Archive | January 2013

Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Section 1 Assignment

writingpicturebookscoverIf you are reading WRITING PICTURE BOOKS along with me, I hope you are humming along and have been able to find some of the picture books cited, as well as your “good” and “bad” example books to type out. I had a little trouble finding a good “bad” example (if that makes any sense), but finally unearthed one, and a few days ago typed in all 1300 rambling, unstructured words. Whew!

Next week, I will check in about my progress with the first section of the book—Becoming a Picture Book Scholar—and would love to hear from you about your progress as well. Have you found it helpful to type out a manuscript or two? What are your thoughts about the chapter?

As a reminder, below is the assignment for this section. My advice is, don’t skip this assignment. The good and bad manuscript examples that you type now will be used throughout the rest of the book, and of course you will want a manuscript of your own to work on as you do the exercises she recommends. I’m taking the easy way out on that one and using a story I wrote last year that I want to revise, rather than writing something completely new.

Section 1—Before You Write Your Story

Assignments for Chapter 1: Becoming a Picture Book Scholar

– Spend time reading picture books (especially those mentioned in Writing Picture Books)

– Choose a published book you love, and one that you think doesn’t work (both published in the last 5 years). Type out the text of both books.

– Read a new picture book

– Write a draft of a picture book (if you don’t already have one)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Mañana Iguana

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

manana_iguanaTitle: Mañana Iguana

Author: Ann Whitford Paul

Illustrator: Ethan Long

Publisher: Holiday House

Year: 2004

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Working together; friendship; fairy tales & fables

Opening: 

On Monday, lunes, Iguana twitched her tail happily.

“Let’s celebrate spring with a party on Saturday.”

Conejo hopped up and down. “Yes! Let’s!”

Tortuga poked out of his shell.

“A fiesta? On sabado? Count me it.”

Culebra shook his rattle. “Me too!”

“Good!” said Iguana. “We must start right away. Who will help me write the invitations?”

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Iguana is planning a fiesta. Tortuga the tortoise, Canejo the hare, and Culebra the snake all want to come, but they don’t want to help. The lazy trio lose out in this clever update of the story of the Little Red Hen with a Mexican twist. Glossary of Spanish words.

What makes it great: This unique retelling of The Little Red Hen story, set in the desert and featuring Spanish-speaking desert animals, is at once familiar and fresh.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old really loved this story. She latched on to the Spanish words and has been calling one of her stuffed animals ‘Culebra.’ As a parent, I liked that this retelling of the story ends with the other animals helping Iguana clean up, and then sharing the leftover party food with her. To me, it’s a more satisfying ending than some retellings which simply end with the Hen character eating all the food herself.

What a writer notices: I checked this book out of the library as part of my study of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. She references quite a few picture books, including several of her own, and I was happy to find this one on the shelf.

This story is truly delightful, and I so admire how the author incorporated multiple hooks into the story. This is at once a Little Red Hen retelling with a unique setting (hook), a book about a party (hook) a book that introduces Spanish vocabulary (hook), and a days-of-the-week book (hook). Yet none of these feel forced. Instead, they all seem to be a natural part of the unfolding of the story.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

A crossword puzzle from the publisher, Holiday House, with some of the Spanish words from the book:

http://www.holidayhouse.com/docs/Manana%20Iguana%20Activity%20Shee.PDF

Pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading ideas, including a bibliography of Little Red Hen retellings:

http://meesterc.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/manana-iguana.pdf

A mural project for kindergarteners:

http://www.deepspacesparkle.com/2009/09/21/tortuga-time/

Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Bibliography

writingpicturebookscoverI’m busy reading chapter 1 of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS and working my way toward the exercises Ann Whitford Paul recommends: typing out a “good” and “bad” published manuscript – I have the books, but haven’t actually typed them yet.

One of the things I intend to do during my study of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS is to read as many as possible of the picture books she cites as examples. I was surprised to find that my copy did not include a bibliography. Ann Whitford Paul posts about this on her website, and includes a complete bibliography there. However, for ease of use I have created a list of book titles organized by chapter. I’m hoping that, plus inter-library loan, will help me (and you, if you are reading along) efficiently collect as many as possible of these examples.

Books in bold type are cited two or more times in the book.

