When I read to my children, that is almost every evening, I choose classic chapter books. They provide a quite long intrigue that spans a variety of places, characters and behavior choices. Sometimes it gets too entangled within a web of real towns, imaginary lands, relatives, friends of friends and other creatures. (Sounds like social media.) My children’s focus faints. I struggle against fainting … and come up with an anti-fainting procedure: sketching the storyline.

Sketching the storyline clarifies the plot, even if the drawing is poor. It gives structure to the whole book and it’s easier to follow. Different from book illustrations, the sketch is like a diagram, linear or ramified, on which kids work out connections between characters, places and times. Here it is the beginning of Dorothy’s travel mapped by one of my kids:

The storyline of Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz is somewhat linear: from Dorothy’s fall in Munchkin country, all the way to the Emerald City of Oz, following the yellow brick road. It evidently depends on your interpretation, as Baum alternates psychological and political layers on the story’s structure. I take it as the story of building a lasting friendship, which changes each character along a full-of-meaningful-events journey.

This journey’s sketch starts with Dorothy’s home (outlined by me just to boost the drawing process) on the right because Munchkin country lies eastward and continues to the left with the events my children recalled: Dorothy’s house fall in a colored land (as opposed to her grey Kansas); the somewhat farther beginning of the yellow brick road; (the encounter with Scarecrow and Munchkin people are already illustrated in the book, so that my kids skipped drawing them); the Kalidahs following them; the second ravine they crossed after Tin Woodman cut a tree to make a bridge; the river they crossed but lost Scarecrow up on the pole.

Here we stopped our reading, but the road will continue. Happy sketching!