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Chris Van Dusen


The creator of the first illustration for the Exquisite Corpse Adventure is author and illustrator Chris Van Dusen. As a child growing up in Maine, Chris spent endless hours drawing pictures. But he had no idea then that he would write and illustrate children's books like his heroes Dr. Seuss and Robert McCloskey. He grew up with four brothers before the time of handheld electronic devices, so when he and his family would travel by car-a big black 1966 Ford Country Squire-he and his brothers would play games using only their imaginations. One of these games, "What would you change on this car?" helped inspire his book If I Built a Car.

Another source of inspiration for Chris were the out-of-this world illustrations he found in issues of Popular Science from the 1950s and '60s. In these magazines, he could peek into the future where cars travel without wheels or cruise on magnetic highways.

Family in a station wagon

Now it's fuel speed ahead for your own imagination! Take your creative and persuasive writing skills for a ride with these Exquisite Prompts.

Prompt for grades K-2

In If I Built a Car, Jack uses his imagination to create a car that is out of this world because he thinks his own red, wood-paneled station wagon is just okay and ordinary. What about your car? Write an observation about your car or a car you have ridden in recently. When you write an observation, you use your senses to describe it. Try to make the person reading your observation feel like they are in the car with you by including how your car smells, looks, sounds and feels as it travels down the road.

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Prompt for grades 3-5

Car advertisement

Click thumbnail to view full-size image.

Advertising is a kind of persuasive writing. An advertisement will focus on the good things about a product to get people to buy it. Design your own car and write a magazine advertisement for it. Pick the one thing about your car that makes it better, different or special from other cars. You want people to buy your car, so when you are writing, think about potential buyers — what will make them care about your car? Remember, you are trying to convince people to buy your car, but you have to be honest.

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Prompt for grades 6-8

Writing in the first person is probably something you've done quite often — in your diary or journal or in letters or e-mail. Before the days of the cell phone, many people would share their travel experiences by writing in a diary or sending letters back home from the road. Assume a specific character, time, and place and write a journal entry about a long road trip you are taking as that character. Take some time to research the historical period and setting and include a major historical event in your writing to help the reader understand where you are in time.

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Prompt for grades 9-12

Cars are expensive, so buyers are always careful to look for as much accurate information as possible about the car they may purchase. Write a review of a car to help someone else choose the perfect car to buy. A car that a friend or family member drives would be a good car to review. Research your car and talk to people who have actually driven it. Also research how the vehicle compares to similar cars in terms of price, performance, features and quality. Make your review objective pointing out any negative features about the car as well as what you like about it. You'll need to give facts and your opinions about the car in a way that your reader can easily decide if this is the right car for them — or not.

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