Friday, February 19, 2016

Breaking the Picture Book Rules

In my last post, I listed research questions I consider while reading oodles of picture books. I'm excited to discover mentor texts that inform my writing. And I love finding books that break current picture book rules. In a recent stack of library books, I found a mentor text and the ultimate rule breaker wrapped up in one story.

Have you read ONCE UPON A RAINY DAY by Edouard ManceauThis picture book falls into the category of meta-fiction, much like "Chloe and the Lion" by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.

During my first read through I wondered - How did the author get away with this? Because he’s the author/illustrator. Because it’s not his first book. Because he’s French.

I read the book again and realized - Because Edouard Manceau is brilliant!

Where are the characters?
The story begins:
“This is the story of a story that starts over every day, each morning the same way.”

Okay at this point, you might be thinking what I thought the first go around. How did Manceau get away with not introducing a character in the first sentence?

The story continues:
“Mr. Warbler, the keeper of this story, is about to step outside his cottage in his fine feathered suit.”

Great, we have a character. But this passive sentence tells us what’s going to happen and how Mr. Warbler looks. Lights flash - RULE BREAKER. But check out the illustration. Where is Mr. Warbler? As you turn the pages, neither Mr. Warbler or the other characters pop up in the illustrations. This may not appeal preschoolers who need pictures of the characters to help them navigate the story.


Children will have fun illustrating the characters using the descriptive language in this story
Paper Bag Puppets 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gearing up for Reading for Research Month

#askkidlit Tweet with Editor Alison Weiss
I'm gearing up for Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) created by Carrie Charley Brown. Why? Because of a question that I posed to Editor Alison Weiss at Sky Pony Press.
Me: "I think it's easier for an author/illustrator to break PB rules, than author only. What do you think?"
Editor Alison: "I don't know about that. I think everyone needs to prove they know the rules before they can break them."

Calvin loves picture books with animals
Why do I participate in ReFoReMo?  
Only by reading hundreds of picture books each year will the structure and rhythm be second nature to me. Then I can break the rules with the knowledge that I broke them for a reason. Breaking rules because I don't know or don't understand them does not make me a creative writer.

I read through my stacks of PBs for:
Main Character - Who is leading this story?
Want - What does the MC want? 
Stakes - What if the MC doesn't get the want?
Obstacle - What’s standing in the way ?
Tries - How does the MC try?
Ta Da! - How does the MC succeed
Ending - Satisfying and/or twist?

Because one stack is never enough
Great first line - Tone meets the unexpected
Last line - Does this line echo beginning?

Does the character have an emotional arc? 
Does the character change?

Does the MC connect with someone or something within the story?
Does the MC connect with me the reader?

And The Most Important Question
Will this picture book be a great mentor text for me?

Join me this March for ReFoReMo. 
Registration for #ReFoReMo 2016 is coming February 15! 
#picturebook #writers #giveaway @carriebrowntx @kirsticall