If I Built a Car

I lack imagination.

When I was growing up, some people told me they were sure I was going to be a writer. While this always thrilled me, I knew it would never happen.

I can’t make up stories.

I always dreaded writing assignments that required fiction. You want an essay on Shakespeare? Done-just let me know how many pages. You’d like me to detail a childhood memory? I guarantee that you’ll be able to see, smell, taste, touch and hear everything I did. You want me to craft a story featuring characters and a central conflict in a setting that I’ve dreamed up?

No can do.

I can accept my lack of imagination, but I don’t want my deficit to affect Philip’s ability to think and act creatively. Fortunately for me, there are many talented authors out there, carefully selected as part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, who can fill the gap for me.

Chris Van Dusen is one of those authors. When his book, If I Built a Car, arrived in the mail this month, Philip and I met Jack, a boy who has plenty of imagination.

Jack, from the backseat, said to his dad,
This car is OK. This car is not bad. But it’s just a car.
Nothing great. Nothing grand.
It’s nothing at all like the car I have planned.

Whereas I can only visualize cars I’ve already seen, Jack describes a fantasy car that comes complete with a futuristic Plexiglas dome, the ultimate in safety features, an Instant Snack Bar, and a pool. But this is more than a car. With the push of a button, Jack’s vehicle will float on water, submerge underneath it or fly through the air.

Jack knows that all of these comforts might distract a person from driving. He has that problem solved:

Robert the Robot will take the controls . . .
And he’s guaranteed not to hit telephone poles.

This lilting rhyme is just one example of Van Dusen’s delightful writing. Add in the colorful illustrations that evoke the 1950s and it’s no wonder this book was awarded the 2006 E.B. White Read Aloud Award.

Even though I’m not adept at making up stories, there is one thing that I can imagine:

if i built a car 003

Reading this book to Philip again and again.

The Day 30 task for #31dbbb at Yeah Write is to write a review post. I’m linking this post to this week’s challenge grid.

47 thoughts on “If I Built a Car

  1. I’m completely with you on this one–non-fiction comes pretty easily to me, but I’m so easily frustrated with writing fiction. As a matter of fact, I got myself in a non-fiction reading rut for a couple of years where I wasn’t even READING fiction because it didn’t seem purposeful. I’ve finally come around and have been trying to read more fiction and fantasy this summer because–well–why not? I’m glad to hear your son enjoys that book! It sounds like a good one =)

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    1. Oh, I certainly read my share of fiction. I think seeing how a good story or character is crafted can inform us non-fiction writers, too. Plus, I love a good made-up story, even if I can’t write one.

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  2. Sounds like a book my son would enjoy! And I don’t have the imagination to write fiction, either, and am always amazed at how children’s books, especially, push the limits of creativity.

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  3. I think that there are lots of ways to do this writing and blogging thing that we do without being the best at making up stories. Because after reading your blog these past few months, I know for sure that you are incredibly good at telling your story, and the story of your son, and that’s better than all the fictional stories in the world.

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  4. For someone who is not a “writer”, you sure write a lot of stuff ; ) Fiction, schmiction! Personally, I think non-fiction is more interesting. People are fascinating, and their real lives intrigue me. Keep doing what you do best.

    Also, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is so fantastic.

    And most importantly, you are a great mom!

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    1. When I was a kid, I always equated writer with novelist. Even though I know better now, that insecurity still lingers.
      Let’s not even get started on how I would never make it as a children’s picture book illustrator. But who cares? It’s more fun to find the great works of others!

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  5. I don’t know why people think that a good writer is one who can make up stories. Think about the guy who wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul series … the reason these books work is because they’re REAL stories about real people. I personally love your true to life stories about your life and your son. You are a real writer 🙂

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    1. Isn’t it funny that we feel intimidated playing make-believe with kids. If ever there was a non-judgmental crowd that will tolerate our lack of creativity, it’s children who just want someone to play with them.

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    1. I do feel like I want to improve my creativity-and not just the kind where you make up stories. Thinking creatively is how we solve problems, and heaven knows there are plenty of problems at home, work and in general that need solving.

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  6. This is a super review — I love a review that’s well-thought out and well executed. Thank you for not letting this feel like a form letter!

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    1. I’m glad that this was one of the #31dbbb tasks. I write a post every month about the Imagination Library books we receive. Most of the posts have been lame, I’ll be the first to admit. I think I’ll approach them differently from now on.

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  7. What an adorable book! I’ll have to look for it for my son.

    And I was the same way with fiction. In college, I took a short story writing class and struggled so much! I was much better in my lit classes where all I had to do was read and report. Creating? No thank you.

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    1. No fiction writing classes for me as part of my English major. Unfortunately, I was also a music major and was stuck have to compose music in some of my theory classes. Oh, no. I’m having some bad flashbacks. On second thought, the fiction classes would have been easier.

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  8. You may not be able to write fiction but you sure nailed this review post and everything else I’ve read of yours. You’re a talented writer and a loving mom – nothing better than reading to my munchkins!

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