A Picture Book Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: IDEA DEVELOPMENT Support Trait: VOICE

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Other Bad Cases
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solving an original character's problem with voice and emotion

The writing of author David Shannon is currently inspiring student writers to try new techniques with the traits of idea development and voice. Join us in teaching (and adapting) this on-line lesson and sharing your students' work.

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Student Samples: Elementary

A Bad Case of Vegetables
by Shaylin, second grade writer

Lucy Leonerd loved vegetables but her friends didn’t. At lunch she was surprised when she saw what was in her lunch box. There were vegetables everywhere. There were tomatoes, celery, and broccoli!

The next day when Lucy woke up, she turned into an orange, cold carrot. Leaves tickled her head and she got dirty. “Oh-no!” she thought. At school Lucy got teased. Then someone yelled, “Broccoli” and she turned into a big green broccoli. Later that day everyone was teasing her. The next day Lucy turned into a tomato!

Back at Lucy’s house, Mrs. Leonerd heard a knock on the door. It was a sweet old lady who was as plump as a blueberry. “I’m here for Lucy. Is she here?” the lady asked.

“Yes, in fact she is,” said Mrs. Leonerd. “Lucy?”


The lady said, “I’m going cure your problem. Here are some vegetables.”


“Oh, OK,” whispered the lady as she walked away.

“No! Wait! I really like vegetables!” cried Lucy.

“I thought so,” the lady said happily. She plopped some vegetables in her mouth and Lucy was back to normal. And now Lucy doesn’t care about what other people think.

(Click here to open/print Shaylin and two of her classmates' stories.)

A Bad Case of Wings
by Joslyn, third grade writer

There was a girl named Suzie who had long hair and who loved chicken wings. But her friends did not.

One day she was at school and everybody started to tease her because she had become the shape of a chicken wing. Her hair had also turned into hot sauce. Since she was distracting the class, she was sent home.

When her mom came to pick her up from school, she was shocked, and when Suzie got home, she got sent to her room to rest in her bed. Soon professionals came and did everything they could, but nothing worked.

The next day an old lady came in and said she would help. She went to Suzie's room and tried to give her some chicken wings, but Suzie refused. The lady started walking out of the room slowly, but Suzie couldn't resist the good smell of chicken wings. She said, "Wait!"

The lady walked back in and said, "I knew you liked them." Suzie ate some and when she did everything was back to normal.

Bad Case of Ice Cream
by Amanda, fourth grade writer

“Aww my teeth hurt when I eat ice cream!” moaned Andrew.

“Yeah, it’s too cold!” complained Rick.

“I love ice cream,” stated Tim.

Now Tim was a lot different than his friends. Tim loved ice cream, but he didn’t like to be different. He was a curious, kind boy who was almost 10 years old. Tim would do anything to get ice cream, but as you should know, he friends didn’t.

One morning Tim woke up and put his clothes on. Tim went downstairs to eat, but when he looked in the fridge all there was was ice cream! Tim searched everywhere for any other food, but ice cream was everywhere! “Mom,” Tim shouted, “where’s the food?”

No answer. Then Tim remembered his mom and dad were on a trip and he was in his friend’s house. When Rick came down, he got some cereal (which looked like ice cream to Tim) but from what Rick saw, it was cereal. Tim thought something was wrong with his eyes so he called an optometrist to come.

“There’s nothing wrong with your eyes,” said Dr. Matt and, with that said, he left. Tim called every eye doctor in town, but they all said the exact same thing that Dr. Matt had said. Tim didn’t know what to do. He was starving since he hadn’t eaten anything in two weeks. All Tim did was stay by himself in his room and thought he didn’t dare to ask Rick to help him. Soon a reporter found out about Tim and called him the "ice cream seeing boy" in an article

One morning an elderly-looking lady knocked on Rick’s door. When Rick opened it the lady said,“I’m here to help a boy named Tim!”

“Alright,” replied Rick.

So Tim came downstairs and the lady said, “Here, eat this” and Tim did. Once Tim swallowed it, the lady told him it was ice cream. Then she left.

From then on, Tim didn’t care if he was different; he just ate what he liked.

A Bad Case of Pickles
by Erica, fifth grade writer

Come everyone, and listen to this peculiar story. There once was a girl named Jamie. Jamie loved pickles. She ate pickles for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for all her snacks in between.

One day at school, lots of people made fun of Jamie because they thought pickles were gross and disgusting. When she got home that day, she decided to stop eating pickles.

One day later, when Jamie woke up, she felt weird. She looked into the mirror and what she saw was the most frightening thing ever! She was a bumpy, lumpy, puke green pickle! She started to panic and scream.

