Children's writing

Seven-Year-Old Storyteller

Jillian in the rice sandbox

Jillian telling the story of The Golf Bird

Back in July, I had the chance to spend some time with my friend, Jillian. We played in a sandbox that is filled with rice instead of sand. As we played, Jillian started to tell and act out a story. I grabbed my tablet and a pencil and wrote down her words. The result is a five-chapter tale, told over two (or was it three?) days. We both had a blast!

I recalled how my second grade teacher, Mrs. Gregg, would call us students to her desk, one by one, every week. We’d dictate something about our week—a story or journal entry—and she’d type it on a small yellow sheet of newsprint-like paper that we’d staple into our composition notebooks. Now I understand why: A second grader’s ability to craft a story exceeds his/her ability to write it. Writing, spelling, and grammar get in the way.

I know this isn’t news to you teachers. It’s not really news to me, either. My friend and writing partner, Linda Stanek, teaches writing in schools, and I create puzzles and activities to support and reinforce what she teaches. I have a professional interest in how kids learn to write and develop stories. Nonetheless, I found watching a soon-to-be second grader intentionally make up a story fascinating and impressive. Jillian employed techniques and skills that I recall formally learning in middle and high school. I wanted to cheer when she looked up and said “Meanwhile…” before relating an event that occurred simultaneously with another.

Another young friend has already asked if we can write a story together sometime. I look forward to it!

Here’s Jillian’s story. She didn’t just tell it; she acted out the whole thing using available props. Oh—which reminds me of a camp activity I used to love: Skit Night! Every cabin would bring a bag containing five random objects from the cabin. Cabins exchanged bags, and everyone had fifteen minutes or so to prepare. Then each group performed a skit using all five objects from the bag they received. The best skits earned prizes. I hated performing, but I loved making up skits! Jillian used random objects from the deck to create and guide the story.

Jillian's Golf Bird illustration

What’s a story without illustrations? This is the Golf Bird and her egg.

The Golf Bird

Chapter 1

Outside a granary, near a golf course, a golf bird laid an egg in a pile of grain. “This is a nice place,” she said.

She laid the egg, covered it with grain, then settled down on top of it to rest.

The next morning, she woke up. “This is a nice day,” she said.

She hopped onto her perch, picked the grain out from between her toes, and flew off in search of a sack to fill with grain. “I’ll set the sack of grain in the sun to get warm and leave it with my egg when I fly away.”

Inside the granary, she finds just what she needs.

She returns to the nest to add more grain over her egg because it has started to show. “I can’t let humans see my egg.” she said. “They might mistake it for a golf ball and hit it with a club!”

One day, she flew off to a human’s house and saw the people watching TV. The weather predicted a huge storm.

The golf bird returned to her nest and gave it a good sweeping. Worried about the storm, she dug up her egg and put it into the sack with the grain. She covered it up with lots and lots of grain. She laid across the grain pile with her eyes wide open, waiting for the storm to come.

Lightning flashes. A tornado tears through the mountains. The golf bird flies from sandbox to sandbox collecting kids’ toys to stack around her nest for further protection.

When the storm hits, tornado winds carry the toys away, but the golf bird and her buried egg survive.

However, the golf bird’s wing is broken. What will happen to her egg if she goes to the bird sanctuary?

Chapter 2

After the storm, humans find her. They call the bird sanctuary.

“Oh, no,” says the golf bird. She does not have a mate to protect her.

The people from the bird sanctuary arrive. “It could be mating season, so she might have an egg.” They search through the pile of grain. They find the egg unbroken.

They take the golf bird and the egg back to the sanctuary. The egg is put into an incubator at just the right temperature. The golf bird is taken for an X-ray. She’s trembling so hard, the people can barely hold her.

The golf bird’s wing was not broken badly, but she would have to stay while it healed.

The golf bird collects pinecones.

The golf bird collects pinecones.

A hummingbird flew in and told her, “I once had a broken wing, and the people here fixed it. Your egg will be safe in the incubator.”

One night, when the golf bird was almost asleep with a cast on her wing, she peered into the incubator at her egg. She wanted to gather her favorite food. It was difficult with her wing in a cast, but she flitted from tree to tree to tree gathering pinecones to seed them.

Suddenly a tree she was hopping onto fell. She grabbed a vine and swung back to the sanctuary with enough pine cones to fill her feed cup. And then she fell fast asleep, dreaming of the day she’d be with her golf chick, teaching it to find food.

Chapter 3

The next day, her cast was removed, and she started physical therapy.

When they took her away from the incubator, she got a little worried. The physical therapist strapped her to a bar high up, and she had to hold on and swing to strengthen her wing and then land on a special perch. She was very worried when the people went back because her egg was still at the sanctuary, and she was still in physical therapy. They raised the bar, and she had to hold on tightly. She got stronger and stronger.

It was almost time for her to be released. Before she was released, a black band was placed around her ankle, and then she was returned to the grain pile with her golf egg.

She dug a deep pit and put a little grain in the middle, and then she covered it up with more grain and sat on it.

