Voice and the Tall Tale

by Dianne White on October 27, 2010

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This month we’ve explored the concept of “Finding Your Voice” from a variety of different angles.  We’ve looked at voice as an expression of talents, strengths, dreams, hopes.  We’ve celebrated the role of good books in encouraging children to embrace a diversity of voices.

Voice can also be thought of as that sometimes, indefinable quality that distinguishes one piece of writing from another.  Lola M. Schaefer, in her book, TEACHING THE CRAFT OF WRITING: VOICE, writes: “Some might say it’s the expressive part of the work, a combination of the author and the narrative coming together.  Others might believe voice is the quiet background music coming from the heart of the writer… others might suggest it’s the honesty of the writing working through the character.” (5)

Schaefer describes voice to kids as the “personality of the writer coming through the words we read.”

Ruth Culham and Raymond Coutu in their book, USING PICTURE BOOKS TO TEACH WRITING WITH THE TRAITS think of voice as “the energy of the writing that creates a strong reader-writer interaction…it’s the writer’s distinctive fingerprint that makes the writing his or her own.” (41)

Two of this month’s Book Room selections –  Cynthia Leitich Smith’s HOLLER LOUDLY and Alexis O’Neill’s LOUD EMILY –  make use of many elements of a tall tale voice to tell their stories.

Whether students are writing an original tall tale or a story inspired by traditional folklore, one way to encourage the tall tale voice is to study the elements found in published tall tales and have kids write their own.

To learn more about Tall Tales, click HERE.

For a downloadable pdf. template and directions to help students write their own Tall Tale, click HERE.

Alexis O'Neill October 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm

What a fabulously rich resource this is on tall tales (and I’m not just saying that because you featured my book, LOUD EMILY – honest!) You’ve inspired me to create a workshop for kids specifically on tall tales to do as part of my school visits. I can’t wait to read the books by Schaefer and Culham/Cotou. I love what ReaderKidZ does. Blog on!

Kirby Larson October 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Oh, you have to know about Helen Ketteman, the queen of the tall tale! Her Bubba, the Cowboy Prince is a classic, though I’m partial to The Three Little Gators.

ReaderKidZ October 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm

A Tall Tale workshop – what a great idea, Alexis! I’m so glad we could be an inspiration for one of your fabulous presentations!

ReaderKidZ October 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Thanks for those recommendations, Kirby!
Ann Paul introduced Helen’s HEAT WAVE to me (Dianne), and kids absolutely adore it. I haven’t read Bubba or the Little Gators books but I’ve added them to my “to-be-read” list.

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