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Bullfrogs, Bad Gas and Good Storytelling

Author Visit Kicks off Reading Month


Fourth-graders in Rachel Cattanach’s class were literally coming out of their seats last week in an effort to be called on during a short story-writing exercise.

Gavin Rinks took his turn, prompted by author Sigmund Brouwer to recount a story of his own, about when he and his brother were in a kayak in Florida.

Author Sigmund Brouwer leads a workshop in fourth-grade teacher Rachel Cattanach’s class

“We saw a big bullfrog, and a turtle came and bit it,” Gavin recalled.

“That’s an interesting start,” Brouwer said. “Now, if it can be a made-up story it will always be better if you make the problem worse. Like what if the turtle was a shark, and what if your brother fell out of the boat?”

Brouwer’s Alto Elementary visit was part of a multi-school tour of the district to kick off this year’s March is Reading Month, themed “Rock and Read.” Brouwer wrote the book “Rock and Roll Literacy,” as well as several series books for children and adults. His visit to Alto was paid for by PTO funds.

Back in Mrs. Cattanach’s class, Mason Stienemeyer had an idea. “What if a shark could eat your house?” he asked.

Fourth-grader Leah Bryce reacts to Brouwer’s description of a booger

Brouwer was all over that idea.

“And what if your house was made of beans? And we played hide and seek with the shark? And the shark had really bad gas, so all the bubbles made him easy to find?”

The whole idea of writing good stories, Brouwer explained, is to put a picture in readers’ heads. “And the better the picture, the more people will want to read the stories you write.”

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Sigmund Brouwer author page

Brouwer info for educators

Author Sigmund Brouwer Tells Alto Elementary students that good fiction writing evokes emotions from readers, such as sadness or being “creeped out”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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