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 


  1. Charming. Thanks for posting. I'll want to read Manceau for myself, but it's surprising what will intrigue children, with & without THE rules.
    Have your read BJ Novak, The PB With No Pictures? Kathleen Pelley, Magnus Maximus, The Marvelous Measurer? I thought our grandson might have been too young for the Magnus story in classic style with big words. At the end, the child got my measuring tape out of the junk drawer and began to measure - everything. Makes me wonder who's rules they are. :-)

    1. Pam, Thanks for your comment. As a graphic artist in a previous life, I appreciate "The PB With No Pictures." I have not read "The Marvelous Measurer" - adding it to my TBR list. I view the rules as a starting point, then I stretch as far as I can from that point.


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