A transformative story about finding what works for you, The Story Machine by Tom Mclaughlin (@_TomMcLaughlin) opens with a mystery. Up in his loft, Elliott has stumbled upon some sort of ancient contraption, and he want to find out what it does. When he accidentally falls onto the machine little levers whir into action – spelling out ‘oops’ – and Elliott concludes this must be a letter-printing, word-generating, story-telling machine. (Adults will recognise it as a typewriter, but I’d love to know what percentage of child readers/listeners also do so).
Settling down to type, Elliott soon becomes frustrated. His letters are all jumbled up and he can’t tell his story the way he wants to. However, amongst the alphabet jumble, Elliot notices an image created by the chance arrangement of letters. This is his light-bulb moment; he realises he can use the machine to create pictures, pictures, which in turn can tell his story.
Empowerment, growth in self belief, discovering a way to express yourself creatively, and simply the delight of storytelling whatever the medium are all themes in this sweet story. Based on the author’s own experience of being dyslexic (though the story is meaningful for any child trying to make sense of the world around her, not just to those who have dyslexia), The Story Machine will inspire many a kid to find their own voice through pen and paper, whether that is with words or images.
Taking our lead from the spread in the book where Elliott has hung up many of his illustrations in a tree (above), we set about making our own tiny tales on luggage labels.
First we had lots of fun cutting out letters from old newspapers and magazines.
We stuck these onto card luggage labels and then on the reverse we wrote brief alliterative phrases based on the letter in question, or used our alphabet stamps as the basis for doodles. M, at 9, loved looking in the dictionary for unusual words to use in her alliteration, whilst J at 5 was happier stamping and drawing.
Once complete, we hung our labels up in the garden, imagining our mini stories and characters being set free on the wind!
If I were to do the same project at school I would probably laminate the complete luggage labels so that they could last for sometime outside. I think it would be a great way to create a storytelling tree in a playground, one where children can share their stories and pictures with their friends.
Whilst cutting out letters and writing alliterative adventures we listened to:
Other activities which you could try alongside reading The Story Machine include:
How do your children like to tell stories? Through music? Through dance? Through shows put on by their toys?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Story Machine from the publishers.