WRITING PICTURE BOOKS References

Chapter 1: Becoming a Picture Book Scholar

That’s Good! That’s Bad by Margery Cuyler

The Best Place to Read by Debbie Bertram

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson

Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

Big Help! by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

Owen by Kevin Henkes

I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst

Nadia the Willful by Sue Alexander

Whale Song by Tony Johnston

All You Need for a Beach by Alice Schertle

Ducky by Eve Bunting

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

The Magic Kerchief by Kirby Larson

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse

Rotten Ralph series by Jack Gantos

Chapter 2: Building a Frame for Your Story House

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

A Hole Is to Dig by Ruth Krauss

All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle

I See Myself by Vicki Cobb

If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul

Everything to Spend the Night by Ann Whitford Paul

B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC by June Sobel

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The Alphabet Atlas by Arthur Yorinks

Chapter 3: Telling Your Story—Part One

Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus

Little Mouse’s Big Valentine by Thacher Hurd

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf by Jon Scieszka

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman

The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting

Nettie’s Trip South by Ann Turner

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

Written Anything Good Lately? by Susan Allen

Chapter 4: Telling Your Story—Part Two

Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul

Mañana, Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul

Sit, Truman! by Dan Harper

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

I Am the Mummy, Heb-Nefert by Eve Bunting

Heartland by Diane Siebert

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.

Being Friends by Karen Beaumont

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison

Chapter 5: Telling Your Story—Part Three

The Wall by Eve Bunting

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

The Bat Boy & His Violin by Gavin Curtis

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Ruby in her Own Time by Jonathan Emmett

Chapter 6: Creating Compelling Characters

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Curious George Gets a Medal by H.A. Rey

Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos

No, David! by David Shannon

Olivia by Ian Falconer

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson

Owen by Kevin Henkes

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

Loud Emily by Alexis O’Neill

Mary Veronica’s Egg by Mary Nethery

Go to Bed, Monster! by Natasha Wing

Everything to Spend the Night by Ann Whitford Paul

Mañana, Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul

Always and Forever by Alan Durant

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen Winnick

The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Fiesta Fiasco by Ann Whitford Paul

Count on Culebra by Ann Whitford Paul

Tortuga in Trouble by Ann Whitford Paul

Chapter 7: Diving Into Your Story

A Mouse Told His Mother by Bethany Roberts

A Chair for Baby Bear by Kaye Umansky

Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee

It’s My Birthday, Too! by Lynne Jonell

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell

River Friendly, River Wild by Jane Kurtz

Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul

Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen Winnick

It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma! by April Halprin Wayland

The Spider Who Created the World by Amy MacDonald

The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson

George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra

Dadblamed Union Army Cow by Susan Fletcher

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Little Monkey Says Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul

Chapter 8: Creating Fabulous First Lines

No books recommended

Chapter 9: Three-Act Structure—Basic Plotting

Ming Lo Moves the Mountain by Arnold Lobel

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Mary Veronica’s Egg by Mary Nethery

The Hatmaker’s Sign by Candace Fleming

Do Like a Duck Does by Judy Hindley

Chapter 10: Holding Your Story Together

I.Q. Goes to the Library by Mary Ann Fraser

Owen and Mzee: A True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff

The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall

Just Like My Dad by Tricia Gardella

Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi

Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet by Ann Whitford Paul

Cornhusk, Silk, and Wishbones: A Book of Dolls from Around the World by Michelle Markel

Everything to Spend the Night by Ann Whitford Paul

B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC by June Sobel

Count on Culebra by Ann Whitford Paul

Hippity Hop, Frog on Top by Natasha Wing

Dadblamed Union Army Cow by Susan Fletcher

A Year Goes Round: Poems for the Months by Karen Winnick

The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork by Ann Whitford Paul

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin, Jr.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Mañana, Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul

Chapter 11: Does Your Story Make It to the End?

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Little Monkey Says Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul

Fables by Arnold Lobel

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Three French Hens by Margie Palatini

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Chapter 12: Two Ss of Strong Writing

How Much Is a Million by David Schwartz

Chapter 13: Rhyme Time

No books recommended

Chapter 14: Making Music with Your Prose

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

Go to Bed, Monster! by Natasha Wing

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Sholom’s Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became A Writer by Erica Silverman

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes by Floyd Cooper

Something to Tell the Grandcows by Eileen Spinelli

Rupa Raises the Sun by Marsha Wilson Chall

Pages 154 and 155 have a long list of Ann Whitford Paul’s favorite poetry books.

