Brian Selznick is acclaimed for his distinctive, detailed artwork and his innovative books. I talked with him recently, in conjunction with an interactive exhibit of his work and just before his amazing 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. Click here for the video of the Arbuthnot Lecture, “Love Is a Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books” (you can fast forward to minute 38 for Selznick’s opening) and here for the KidsPost/Washington Post article on his books and the exhibit.
Below are a few writing prompts for the classroom or for individual writers ages 8 and up.
Writing About Wonders: A Cabinet of Wonders figures prominently in Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011).
Classroom Discussion: Ask students to bring in a natural wonder (intriguing seashell, fossil, unusual rock, etc.). Research cabinets of wonders and have class (in entirety or in small groups) work together to create their own “cabinet” or display.
Classroom Writing: (Nonfiction/Captions) Assign one child to each item and have him/her research and write a short nonfiction description of it (to include 3 facts). (Creative) Youngsters might also be encouraged to find or write a poem about one of the natural wonders in the display.
Sharing: Mount the display, with captions, and give youngsters a chance to share more information or ask questions of one another. What was their favorite piece in their cabinet—and why?
Related Projects: This approach could be adapted to other classroom or family projects. For example, rather than finding objects, people might assemble photographs of family members and/or pets or take photographs of treasured family objects and then write short captions for a scrapbook. (This might be something especially enjoyable to do, as an entire family, during the summer.)