Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ice Bear - Nicola Davies

I've been rereading a bit of Nicola Davies lately.  There's something reenergizing to thumb through my stakes.  Among her books, I ran across a favorite of mine... Ice Bear: In the Steps of the Polar Bear.  
     I love her narrative... but what attracts me most to her writing is the way she interweaves bits of nonfiction, lines that float through the text.  I've been sitting down to contemplate a writing project lately and I'm using her as one of my mentors (along with Don Brown and Louise Borden).  
     One of the things we know as teachers of writers is how important it is to surround them with the types of writing we want them to explore... the types of writers who can become their mentors.  Of course, the more I work with young writers, the more I realize that often times they are the ones who have to match themselves to a mentor; they are the ultimate decision maker.  They find their own mentors.  Someone they respect.  Someone whose writing inspires them.  Someone who intrigues them.  Someone whose writing nudges them.
      And I've realized that I have an important job:  to expose them to writers, to help them discover great writers, to encourage them to "have a go" with interesting examples of text, and to demonstrate my own passion for writers and great writing.  Expose.  Discover.  Encourage.  Demonstrate.  That's just good teaching, right?  
     So Nicola Davies is one of my "go to" mentors and by sharing what I learn from her with my students, perhaps they will, in turn, find a "go to" writer that inspires them.  Consider this line...
"Its ears sit close to its head, 
neatly out of cutting winds, 
and its feet are furred for warmth and grip."

     What can a young writer learn?  What can I learn?  In 21 words I notice the power of three, the strength of noun modifiers, the effective use of "and" as a coordinating conjunction, the musicality of rhythmic words.  If I read Nicola Davies to my students (and myself)... once for the heart and once for the head, how can her words not engage them in the wonderful thing we call writing.  
     It's time to pull together a Nicola Davies basket... my students will love her.  IF I don't beat them to the basket first.

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