, but I think it will work for 3.

  2. Awesome Sya Thank you I will have to check it out!