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Writing Radar

Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories

by Jack Gantos

Newbery Award-winning author Jack Gantos shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Gantos instructs young writers on using their “writing radar” to find story ideas in their own lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create and revise their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos’s own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos’s own writing career.

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Writing Radar

Audiobook Excerpt


  • A must read for aspiring writers.
    — School Library Journal, starred review
  • This is my Book of the Year . . . It is laugh-out-loud funny, poignant in spots, and it will teach young people how and why to write . . . A life-changer for kids and for those of us who teach them.
    — Lucy Calkins, Director of the Reading and Writing Project, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Oh man! Do NOT read this book. Unless you want to become a real writer. Gantos has given up almost every hard-earned writing secret in his trademark sharp, funny, crazy, and brilliant way.
    — Jon Scieszka, Inaugural Ambassador of Young People's Literature
  • When I read WRITING RADAR, I knew immediately I needed to get it into the hands of my sixth graders. I asked my school for permission to order as many copies as they'd let me have, added the audio version, and got my students reading and listening to the book in advance of our personal narrative writing study. I've been teaching for 21 years. In that time, I've never had a class of students so engaged in their writing—I had no 'reluctant writers' (which has never happened before). From our very first writer's workshop day, my sixth graders have been filling their notebooks with stories. WRITING RADAR laid a foundation that allowed my kids to see themselves as writers, as people who had stories to tell—and, more importantly, who were excited to tell them. All I had to say was, 'Tell me a story about something that happened to you,' and they were off.
    — Becky Amaral, Sixth & Seventh Grade English Teacher, The Country School, Easton, MD
  • Focused, fun, and uncommonly useful.
    — Booklist, starred review
  • An excellent guide . . . And while the book is directed at serious writers in the making, there's enough exaggeration and grossness to keep readers laughing.
    — Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • When I was a kid, Jack Gantos visited my classroom and gave me encouragement that I'll never forget. Now, with this book, young writers everywhere will be able to learn from this master storyteller. What a gift Mr. Gantos has given to the world by taking us through his creative process.
    — Jarrett J. Krosoczka, New York Times-Bestselling Author/Illustrator of the Lunch Lady series
  • With humor and swift pacing, the author of the Joey Pigza books and DEAD END IN NORVELT spills all of his writing secrets about making stories out of everyday life. The key, he says, is writing ideas down as you have them and then giving them structure and emotion. He shares his early stories and explains how he developed into the observant author he has become. It will probably make you want to read Gantos’s stories as well as to create your own.
    — The Washington Post
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