Her mother was horrified when she saw Jamie. Jamie started to cry and went back to her room. Then, she hugged her stuffed animal. Suddenly, the stuffed animal turned into a pickle!

Jamie was sadder than ever. Everything she touched turned into a pickle! Doctors, pharmacists, specialists, experts, and so much more people came to examine her. Not one of them knew how to cure the bad case of pickles Jamie had.

Then, a little old lady knocked at the door of Jamie’s house. Jamie’s mom opened the door. The little old lady said she could cure Jamie. The old lady brought Jamie a jar of pickles. Jamie wanted pickles more than anything then, but she didn’t want to admit it and get laughed at. “No!” she screamed.

The old lady whispered, “Oh,” and turned to leave.

Suddenly, Jamie shouted, “No! Wait! I really like pickles!” But it was too late. The old lady was gone. Then, Jamie ate a pickle and before she could blink her eyes, she was back to normal! Since that day, Jamie ate pickles whenever she wanted and didn’t care what the other people said.

A Bad Case of Pillows
by Blair, sixth grade writer

Ell Langstorf was in the fourth grade. She was pretty and smart, but she was also always sleepy. She slept at breakfast, at dinner, and at school. She loved to sleep so much that she brought a blanket and a pillow wherever she went. Her friends hardly ever went to bed, so soon Ella began to drink coffee to stay awake.

One day Ella got in a fight with her parents and ran away to the Bed Time Store. She lay down on a mattress and a pillow and fell into a deep sleep. She didn’t know that this was a magic pillow! In the morning when she woke up, she couldn’t move, She looked around, but she was still in the store. She thought, “What’s wrong?”

Soon the store filled with customers. A burly, mean-looking man walked straight towards Ella and just as she thought “This is the end! Good-bye, world,” the man picked her up. Instead of heading outside, he went straight for the cashier.

The man said in a low, rumbling voice, “I’d like to buy this pillow please.”

“Pillow?!” screamed Ella.

Everyone in the store looked around but could not figure out what had made the mysterious noise. The man bought Ella and brought her home.

That night Ella couldn’t sleep because the man was sleeping on her. In the middle of the night she decided to say, “Excuse me, could you please get off?”

The man immediately jumped up and cried, “Who said that?”

“I did,” mumbled Ella.

“But you’re a pillow!”

“Yes I am.”

The man grabbed Ella and ran straight to the news station. He told them that he had a talking pillow! That next morning the news told everyone about Ella.

Doctors from all over the world came to examine her. Some said that she needed shots, others said pills, but what Ella really wanted was some sleep; she couldn’t sleep no matter how hard she tried. every doctor from every place had looked, poked, and some had even thrown her.

Ella sighed. “I might as well tell the truth, seeing as how I’m not getting any better.” Ella screamed at the top of her lungs, “I LOVE TO SLEEP! I hate coffee and I love sleep!”

It wasn’t a second later that Ella felt herself being lifted off the ground. “Help!” she yelled, and then her pillow exploded and Ella fell out and fell asleep.

Later in the year, Ella was interviewed and she said, “I learned my lesson. Don’t be afraid of what other people think if you like to sleep. Let everyone like you for who you are.”

Student Sample: Middle School

A Bad Case of Ears
by Lucie, seventh grade writer

Victoria was the most popular girl in seventh grade. But she hadn’t achieved this by sitting around. She worked hard in class every day to maintain her standing as the most envied girl at Schneider Lake Middle School. She spent her time hard at work passing notes, spreading rumors, texting, and purposefully not listening to the teacher during class. At lunch her whole clique would gather around her and vie for the opportunity to sit next to her. Consequently, her lunch table was always a mess of flailing arms and legs and mashed potatoes, beans, and carrots that seemed to have spontaneously sprouted wings. Victoria sat in the midst of the scuffle, chatting away to her gal pals. Now, by chatting, I don’t mean sharing meaningful thoughts or catching up from the weekend. I mean gossiping and, well, just talking! For Victoria dearly loved to talk. Meaningless, shallow thoughts were her specialty. It was common for her father to say, “Victoria, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” But even this went unheard.

One ordinary Monday, Victoria got up (though not at all willingly) after being awakened by her alarm clock. Her parents were both at work, so she threw on a sparkly, purple, sequined shirt and a pair of jeans adorned with butterflies. Dressed to the nines, she grabbed a granola bar and headed for the door. She briskly walked towards the bus stop. As soon as her friend Amelia was within earshot, Victoria brightly shouted, “Hey Amelia!” Amelia turned around and gaped at Victoria. Victoria, not being used to this kind of treatment, stalked toward Amelia, and shouted, “Why didn’t you call me last night?” Amelia was oblivious to this remark, as she had already turned around and begun to whisper to the group at the bus stop.

