07/15/2020 / Review

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

One can never really predict where or when they will come across a great mentor text. One summer I participated in Jennifer Serravallo's Summer Writing Camp. The first week was built around fiction writing and developing story elements. While several great strategies were shared from Jennifer's The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers,  Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter was shared as a mentor text. 
The story opens with the main character, a little girl named Eva, helplessly wondering how she would complete a writing assignment from school. Mrs. DeMarco, Eva's teacher, asked her to, "Write about what you know". As she sits on her front stairs listening to the usual sounds that are going on around her, Eva writes, "Nothing ever happens on 90th Street". 

As characters begin to enter the story, the reader soon realizes a lot happens on 90th street. Each character, from Mr. Chang, the owner of the newly opened "Seafood Emporium," Mr. Sim's an actor who and his cat "Olivier", Mr. Morley, the mousse maker, Alexis Leora, a dancer, Mrs. Martinez, a wonderful soup maker, Mrs. Friedman and baby Joshua, the pizza delivery man, to Sondra Saunderson, star of stage, screen, and soap opera, all add details to an ordinary day that become extraordinary. At the end of the story, the character of Mrs. Martinez says, "What an amazing day! Who would believe it? If only someone had written it all down!" Eva reveals that she has and shares her story with her neighbors. Of course, everyone praises Eva for her story, and in the end she claims that the story will be even better after she rewrites it. 

This book truly is a mentor text for writing as it will show students that even something that seems so familiar and ordinary to them can offer a world of ideas for a writing piece. The details that are provided, the adjectives, the dialogue, and the wonderful illustrations all help to create a story that will engage and invite students to return for another read. The end of the book is probably my favorite as Eva gives the idea of  revising her story to make it even better! 

As a teacher, using this text along with Jennifer Serravallos writing strategies such as asking yourself  "What if..." thinking about characters, setting, or a problem will help to spark ideas. Brainstorming ideas like sentence stems will give the students options and one or two may branch off into full blown fictional pieces. 

I would highly recommend Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street  by Roni Schotter as a mentor text for teachable moments and inspiration for student writing. 

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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and writes education articles for Middleweb. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.