Monday, November 30, 2015


In my picture book, Princess and the Ziz, a princess flies all over the world on the back of a giant yellow bird.  The Princess and the Ziz is my own retelling of a very old Rapunzel tale involving King Solomon’s daughter who was rescued from a tower by a giant yellow bird called the Ziz.

During author visits, I often challenge young writers to imagine what it would be like to ride on the back of a giant bird. Where would you want to go? I’ve had many lively discussions with students about where they would like to go if they could ride in the air with a bird. While some students say the Bahamas, Disney World, or some other vacation spot, others tell me they’d like to visit grandparents or other relatives. One student told me she would like to fly over the rainbow with a giant bird. Now wouldn’t that make a good story!

Once a destination has been decided, students can brainstorm what they would see. If you are flying over Antartica, you might see penguins and snow. If you are flying over the jungle, you would see lots of greenery. Ask younger students to describe the scene in as much detail as possible. Older students could combine this writing exercise with geographic research. For example: If you were flying over Egypt, you would see pyramids. What else?

From there, students should consider what they would hear on their journey through the air. On the back of a bird, not enclosed the way you are in an airplane, you would hear the wind and the flapping of wings. Could you describe that? If you were flying over a city, you would hear the noise of traffic and building construction. What would that sound like? This could be an opportunity to encourage your students to use onomatopoeia. Students could make up their own words to imitate what they might hear from way up in the sky.

Finally, how would it feel to be in the sky on the back of a giant bird. Would you be frightened or excited? Would it be chilly? Would the ride be smooth or bumpy?

Visit my website for a writing template  to use in your primary classrooms.

The Princess and the Ziz is certainly not the only book which depicts a character flying in the sky via a giant bird. In Roald Dahl’s The Minpins, Little Billy flies around the world having adventures on the back of a giant swan. Fairy tales also depict characters riding on the backs of birds. Thumbelina in the story by Hans Christian Andersen flies on the back of a swallow.

Ask your students to write their own story about a character flying with the help of a friendly bird. Imaginations and feathers can soar through the clouds. Happy Flying!


  1. Excellent writing ideas! I think encouraging the use of the senses in writing gives life to many ideas .

  2. And on her giant bird theres no waiting at the airports for canciled flights