How I Fell in Love with Reading, Writing & Drawing

Something Else

A True Story

by Charles Ghigna

Something Else

a picture book proposal

about a real boy who loves to read, write and draw,

but whose unconventional “books” and artwork

bring grave concern to his teacher.

In all her years in the classroom

Mrs. Barren had never seen anything like

Charlie's little out-of-this-world books.

Something must be done to stop him.

* * *

Charlie and his family

lived in the country

far away from town.

There were no libraries

or bookstores or schools.

Each day

after Charlie finished his chores,

he sat at the kitchen table

drawing pictures

and making up stories.

He called them his “books”

and gave them to his family.

Charlie couldn’t wait for school to start.

The first day of school finally arrived.

Charlie got up early

and waited by the side of the road

for the big yellow school bus.

He was so excited

he could hardly stand still.

Charlie got on the bus

and rode and rode and rode.

His teacher’s name

was Mrs. Barren.

She wore a gray dress

with yellow flowers

and big black shoes.

She said she was going to teach

the class how to draw.

Charlie was so excited

he could hardly sit still.

Mrs. Barren held up a picture

of an umbrella

and a picture of a raincoat.

Then she put them away

and told the class to draw something

they would do to get out of the rain.

What fun! Charlie thought.

What should I draw?

Charlie thought about the pictures

of the umbrella and raincoat.

He thought Mrs. Barren

wanted them to draw

something else.

Charlie’s mind raced with ideas.

Yes, that’s it! He thought.

I will draw a picture of me

with a jet pack on my back

flying out of the rain!

Charlie was so excited

he could hardly sit still.

He drew and drew and drew.

Then he colored and colored and colored.

Mrs. Barren walked up and down

the aisles of the classroom

collecting all the pictures.

That night the phone rang.

It was Mrs. Barren.

She called Charlie’s mother

and asked if she could come

to the school for a meeting.

The next morning

Charlie and his mother

got up early and drove to school.

Charlie waited outside in the car

while his mother went in

to meet with Mrs. Barren.

Mrs. Barren got out Charlie’s picture

and showed it to his mother.

His mother smiled.

Mrs. Barren frowned.

Mrs. Barren said

she was “concerned.”

In all her years of teaching

no student had ever drawn

a picture like Charlie’s.

Mrs. Barren said she thought

there might be something “wrong” with Charlie.

She recommended that

Charlie go in for special testing.

Charlie’s mother smiled again.

She asked Mrs. Barren

about the assignment.

Mrs. Barren explained

how she held up a picture

of an umbrella

and a picture of a raincoat.

She told the class to draw something

they would do to get out of the rain.

Charlie’s mother smiled again.

She looked at Mrs. Barren and said,

“That’s what Charlie did.

He drew...

something else.”

* * *

Mrs. Barren told the class

to write about their summer vacations.

Charlie had been making up stories

in his head all summer.

The one he liked best was about a talking freckle

that rode around on Charlie’s nose.

Charlie was still writing when the school bell rang.

He asked Mrs. Barren if he could take

his story with him and finish it at home.

Mrs. Barren said, “No.”

Charlie wrote, “The End,” and handed it to her.

The next day Mrs. Barren

called Charlie up to her desk.

She told him he was supposed

to write about his summer vacation.

She handed him his story marked with an “F”

and asked, “What is this?”

Charlie shrugged his shoulders and said,

“Something else?”

* * *

The annual school art contest was coming.

The theme was Nature.

Mrs. Barren told the class to go home

and paint something they see outside.

By the time Charlie got home and did his chores,

he had forgotten all about the assignment.

He fell asleep after supper

and dreamed about a thunderstorm.

There was a big clap of thunder.

Charlie sat up in his bed

and suddenly realized he forgot to paint.

He ran to the window and looked out.

The sky was alive with wind and rain,

thunder and lightning.

Charlie pulled out the box of paints

from under his bed

and a piece of plywood

he saved from his father’s shed.

Charlie started painting.

He painted and painted

listening to the thunder,

watching his room

flash on and off to the lightning.

When he finished

he sat back

and looked at what he had done.

He painted a purple sky

with swirling gray-blue clouds,

red stars and a bolt of lightning

that lighted up the trees

turning them yellow-orange

in the thunder sky.

He signed his name at the bottom

and on the back he wrote,

“Dream Sky on Fire.”

The next day Mrs. Barren placed

the paintings on the book shelves

around the room.

That Friday after school

a group of artists from the college

came to judge the paintings.

They went from room to room

with their yellow pads,

looking at all the paintings

and making notes.

A reporter from the newspaper

took a picture of the winning painting.

He asked one of the judges

why they picked that one.

The judge smiled and nodded,

looking at Charlie’s painting.

“There are many fine paintings here today,

but that one,” he said, “That one is...

something else.”

©Charles Ghigna


  1. Love the story! Cheers to all the Charlies of the world!