Chapter 15: The Importance of Word Count

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

The Mousery by Charlotte Pomerantz

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul

160-162 have lists of board books, picture books, and longer picture storybooks with their wordcounts.

Chapter 16: Grabbing the Reader with a Great Title

Many books listed here in the discussion on effective titles.

Chapter 17: Cut and Paste—Researching the Market

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen Winnick

Hello Toes! Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul

That’s Good! That’s Bad by Margery Cuyler

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Chapter 18: Sharing Your Story

No books recommended

Chapter 19: Becoming a Detective—Researching the Market

No books recommended

Chapter 20

Craft books:

Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Story Sparkers: A Creativity Guide for Children’s Writers by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones

I’d Rather Be Writing by Marcia Golub

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Chico the Brave

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

chico_the_brave_coverTitle: Chico the Brave

Author/Illustrator: Dave Horowitz

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-8

Themes: Courage

Opening: Once upon a time, in the mountains of Peru, a chick was born who was afraid of everything. [Yikes!] An when I say he was afraid of everything—I mean he was afraid of everything. This poor little guy was even afraid of his own shadow. [Help! I’m being followed…]

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Chico is afraid of everything, even his own shadow. His dad tries to bolster his confidence by telling him about the legendary Golden Chicken, but Chico doesn’t believe anyone could be that brave. So he sets off into the mountains to find the Golden Chicken, certain that the heroic bird will give him advice. Instead, his quest leads him to something he definitely wasn’t seeking–an adventure! Before he knows it, he’s soaring through the sky to the very place where a courageous hero is most needed–his own hometown, where the dreaded Llama Llama Gang is turning things upside down.

What makes it great: The quirky storyline and deadpan humor, plus a setting that gives the tale a mythical quality.

What readers notice: Both my 7- and 3-year-old enjoyed this story a lot and have asked to re-read it multiple times. They loved the idea of little Chico flying in to rescue the whole village and save the day.

What a writer notices: I really love how this book is crafted. Details that seem whimsical at first become essential to the storyline, and everything comes full circle in the end. I also enjoyed the author’s use of speech bubbles which added a lot of humor to the storyline without becoming too unwieldy for a read-aloud (which I often find true of books that incorporate speech bubbles).

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Book trailer: http://www.horowitzdave.com/movies.html

A preschool lesson plan about bravery: http://teachers.net/lessons/posts/2404.html

Bravery Badges: http://www2.crayola.com/lesson-plans/detail/bravery-badges-lesson-plan/

Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Ready, Set, Go!

writingpicturebookscoverA few years ago, when I first started thinking I might be able to write a picture book, I bought a copy of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. If you ask any picture book writer for a list of her favorite craft books, this one’s usually on it.

I parked it on my bedside table, ready to read. That night, I soaked up the wisdom of her first chapter, right up to the end, and large box that said “Before You Go On.” Her first recommendation: Spend time reading picture books. Yes. Check. I do that all the time. Her second recommendation: Choose a published picture book you love, and one that is dreadful. Type out the manuscripts. Wait. No. I’m in my jammies. It’s 10:45 pm. Sorry, Ann. I can’t do that right now. I’ll just keep reading and pretend I did that assignment.

Chapter two. More wisdom. But at the end, another assignment: Before you go on, write a story question and answer for the story you wrote. Write one for your good and bad published manuscripts. Uhhh… Now it’s 11:15. I didn’t write a story. I didn’t type any manuscripts. Can I just pretend I did that assignment, too?

After a month of reading, but no actual doing, the book ended up on my shelf with my other craft books. Occasionally I dip into a chapter here and there when I am stuck on a story and want to pretend I’m doing something useful. I did actually type up a couple of manuscript samples at one point, but never really studied them in the way she recommends. And I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that I just didn’t get as much out of that book as I could have

As I was looking around for a good project that would help me grow as a writer this winter, I thought about WRITING PICTURE BOOKS. Maybe I should read it again – but this time, instead of just reading, I should DO the book. And maybe I should track my progress here, publicly, just to up the stakes a little bit.

