Today I’m featuring two books by Natalie Rompella: her newly-released kids’ writing book, Secrets of Storytelling: A Creative Writing Workbook for Kids, and her MG contemporary, Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners. Plus, scroll down to see Natalie’s top ten addictions!
Natalie is a friend of mine from my SCBWI critique group, so I was excited to get this chance to feature her!
Secrets of Storytelling: A Creative Writing Workbook for Kids by Natalie Rompella
Illustrator: Jeanine Murch
Published by Rockridge Press on 7/14/20
Genres: Middle Grade, Non-Fiction
Source: The Publisher
Master the magic of storytelling―100 creative, short fiction prompts for young writers
Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve already written a ton of stories, practice makes perfect when it comes to writing for kids. Build your skills the fun way with Secrets of Storytelling; it’s packed with dozens of short, creative fiction prompts and plenty of space so you can write to your heart’s content.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, make mistakes, and get weird with words! Prompts and fun activities about writing for kids inspire you to get creative and help you build intriguing plots, strong characters, and vivid settings for your stories. It’s time to unleash your inner author!
All books about writing for kids should include:
Fun activities―Explore engaging exercises that get your creativity flowing, including brainstorming, filling in the blanks, and beyond.
Tips on writing for kids―Learn simple strategies for crafting strong storylines, and get pointers for overcoming writer’s block, editing your work, and more.
Quotes for creativity―Discover inspirational and motivational quotes from famous writers.
Step up your storytelling skills with the short, creative fiction prompts and fun activities inside this book about writing for kids.
This workbook is perfect for the budding writer! Filled with interesting prompts and writing exercises, the book has a lot of the same insights you’d see in a writing craft book for grown-ups, but everything is written in a way kids can understand and relate to. I love that Rompella includes so many creative and clever examples with each exercise—I find that kids crave solid (and interesting!) examples when they’re learning a new writing concept.
The book is more than just prompts, though. It contains valuable guidance on character, setting, dialogue, plot, word choice and more! I think this book would be perfect to use in a classroom setting or at home (lots of people are beginning homeschooling right now, and this would be a perfect supplement to a language arts curriculum). It will inspire kids and encourage them not to give up on their writing!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners by Natalie Rompella
Published by Sky Pony on November 21, 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Cover Artist: Simini Blocker
My content rating: MG
1 girl with 1 best friend
1 middle school project
3 huge, slobbery dogs
A recipe for success . . . or disaster?
Most kids would dread the start of middle school and the year-long Explorations project that comes with it, but Ana knows that her and her best friend Lily and their plan to write and sell their own cookbook is a recipe for success. Lily’s not just the perfect partner in culinary crime—she’s also the only person in the world who understands Ana’s need to wash her hands five times before picking up a spatula, and would never make fun of her for it.
But Ana and Lily’s plan for edible entrepreneurship turns into one big baking disaster when they’re assigned to different partners for their projects. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Lily seems more excited to get to know her new partner than bummed about being separated, Lily and her new friend plan to use the cookbook idea for themselves—and they didn’t even ask! Worse, Ana’s partner is Dasher, the strange new girl from Alaska, and she wants to do their project on the weirdest thing imaginable: sled dog racing.
Dasher’s dogs are scary, slobbery, and decidedly not germ-free, but Ana thinks she’s found a loophole when she agrees to bake pancakes for spectators while Dasher mushes in a local race. That is, until Dasher sprains her ankle and has to drop out of the running. Can Ana learn to mush—and overcome her anxiety—in time to save her friendships, finish her project, and compete in the big race?
I just happened to notice that the Kindle version of the book is currently FREE!
The best thing about this MG contemporary is that it has a flavor to suit just about everyone: First off, animal lovers will be enamored with the sled dogs and with the personal connection that Ana makes with one of them. Kids who love to cook will be excited about all the yummy recipes! Kids who are into sports will learn about one they probably haven’t encountered before: sled dog racing. And kids who struggle with OCD will be happy to see themselves in a character who makes progress against an unseen foe. Oh, and then there’s the theme of shifting friendships and dealing with that. Basically, it has something for everyone! (I can attest to the fact that my daughter would have loved this book when she was a middle grader.)
