Michael Dooling, Illustrator and Author of Children's Books

Writing Prompts that relate to Michael’s books can turn a one-day school visit into weeks of educational fun.
Have your students create projects and decorate the hallways.

Putt, putt, putt
. You’re speeding along in your horse-less carriage at the unheard of speed of 7 mph. The year is 1895 and you have entered your carriage in The Great Horse-less Carriage Race. It’s cold outside. “Ya, ya, ya, hoo!” you shout through your chattering teeth, as you take the lead. Now, draw your horse-less carriage and give it a nickname. Frank Duryea nicknamed his carriage the ‘buggyaut’. Don’t forget to draw yourself as the driver. The winner will change the world by starting America’s first automobile company. Toot your horn, Bwonk, bwonk!

“A little of this and a little of that,” Young Thomas Edison used to mumble. He experimented with everything: chemicals, gadgets, doohickeys, and thingamajigs. The Wizard of Menlo Park, as he was called, changed the world by patenting 1,093 inventions, and it all started when he was just a boy. Design an invention that would change the world like Thomas Edison did.

Did your grandparents, great grandparents, or great-great grandparents come from another country? It must have been difficult. If possible, interview them or ask your parents about your family’s history and write about it on a cutout Memory Coat. Hang your memory coats from a clothesline in the library.

“Clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop.” Thunder rumbles in the distance as rain sprinkles against the side of the horse-drawn carriage. Inside, you sit quietly listening to the sound of the horses’ hooves “clip, clopping” through the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia. Sitting next to you is Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas gives you advice. He says, “Never use two words where one will do.” Write a descriptive story about your conversation with Jefferson. Revise your story. With each revision eliminate words that are not necessary. Write your final draft with a quill pen.

The year is 1810. Grab your top hat, hammer, chisel, and don’t forget your journal. Imagine you are Mary Anning searching for stone curiosities and shells on the beach of Lyme Regis, England. Wait! What’s that? A sea-reptile? Describe or draw what you see in your journal. Don’t ever stop looking.

Imagine it is the year 1803. Grab your gear and say your good-byes; you may be gone for more than three years. You are a member of Lewis and Clark’s expedition and you are the only one who can draw. Lewis is counting on you to record what you see on the adventure. Animals? Indians? Mountains?

”King Me!” Host a draughts (checkers) tournament and play like Elijah did in George Washington’s Army and Me. Why did Elijah’s Pa not want to be ‘Kinged’ by King George of England?

In 1858, Fossil Hunter William Foulke unearthed strange and monstrous bones in a farmer’s field; the first dinosaur skeleton ever found, proving that dinosaurs once existed. Maybe, there is a dinosaur buried in YOUR backyard? Write a fictional story describing how you unearthed strange and monstrous bones in your backyard. Research Haddy the Dinosaur at

Design a United States Postage Stamp with your portrait. Michael illustrated a commemorative stamp of Benjamin Franklin for the United States Post Office in 2006. Michael depicted Franklin as a Printer. How will you depict yourself?

Doodle with Dooling and don’t worry about mistakes. Michael makes a lot of mistakes. I mean…a lot! Ask your students to bring to class a small object and draw it using their ‘artist’s eyes’ to copy the shapes they see. Emphasize that mistakes are okay. Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Can you be Alex Trebek for a day? Play Michael Dooling Jeopardy with questions and answers from Michael’s books. Who started America’s first automobile company? Did children really march with George Washington’s army? Was Thomas Edison really a Wizard?

dit dit dit dit…dit…dit dah dit dit…dit dah dah dit…Learn Morse Code like Thomas Edison had to as a telegraph operator. Write a secret message and send it to a friend in Morse Code. Can you decipher this message? .__.   .   .__   __..

Tell a Story with a Picture. Read the text from one of Michael’s books and illustrate a scene with crayons. Use emotion to describe how your character feels. Maybe, illustrate a happy Mary Mclean at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or show a sad Anne Hutchinson leaving her children, or show a frightened Seth Doan as he walks through scary woods.

Host a Dinosaur or Sea-Reptile Themed lunch. Select fifteen reluctant readers to have lunch with Michael. Make dinosaur or sea-reptile hats and serve dinosaur eggs (boiled eggs dyed brown). Michael will actually bring a real 80 million year-old hadrosaurus egg to school! Should we try to hatch it?

Choose ten children to have their portrait sketched by Michael. The next day, create a bulletin board and play a Who’s Who game with the rest of the school. Choose children by lottery, contest, or select struggling students who will benefit from the experience.

Today, we share our pictures on Facebook. Many people in the 19th century, like Vincent Van Gogh, shared their world with others by writing letters. In many of his letters, Vincent sketched objects describing what he saw. Michael likes to introduce himself to your children (prior to visiting) by sending them a Letter Sketch. Your children can send a Letter Sketch in return. Van Gogh’s letters at

Lesson Plans that relate to Michael’s books are available at