Timothy Basil Ering

Timothy Ering

Timothy Basil Ering is probably best known as the illustrator of Kate DiCamillo's Newbery-winning book The Tale of Despereaux, but he has also authored several children's books including The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone and Necks Out for Adventure where he gets to express his love of wordplay (hornly scratchers and scrintalberry leaves, anyone?). Ering studied at the Art Center College of Design in California, before setting sail as a boatswainsmate aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, travelling to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Africa. Creativity and the great outdoors are his two passions.

Prompt for Grades K-2 (Level I)


"Finn likes peaches. Usually. But today, Finn doesn't like peaches. Today Finn doesn't like anything…" In the delightfully illustrated picture book Finn Throws a Fit!, Ering describes Finn's temper tantrum and the family chaos his bad mood creates by comparing Finn's fit to a raging storm. What happens when you are in a bad mood? Write about a time you were feeling cranky at home. Compare the results of your bad mood to a weather event or natural disaster. Include a self-portrait if you like.

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Prompt for Grades 3-5 (Level II)


When Ering is not busy creating art and stories for children's books, you can find him in the studio painting images of fish, seascapes, and landscapes that reflect his life on the shores of Cape Cod.

"If the ocean or the mountains or rivers or woods were taken away from me, my soul would be taken away from me with them! My play in the outdoors is critical. Out there, I find peace, happiness, freedom, adventure, and scores of other magical elements needed to replenish an artist's brain to create." [from Ering's website]

While the natural world inspires Ering to paint, we hope it will inspire you to write. In this challenge, you'll be creating a simple but richly expressive poem called a cinquain [pronounced sin-cane]. The cinquain is a non-rhyming five-line poem that focuses on imagery and the natural world. The form has old roots — all the way back to medieval France!

Write a cinquain about a natural place you have visited: the ocean, water, the forest, your backyard, a neighborhood park, your school playground — even the flowering tree at the end of your block can be inspiring. If your place is nearby, revisit and immerse yourself in the space to help you gather up some good descriptive words. Here are the Rules of the Game:

  • Line 1: One word title, a noun that identifies your topic
  • Line 2: Two adjectives that describe your topic
  • Line 3: Three "ing" verbs that describe action
  • Line 4: A phrase that describes something about your topic
  • Line 5: A noun that is a synonym or another way to name your topic


white, tall
reaching, bending, fluttering
leaves and twigs in the wind

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Prompt for Grades 6-8 (Level III)


"Necks out to eat and necks in to hide." In his children's book Necks Out for Adventure, Ering introduces us a courageous clam named Edwin, who must leave his protective shell and venture out into a dangerous world to save his wiggleskin clan. Write an adventure story that features a plucky hero (animal or human), with a 'there and back' circular story structure. You can use a circular diagram or storyboard graphic organizer to help with sequencing the story.

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Prompt for Grades 9-12 (Level IV)


Ering traveled the world as a boatswainsmate — what's that, anyway? Select and research an 18th or 19th century profession that you would like to know more about from the list below (or choose your own).

Imagine you are this person and you have decided to use Twitter to communicate what's going on. You'll need to do your research to know your facts and develop an authentic voice! Write a series of 15-20 tweets (<140 characters each) that reveal your character, your times, professional challenges, interactions with other townspeople, and what you do for fun. You may add links and hashtags to your tweets. At the top of your page, include your fictional name, location, and a brief bio.

Here are a few interesting professions to get started:

  • Apiarian
  • Cooper
  • Fletcher
  • Falconer
  • Farrier
  • Felter
  • Jagger
  • Napier
  • Legerdemainist
  • Poynter
  • Peruke Maker
  • Scribe
  • Ships Chandler
  • Wainwright
  • Wheelwright
  • Zoetrope Maker

The Twitter universe includes historical figures who are currently tweeting. Here a few examples that might serve as models:

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More about Timothy Basil Ering

More about poetry and cinquain

More on writing adventure stories

More on 18th and 19th century professions

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