Sometimes we receive messages from readers that are so creative we just have to share them with the rest of the MUTTS community! (Yesh, this is one of those times.)

We recently heard from Susan A. Smith, a teacher at Takotna Community School in Tokotna, Alaska, whose students (kindergarten through second grade) created their own stories for Patrick McDonnell’s picture book South.

South is a wordless yet moving story about a little bird who awakens to find that all of his friends and family have gone south for the winter — but finds friendship in Mooch the cat, who decides to lend a helping paw. Upon its release Kirkus Reviews called the book “warm and glowy,” and noted that “McDonnell’s sense of just-sweet-enough is exactly right, leaving readers feeling as if they are curled on the carpet next to the fire with Mooch.”

Susan and her students were so kind to share some of their stories with us, and we are enthused to post them for you below.

What do you think? How would you tell the story of South?

Elementary students create stories for picture book "South"
Some of the students (and future creative writers!?) pose with artwork from Patrick’s picture book “South.”

“South”: By Anthony Martinez, age 6

Once there were 26 birds singing. They all flew away and now there are zero birds left in the tree. After the birds flew past the tree, the little leaf fell down. The little leaf fell on the sleeping bird. His name is Ostrich. Ostrich sings, “Tweet-tweet! Is anyone there?”

Ostrich got too sad. Mooch helps Ostrich. Mooch is leaving Ostrich and he starts crying again. He is happy now because it looks like Mooch drew eyeballs and a nose on his hand.

They are walking. They passed Earl and a big fat cat. The big, fluffy cat is named Weird. They should go to the city. We should go through the forest. The deer is looking back and they are walking.

Mooch is funny because he is sleeping on a log. It started snowing. Ostrich sees Mooch sleeping. Ostrich is crying.

They walked on the road and what did they hear? The bird cried so much because he hadn’t seen his family for a long time. “I’m going to join my family!” Mooch said, “I am going to miss you Ostrich!”

The bird family flew away. Mooch dreams of Ostrich.


“South”: By Lea Dopler, age 8

Once upon a time there were some birds in a tree. They were singing in the tree. Then the birds left, but one bird did not leave because he was sleeping under the branches. There was one leaf and that one leaf fell from the tree. It fell and fell and landed on the bird that was asleep. It woke him up. He got up from the tree and it was empty. No one was there, just him. He was lonely.

A cat named Mooch came along. The bird named Buddy asked a question and Mooch said, “Over there.” The bird cried. He was sad. Mooch said, “Come with me!” Buddy took his hand.

They walk and they walk and they walk. They walk past Mooch’s friend Earl’s house. They walk past the fence. Sourpuss was looking over the fence.

Mooch and Buddy waited for the walk sign. Both of them walk in the street. Both of them walk in the forest. A deer looked at them. Mooch was tired. He took a nap. Buddy cried and Mooch woke up. He got up and they started walking again. Buddy said, “You are my best friend.”

Mooch heard notes. It was buddy’s friends! Hooray! Buddy flew up to his friends. Buddy said goodbye to Mooch. Mooch said goodbye too.

All of them flew off. Mooch went home and went to sleep.


“South”: By Reyna Martinez, age 7

Once upon a time, in a far land, there were birds in a tree. They flew away. A leaf is falling down. The leaf is down, down, down. The little birdy was asleep and the leaf hit him in the head. The birdy sang for them but the birds are gone. He was lonely. Mooch helped. The birdy was crying so Mooch helped the little birdy. He was wondering.

Mooch was traveling. Sourpuss said, “Where are you going?” They were walking and they pass the humans. They were walking through the forest. A deer was watching Birdy and Mooch. Mooch found a log to sleep on. He was tired. Mooch is really tired and Birdy is crying.

Off they went. Mooch likes his new friend. They were wandering and Mooch heard them! They were on a wire. Birdy is happy now and he sings. Birdy flew to them. Mooch waves to his new friend.

They flew away and Mooch is singing.

Now he is in his bed and sleeping.


“South”: By Philana Johnson, age 9

Once there was a tree with bird in it singing gracefully. They left the tree with no leaves as the last leaf fell. And fell and fell and fell. Then suddenly the leaf fell towards a sleeping bird. Unexpectedly, for the bird, the leaf fell on Little Brown and shook him. It woke up the baby bird. It looked up and called for his family. But no one answered. There were no more birds.

Then Mooch came and explained what happened. Mooch told him where they went. Little Brown began to cry. Mooch felt bad so he assisted him. And so they went on their journey.

While Mooch guided Little Brown they passed Earl. They went past a cat. The cat thought they were traveling. As they entered the city there were many people. And they walked, then they went into the woods.

They passed a deer that had nineteen dots.

Mooch was exhausted and fell asleep. Eighteen minutes later … Little Brown started to cry and Mooch woke up. They left to go find the family.

Mooch heard them and Little Brown trusted Mooch. They found the bird family! Little Brown whistled and they cheered. He flew up to them and felt joyful. They waved and migrated away. He said goodbye.

He fell asleep in his cozy bed by the fire.


“South”: By Kai Mwarey, age 10

There once was a tree full of birds who sang beautifully. Suddenly the birds stopped and flew off. Then the last leaf fell off of the tree. The leaf just kept falling and falling. Then it fell on a little bird named Gunner. He was sleeping when it happened. Gunner was confused. He looked up and whistled. He looked around and saw no birds.

Unexpectedly he looked up and saw Mooch. Mooch explained what happened. Gunner cried and shook his head, but Mooch cheered him up. Mooch assisted Gunner so he could find his way home.

Mooch and Gunner were on a journey. Gunner trusted him to go where they needed to go. They passed Earl, then they passed a cat named Mr. Fluffypants. They entered the city and Gunner was thinking there are a lot more than nineteen people here.

Gunner and Mooch were on the road. The road was their guide. They walked though the forest. Then they saw a deer. It was beautiful, Gunner said.

Mooch was exhausted. He knew he had to keep going, but he knew the answer was sleep. Mooch went to sleep. He was cozy on that log. When Mooch went to sleep Gunner was so surprised. Gunner started crying, then Mooch woke up.

They started walking to find Gunner’s family. Gunner rejoiced with Mooch. They just kept walking and finally Mooch heard singing. They found Gunner’s family! Gunner sings to his family. They’re all celebrating! Gunner flies up to his family. Mooch is happy and celebrating for Gunner.

Finally Gunner and his family migrated away. There were a lot more than nineteen birds. Mooch whistled his last goodbye. Mooch got home to his bed by the fire and went to sleep.


Interested in checking out South or other children’s picture books by Patrick McDonnell? Browse multiple titles (and get find signed copies) at the MUTTS Shop!

Comments (2)

I loved these comments from young children in Alaska. It says a lot about the good prospects for the state, when young people are creative.
I’ve been a MUTTS fan ever since the strip began. [Los Angeles, California] April Hutchings

Thank you so much. They enjoy writing their stories.

Susan A. Smith