They all laughed and pointed at Victoria, chanting, “Victoria’s all ears! Victoria’s all ears!” When Victoria reached the bus stop, they all crowded around her and jeered at her. She ignored them, but gave away her emotions by tapping her foot and biting her lip to keep from crying. She had no idea what they were talking about! One of them boldly leapt forward and poked the side of her neck. “Ouch!” Victoria cried, rubbing the side of her neck. But instead of smooth, even skin, she found a lump. She ran her hand over it, and it felt almost like . . . an ear!

Victoria whipped a mirror out of her backpack and found that she was correct. The rest of the day was a disaster. She was so irritated by the teasing that she finally shouted, “Leave me alone!” But everyone was too busy making fun of her to listen. Throughout the rest of the day, her ears multiplied until she had exactly 18 ears covering her arms and head. At lunch, she sat alone, teary-eyed and listless, until a fabulous idea popped into her head, giving her the strength to move forward on such a terrible day.

She had been gazing dully at the huge science fair trophy in the cafeteria whose shiny, smooth shape had always caught her eye. The winner of that year’s trophy was Shannon Cateron. Victoria had always snubbed those less popular that her, including science geek Shannon, but she had always secretly admired Shannon. Shannon was so smart and so sure of herself. “That’s it!” thought Victoria. “If anyone can cure me, it’ll be Shannon.” Victoria spent the rest of the school day drafting a note to Shannon, asking for help.

Shannon Cateron was walking towards her locker at the end of the day, and passed by a huge commotion in the hallway. She shook her head and, in spite of herself, thought, “Poor Victoria. I bet she is having a rough day,” for Shannon had heard about the ears. Shannon masterfully entered her locker combination and as her locker swung open, a note drifted out. It was crinkled, and had obviously been shoved through the slits at the top of the locker. Shannon smoothed out the note and quickly read it. It said:


I need help. Meet me in the locker bay at locker number 320 after school. I can’t tell you my name. All I can tell you is that I am in a dire situation. Please come — I’m begging you.


Shannon just stood there for a moment, overwhelmed by the sense of urgency in the note. Then and there, Shannon knew that it was Victoria, and she couldn’t say no.

Victoria was waiting at locker number 320 for Shannon. Victoria paced and chewed on her fingernails, checking her shiny, pink, polka dotted wristwatch every few minutes. “Please come, Shannon,” she thought, “Please.” Unbeknownst to her, Shannon was on her way. With her phone in hand she was texting her parents that she would be home late. Just when Victoria was going to give up, Shannon rounded the corner into the locker bay. She gasped when she saw snotty, rude Victoria humbled and begging for her help! Shannon was amazed at how many ears Victoria had. They had rapidly multiplied, from 18 to 24 to 32!

As Shannon stood there speechless, her mouth forming an oval of shock, Victoria shamefully looked at her toes and mumbled, “Shannon, I know I’ve never been very kind to you, but I’ve always secretly envied your intelligence and confidence. I knew if anyone could help me it would be you. Please, Shannon. I’m begging you. I don’t know what to do.”

There was a silence as Shannon pretended to evaluate whether or not she’d help. The mournful sound of a lone saxophone drifted towards them from the band room, and a gust of wind from an open window made Victoria shiver. “Yes,” said Shannon slowly, “I will help you.”

Victoria gave Shannon a smile that seemed to light up the hallway. “So,” said Victoria, “when do we start?”

They talked and talked and shared ideas and evaluated options for an hour, but nothing seemed likely to help Victoria. Then Shannon said, “Victoria, maybe your body gave you more ears to make you listen to the people around you. If you talk less and start listening more, maybe you could be cured.”

“Great idea!” said Victoria. All night long Victoria imagined the questions she would ask to evaluate how others felt. She thought about these questions hour after hour until she fell asleep. And the next day, when she began to really listen to others, the ears melted away one by one and were replaced by new friendships, especially a new best friend named Shannon.

• — • Three years later • — •

Victoria woke up on an ordinary Monday. She leapt out of bed, a smile on her face, and threw open the curtains in her room to greet a new day. Her mom stuck her head through her door and said, “Hi, honey. I made pancakes for breakfast! Happy Monday.”

“Wow, Mom!” Victoria replied grinning from ear to ear. “That is so sweet of you! I’ll be down for breakfast soon.” She whipped on some jeans and a sweater. Then she picked up the phone and dialed a number she knew by heart. “Hi Shannon! Yeah… thanks for the happy birthday wishes! Uh huh…. See you after school.” And with that Victoria swept down the stairs to a yummy pancake breakfast — the perfect start to what looked like it would be a great day.

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