First, it’s written about a former student, Xavier, who had one of the messiest desks I’ve ever seen in fifteen years of teaching. One day I said, “Xavier, you must have a Desk Monster in there.” and an idea was born.
Several years and many rewrites later, I read it to another class. That class happened to have a fabulous artist in it. Tarryn agreed to illustrate my story, and I love her work! Above is the first picture. It’s a happy Xavier on the first day of school. Notice his thumbs up and very neat desk?
To see another of Tarryn’s drawings and read a bit of the story, go to Xavier’s Desk Monster. I’ve sent the story, without illustrations, to a number of agents, and I’ve talked it up any time I’ve met with people in the children’s publishing world. It’s been rejected every time, the agent telling me that there is no market for picture books for upper graders.
Picture books in upper grades have become valuable teaching tools. I have over 200 of them in my sixth grade classroom alone! I did a single-copy print of Xavier’s Desk Monster with illustrations, and it is one of my students’ favorite picture books. I use picture books to model story arc, descriptive writing, showing rather than telling, setting, plot, character, and internal dialogue. I use them for examples of literary devices like onomatopoea, metaphors/similes, personification, foreshadowing, and hyperbole. There are even two student reviews of picture books on my reading blog, Read Like Good Readers Do.
Clearly, I’m passionate about picture books. What do you think? Are you an upper grader with favorite picture books? Would you like to see more of Xavier’s Desk Monster?