Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice
Thrice Told Tales
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Catherine Lewis, illus. by Joost Swarte
ISBN 9781416957843
Atheneum/S&S, 2013.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: catherine-lewis craft grammar retellings thrice-told-three-mice-full-writing-advice writing-tips

Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice
by Catherine Lewis, illus. by Joost Swarte

Catherine Lewis (Dry Fire) exploits the famous story of the Three Blind Mice to full effect as she cleverly compares and contrasts the impact of various angles on its telling. Throughout, she names the storytelling strategies and introduces and defines writing terms.

She names the trio Pee Wee, Mary and Oscar on a page that describes "The Lenses of Psychic Distance," where she differentiates between a reader's view through a telescope, binoculars or magnifying glass. Lewis limits each "lesson" to one or two pages, then sums up the content in a pithy line or two, which she calls "Snip of the Tale" (e.g., on the "Lenses" page: "By choosing to write from outside or from inside a character, an author can influence how involved the reader feels with the character"). One of the few exceptions is the section called "Formula," which offers three recipes and runs four pages. Three pages for "Research" explain the origins of the Three Blind Mice rhyme. An exposé on "Style" gives a flavor of Dickens, Homer and Hemingway, among others. For those who favor visual representation, Lewis includes sentence diagrams and character charts for "Description."

Joost Swarte's ink illustrations play up the humor and hark back to vintage comics with a strong black line. Scenes of the whiskered trio with the farmer's wife and with the cat will especially entertain readers. These brief, digestible nuggets of advice could potentially improve a whole generation of writers--if they heed Lewis's advice.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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