“Just one more week,” she said, “and I will have a cute little golf chick.”

She dug up the egg and put it to her ear so she could hear the chick wriggling inside. And then she used her egg to dig a little hole in the grain before tucking more grain around it.

Meanwhile, a truck was scooping grain to sell and didn’t see the golf bird’s nest. It scooped up the egg and dumped it in one of the holders.

When mother golf bird heard the sound of the truck, she zoomed over. When she saw the egg being dumped in a cup, she was furious. The egg was then dumped into a truck with more and more grain piled on top of it. Humans shoved the golf bird away.

Then the truck drove away, taking the golf egg with it. It was taken to a bakery.

Mama golf bird found a small cup, put a little grain in it, flew up to her perch, and picked the grain from her toes. She flew to the truck with her egg cup, dug up her egg, and flew it back to the nest. Then she dug a small hole, put in her cup, and piled grain around it to camouflage it. And then she laid down on it for a good night’s sleep.

Chapter 4

The next morning she felt something wriggle. She heard “crick, crack—crick, crack.” Soon, her golf chick hatched. It was small, fluffy, and white with a pattern of grain on it. The golf bird named her “Rose.” She built a slingshot and launched the eggshell off the deck.

Her chick was too big to fit in the nest, so the golf bird dug a bigger one. She covered Rose with grain to keep her warm. And then she filled two sacks with grain because her chick would soon be hungry.

Mama Golf bird was hungry, too. She flew out of the grain nest, picked the grain from between her toes, and flew off to find food for herself.

She finds a flower knocked off a bush and carefully sets it next to something.

In the morning, Rose gets hungry, so Mama digs her out and puts her in a small feeding chair. She fills that with grain, too, pouring it into a small cup. Rose begins to pick and eat it.

When Rose is no longer hungry, the golf bird digs a play pit with a cup and bowl so Rose can play and eat. When Rose is put in the play pit, she can see very well, and she can see her mother picking grain from between her toes. “She’s not leaving,” Rose says. “She’s just cleaning her feet.”

Chapter 5

Mama golf bird tells Rose, “I’m going to leave.”

Rose is sad, but Mama comes home very soon with food. “Is this for me?” Rose asks.

“Well, honey, you’ll eat grain. Grain helps you grow. But you’ll get more food as you get older. You cannot fly yet, so I can’t bring you with me to watch my favorite show on human TV. But do not worry, I will be back.”

Mother comes back. This is the nicest place to be in the neighborhood. At night it is so quiet; the wind chimes sound beautiful.

“Rose, I am now going to teach you how to fly. Just watch me from this perch.”

Mama golf bird flies to a tree and back. “Now, Rose, it’s your turn.”

Rose flies to the tree and lands, and Mama golf bird follows. Rose flies back and Mama follows. Soon, they’re flying everywhere together.

“Let’s go back to the play pit to eat,” said Mama. “Having lunch is a good idea right now.”

After lunch, Mama left Rose alone. She flew far off to meet Barbara, her friend, and bring her back to meet Rose.

While Mama’s gone, a human finds Rose, and grabs her. He puts her in the back of his truck and drives away. He takes a little bit of grain and puts it in with Rose then drives off. He goes back to his house and puts Rose in a cage. He drives off to go to the grocery store.

Mama comes back with Barbara and doesn’t know the baby’s gone. They start eating and talking at lunch.
“Do you want to see Rose?” asked Mama golf bird.

“I’d love to.”

When they look in the play pit, Rose isn’t there.

“A human must have stolen her. They are known to do that a lot.”

So they flew off to the human’s house that once stole Barbara’s chick. They flew to the window to see how smart the human was. He wasn’t too smart, but it would take teamwork to rescue Rose.

“Barbara, you distract him, and I’ll get Rose.”


Jillian’s first official author photo.

Barbara flew around the man’s head, pecking at him, and he chased her. Mama golf bird got Rose from the cage and they all flew back to the nest together.

Mama golf bird puts Rose into her feeding chair to eat. Rose eats very, very quickly.

After Barbara goes home, Mama golf bird and her chick spend time together. They play a little bit of Pic-Pac-Poe, and then they talk about what they want to do and be in the future.

The End

Categories: Children's writing

5 replies »

  1. I am amazed that Jillian was able to design such an intricate tale! And I must say the story is almost as cute as its author! Keep on story telling, Jillian; it could make you some money some day.

  2. Jillian- I loved reading your story, and the pictures really added to it. I enjoyed the details that made the story seem real. Make believe is so much more fun when you can feel like it is really happening. Golf bird seems like a very determined and resourceful young bird- just like her creator!
    Keep up the good work. My mother used to write down the stories I would dictate to her.

  3. Hey Jillian!

    This is your cousin, Amanda, from Indiana. As you know, I am a teacher. I think your story is so good that I would like to share it with my students. Would that be ok?

  4. Jillian – I most enjoyed your story! : ) How did you come up with the idea of a “Golf Bird?”