Best Story by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by A. Wilsdorf. New York: Dial. (2008)

General Theme – Use the talents that you have and be happy with the outcome.

Summary – After a seeing a sign advertising a chance to ride a roller coaster with her favorite author by winning a contest for the “Best Story,” a little girl sets out to win. She begins by thinking about what to write, but quickly decides she needs help from others if she is going to write the “best story.” She asks several members of her family for what they believe makes the best story. She follows the advice of each adding something more to her story – action, humor, and romance. When she finally shares her story with the whole family her mother, who has not made previous advice, suggests that the best story is one that “comes from the heart. Your own heart.” The little girl begins her story all over again and after submitting it to the judges decides it is the best story even it does not win, because it was her “own. Not somebody else’s And that makes it the best.”
Ideas for usage in the classroom/library that could be tied to standards
This book will not address a particular indicator under the general writing standard, rather it will be a vehicle for discussion of a very important point underlying what it takes to write a “great story’: writers need to write about what they know (i.e. begin with personal experience).

Writing Standard 1: The student writes effectively for a variety of audiences, purposes, and contexts.

Literary elements
Plot – This book could be used to demonstrate the elements of the plot of a narrative.
The main character has a goal: to write an award-winning story. She attempts to meet her goal by asking members of her family for advice and taking their advice. The other characters have a parallel goal: they want to help her with her writing. The story is resolved when the mother advises the little girl to write a story from her heart and the little girl decides to try. She submits a story to the contest that is her best attempt at a story and she is happy with that outcome even if she does not win.
Grade level appropriateness
Grades 1-2 Students at this age are beginning to write and need to consistently hear the message that good writers write about what they know.
Related activities to tie in (websites, things to make, etc.)
Suggestion: Look into Lucy Calkins books on writing, in particular her Lessons for Primary Writers (Heinemann Publishing). These lessons provide teachers with a framework and lessons to follow to get writing really started in the primary grades.

Information for this page submitted by Diane Nielsen