Amazingly, I’ve managed to rope a few writer friends into doing this with me. So are you ready? Stretch your fingers. Get your library card ready. Let’s read!

Tentative Check-in Dates

I plan to post weekly about the book, but will do an official progress “check-in” every 2-3 weeks. I anticipate some of these dates might change as work and life get in the way, but here’s a rough schedule:

February 5 check in — Section 1: Before You Write Your Story

February 26 check in — Section 2: Early Story Decisions

March 12 check in — Section 3: Structure of Your Story

March 26 check in — Section 4: Language of Your Story

April 9 check in — Section 5: Tying Together Loose Story Ends

April 23 check in — Section 6: After Your Story Is Done

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Bringing Down the Moon

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

bringing_down_the_moon_coverTitle: Bringing Down the Moon

Author: Jonathan Emmett

Illustrator: Vanessa Cabban

Publisher: Candlewick

Year: 2001

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-8

Themes: Perseverance; friendship

Opening: “Hot diggety!” exclaimed Mole as he burrowed out of the ground one night. “Whatever’s that?”

The moon was hanging in the sky above him, like a bright silver coin. Mole thought that it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Mole thinks the moon is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and he wants to have it for his own. But as his friends Rabbit, Hedgehog, and Squirrel remind him, some things are not as simple — or as close — as they look! A lyrical text and cozy woodland illustrations portray this mole on a mission with gentle humor and charm.

What makes it great: The simple yet unpredictable storyline, a repetitive phrase, and gentle, encouraging characters make this a wonderful read. I also love stories where the reader knows something the main character doesn’t.  There’s a lot of humor that can be mined there, and with this book Jonathan Emmett struck gold.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old found this book very appealing. She liked seeing what Mole would try to get the moon down, and enjoyed the climax when Mole thinks he’s knocked the moon to the ground and broken it.

What a writer notices: I love the fact that the animal characters are true to their animal natures: Mole, a digger, has never seen the moon before; Hedgehog is a little prickly when he is awakened by Mole’s activity; Squirrel is playful.

I also appreciated the author’s use of a repetitive phrase. Each character gently explains to Mole that he won’t be able to bring down the moon because “It’s not as close as it looks.” This comes full circle in the end when Mole finally realizes that he won’t be able to capture the moon and acknowledges that “It’s not as close as it looks.” Having Mole repeat the phrase at the end brings the story full circle and adds an element of wry humor.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

See some interior illustrations, and read an extensive author’s note:

http://www.scribblestreet.co.uk/pictures/mole1/mole1.html

A lesson about identifying the problem and solution in a story:

http://www.readworks.org/sites/default/files/bundles/lessons-gradek-plot-lesson-4.pdf

This blog has discussion questions appropriate for toddlers on this topic:

http://toddlerbrain.blogspot.com/2009/08/bringing-down-moon.html

A science lesson on how distance affects perception of size:

http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/12sun_littlemoon.html

Finally Ready for 2013

Holiday hoopla: done. Sinus infection: defeated. School: begun. I am finally ready to start 2013 — just 9 days late.

Here are some of my reading and writing goals in 2013:

– Participate again in the 12×12 picture book writing challenge. I completed 12 picture book rough drafts in 2012. In 2013, my goals are slightly different — I’d like to complete at least 6 new drafts, and also revise 6 (or more) manuscripts from this year.

writingpicturebookscover– Focus on writing craft by reading some of the craft books on my shelf. I tend to graze through these books rather than read them in a systematic, structured way. To support this goal, I will be hosting a read-along on my blog for WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. I’ll do an official launch post next week, and will have the first check-in on February 5. If anyone wants to read along with me, now is a good time to dig out the book, find it at the library, or order it.

– Attend the SCBWI New England conference in May.

– Write and SUBMIT more poetry.

– Delve into chapter books by reading, reading, reading. I’ll also be lurking around the Chapter Book Challenge in March, though don’t plan to write a chapter book just yet. An outline would be a nice accomplishment, though.

– Do more submitting to contests including the Highlights fiction contest in January, and any contests held in the Children’s Writer newsletter this year. I’m also considering the NAESP contest in March and the Southwest Writers Conference contest in May. I’d love to hear from anyone with experience with these contests.

– Continue to review picture books for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

– Begin, tentatively, to submit some manuscripts…

– …and see where the year leads me.