So, on to a few more specifics. I thought that this book handled Ana’s OCD really well—she realizes she has a problem, but that doesn’t mean that she can just make it go away. The book shows Ana going through some specific therapy that helps her, but she doesn’t get any sort of miraculous cure—very realistic. Her relationship with one of Dasher’s sled dogs is especially sweet, and it’s interesting to see how the dogs help her with her OCD symptoms as well. Then there’s the baking (yum!!!) and the sled dog racing—I didn’t know a single thing about sled dog racing, but I feel like I actually learned something from this book. The sport is presented in a really interesting way that I think will engage kids and get them to want to learn more! (Who knew dog sled racing was even something you could do in Illinois? Not me!) I also loved the theme of friendship—middle grade is a time when lots of friendships are changing. Sometimes kids grow apart, but I love that Ana was able to expand her friendship horizons without completely losing her best friend, who was incredibly important to her.
Basically, I loved this book, and I highly recommend it for middle grade readers!
About the Author
Natalie Rompella is the author of more than forty books and educational guides for young readers, and the winner of a Work-in-Progress grant from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for an early version of Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners. Just like Ana, Natalie loved baking in sixth grade, and as an adult she fell in love with sled dog racing―watching it, that is! A former museum educator and elementary and middle school teacher, Natalie lives with her family in Libertyville, Illinois.
- The 1980s
Best music, best fashion, best hair, best movies! (And can’t forget about Atari!)
(From Nicole – I had an Atari when I was a kid too. It was the ultimate in video games. LOL!)
- Pickle ball
I started playing this past fall and fell in love with the sport. I’ve always loved racket sports—(tennis & badminton)—and this is a cross between the two.
Aren’t they the best? My dog, Luna, is especially the best.
(From Nicole – Anyone who’s been around my blog for more than thirty seconds knows I completely agree with you about dogs.)
- Wool socks
The minute the weather gets cold, I abandon all other sock types. Often until I switch over to flip flops.
- Sled dog racing
The only professional sport I actually follow. Is there anything cooler than a sport that has dog athletes?
(From Nicole – I knew nothing about dog sled racing before your book, but I’m definitely interested in checking it out now!)
I fell in love with insects my first year teaching——all because of a photograph in a National Geographic. I’ve been obsessed with them ever since—the chunkier and bigger, the better.
We only have the one and it has given us so much. Let’s be sure we’re showing our love back.
- Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting
Secret tip to a really yummy cake: sour cream!
(From Nicole – I’ll have to tell my daughter to try it—she’s the cake baker in our family, and she’s been enjoying experimenting lately!)
When I am nervous or deep in thought, I do one to clear my mind. I have completed an Expert level in 5 minutes, 47 seconds.
(From Nicole – Impressive!)
A great way to clear my head is to doodle. It has to be done on nice, thick paper and with a good quality black permanent marker.
Disclaimer: Of course I also love my family! Hopefully that was a given!
Have you read any great writing books lately? What’s your favorite MG contemporary? I want to know!
These both sound like great books! Also, hello fellow Sudoku solver! (I’ve always enjoyed solving Sudoku puzzles, but during lockdown we discovered Cracking the Cryptic, and now I think Sudoku might be an official addiction for me, too.)
I used to do Sudoku years ago, but I haven’t done it in so long. I used to have a little book on my nightstand and I did it every night. 🙂
i agree, dogs are the best. 🙂
Both of these sound really good! I’ll definitely recommend the first one to some people I know who are home schooling aspiring writers right now! Thanks for sharing!
Yes, that book is great for people who are homeschooling!
Sour cream in cake!? I must try this! Or you know, tell someone I know who bakes to try it! I love sour cream donuts, so it must be similar, yeah? (Also Nicole, I have problems, when I saw Earth I was like “well Sanctum is prettier” wow.)
I think Lena would really enjoy both of these books, she’s so creative and LOVES to make up stories, so I am definitely adding these to her wishlist (Sidenote: Literally ALL of the books on Lena’s wishlist come from you, Nicole!)
I am very happy to be able to supply Lena’s wishlist! I think she’d definitely enjoy both of these books. 🙂
Sour creme in cake sounds delish. I like yogurt a lot and so I’ve been making guac with yogurt, it’s alright as long as it’s not the too sweet yogurt.
I agree that the sour creme cake sounds like a win!