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Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing Review by Brittney RutherfordKaren Benke
4720 Walnut Street
Boulder, Colorodo 80301
Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke is a unique approach to creative writing. It's not a typical book filled with long lists of standard writing prompts for the teacher to present to the student, or workbook pages with fill-in-the-blank stories. Instead, it is full of exciting, playful, unique and distinctly fun activities. Rip the Page! is a 246 page softcover book, written for children 7-12 years old, in an effort to entice and encourage the creative writer in every child. In fact, right on the cover it says it includes “word play, open-ended writing experiments, encouragement from writers and poets, and enough blank pages to let your words roam.”
It's hard to describe the types of activities in this book. The reader is encouraged to write in the book, skip around as they wish, and even rip the pages. Yes, the title has specific meaning, and there are activities directly related to this! One page might be a long list of words to spark the imagination, while another might be a list of intriguing questions. “If you plant your heart, what might grow? What color are its shoes?”
All activities have their own titles, but each type of activity is labeled: Word Lists, Try This, Suddenly a Story, Definition Decoders and Notes From, which really are notes from writers and poets. Some pages are mostly blank or have boxes or lines to indicate writing space. The “Rip the Page!” segments are clearly marked showing the reader where to rip it out, with instructions on what to do with your writing afterwards. While so much of the book is meant to encourage creativity and spark imagination, the Definition Decoders do help young readers understand some of the technical side of writing, without it feeling like a lesson. They cover standard language arts topics like similes, repetition, onomatopoeia, or personification, and even nouns and verbs. Terms are described and examples are given. Even though this isn't a curriculum, it does help the reader expand their knowledge through gentle practice.
You may be wondering how you would even begin to use this book. Give it as a gift to the creative writer in the family and let them loose with their ideas! Use it with a child who feels writing is hard or boring, to show them how words can be fun. Use it in a creative writing class. It would be excellent for a co-op! For our homeschool, I was going to use it as a Fun Friday activity, but after we started using it, my kids call it “the fun book” and they want to begin with it every day. It is actually a great way to warm up every morning. For using with multiple children, writing in the book becomes a logistical problem, unless everyone has their own copy, or a plain notebook to accompany the book. We like to do the activities orally anyway, so even the youngest children can participate. When my nine year old asked if this book could replace his language arts curriculum, it just proved how it captivates the mind. I can use a formal curriculum to teach the mechanics of writing sentences and paragraphs, but Rip the Page! gives him the opportunity to write on his own terms. Without worrying about grammar or spelling or punctuation, he can just focus on putting his heart into words.
Karen Benke has perfectly captured a way for children to connect the mind and heart and allow the words to flow freely. I think Rip the Page! would be useful for children who do love to write, but also reluctant writers. Classroom teachers and parents alike can all use it for inspiration, so I certainly recommend this book.
-Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2016