Q and A with Susanna Leonard Hill about THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT. It RuMbLeS into bookstores on July 25th

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Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

 

SLH - Book Cover

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

 

I’m excited to share this fantastic new book with you! THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT is Susanna Leonard Hill’s newest picture book, coming out on July 25th.

She has been quite the busy lady as two of her other books came out in the past few weeks. Her blog hops have been so much fun to follow!  WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH both look terrific.

The blog hop shenanigans continue with a SPECIAL PRIZE to be raffled off among anyone who comments on every single blog tour stop, so don’t miss a single fascinating installment!

And don’t forget to share on social media.  The hashtag we are using to promote the book is #trucksontour.  Every time you share a post on Face Book, Twitter or Instagram using #trucksontour you will get an entry into a raffle where 3 winners will each get a $25 Merritt Bookstore and Toystore gift card.

Make sure you comment below to win a prize!!

I was lucky enough to catch Susanna for a moment to ask her a few questions about her book. Please enjoy this brief Q and A and make sure you stop by the book store and grab all of her books!

Q and A with Susanna:

Angie

Hi Susanna,

I thought of your wonderful, new picture book, THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT, as I was driving this summer and hit miles of road construction. What inspired you to write this book?

Susanna

Okay.  Call me nuts, but I have always been fascinated by heavy equipment! 😊 Seriously! I love the huge tires, the caterpillar tracks, the giant dumper beds, the buckets and claws and rock hammers and noise – not just the mighty roar of the engines, but that beepbeepbeep when they back up.  They look and sound so busy and important, always hard at work making something.  I am not kidding when I tell you that when I was three I was fully committed to a career driving a steam roller.  And call me nuttier, but I love the smell of hot asphalt… maybe because I grew up in New York City.  Anyway, along came my son who apparently inherited my love of big machines and for a couple years that was all he could talk about, and all he wanted to read about.  Since at that point a career in driving a steam roller seemed unlikely, I decided I’d like to write about road building even if I wasn’t actively participating in it 😊

 

Angie

You have obviously done lots of research on each type of truck. Did you find it challenging to add in facts, yet keep it fun and flowing for young readers?

Susanna

I think a lot of young readers, like me and my son, find big trucks inherently interesting!  Facts about them are fun by definition 😊 The main challenge I faced was selecting the most salient, age-appropriate facts to represent each vehicle while also keeping the story moving forward.  For example, it would have been very interesting to say exactly how much weight a bulldozer can shove… but it wouldn’t have fit the story as well as simply stating that its job is to shove stuff out of the way.  When choosing the facts, it’s a balancing act between what moves the story, which facts are age-appropriate (3 year olds can more easily comprehend that a bulldozer’s job is shoving things out of the way then that they can move however many tons of dirt and rock because the concept of specific weight is a little beyond them yet) and, in the case of a rhyming manuscript, what you can say and how you can say it and still fit the rhyme scheme and meter.

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Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

Angie

My two nephews will absolutely love this, as BIG trucks are all the rage at their playgroup. What is your target age for this book?

Susanna

In my mind, the target age was 2-5, and I think that came through pretty well, especially with Erica’s cute and friendly art.

 

Angie

My husband is a Civil Engineer in Indiana and has worked with all of these big trucks for years. How did you decide which trucks to include?

Susanna

I wanted to tell a story of trucks working together to build a road, so I chose trucks that would be involved.  Some machines, like bulldozers, work at a variety of jobs.  Other machines, like graders and paint markers, are much more specific to road building.  I wanted to include as many that were specific to road building as possible, while also including a few other important multi-dimensional vehicles that were necessary for building a road even if that was not all they were good for.  In addition, this manuscript is one of a series of three.  The others also rely on a number of heavy machines working together to create something.  I didn’t want to use the same machine twice, so they are divided between the three manuscripts.  That’s why, for example, there is no dump truck in this story… it’s in one of the others 😊 Whether or not the other two stories will see the light of day undoubtedly depends on whether or not this story sells well so… fingers crossed! 😊

 

Angie

The illustrations are so much fun! I love how the illustrator, Erica Sirotich, brought them to life with expressive faces. Did you get to collaborate with her on this process?

Susanna

No!  I didn’t get to collaborate with her at all!  I didn’t see the art until it was pretty much finished.  But I think it’s really cute!  I love the way the book came out.  My favorite things are the pink bulldozer with the flower in her exhaust pipe and the little construction-worker birds 😊

SLH - Book pages 2

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

Angie

This is a rhyming picture book. What challenges did you face with meter and rhyme?

Susanna

It was tricky!  Words like “bulldozer” are not made to fit easily into rhyme 😊 But I was basing my rhyme on the familiar House That Jack Built rhyme, so I had a framework to stay within.  Rhyming, to me, is a little like a puzzle – a word puzzle! – one of the reasons I like it so much.  I enjoy the challenge of playing with words until I get the right combination in the right order.  It’s important to keep the story moving forward without padding in extra lines just to make the rhymes work.

 

Angie

I know you have had two more books come out recently. Please tell us about them.

Susanna

So nice of you to ask 😊 Yes!  On July 11 WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH and WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES had their book birthdays.  LION is about a lion who does NOT want to take a bath.  ELEPHANT is about an elephant who gets the sniffles.  Both stories try to turn something that kids sometimes find unpleasant into something fun by putting the child in control and by making the whole situation silly.

 

Angie

What other books have you written and do you have any more truck books planned for the future?

Susanna

Aside from LION and ELEPHANT, other titles include:

THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT (Little Simon 2002)

TAXI! (Little Simon 2005)

PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS (Holiday House 2005)

NO SWORD FIGHTING IN THE HOUSE (Holiday House 2007)

NOT YET, ROSE (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers 2009)

AIRPLANE FLIGHT (Little Simon 2009)

FREIGHT TRAIN TRIP (Little Simon 2009)

CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP (Walker Books 2010)

APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! (Holiday House 2011)

BEER IS ZO MOE (Veltman Uitgevers 2011 – Dutch only)

 

Forthcoming:

WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT (Little Simon January 2, 2018)

WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON’T GO TO BED (Little Simon Fall 2018)

ALPHABEDTIME! (Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Books, Spring 2019)

MOON DREAMS (Sourcebooks Spring 2019)

 

As I mentioned above, I have more truck books planned for the future – 2 of them at the moment! – but I don’t know how the publisher feels about that! 😊

 

Angie

Thanks for sharing this fun info on THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT! We look forward to reading more of your books in the future!

Susanna

Thank you so much, Angie!  And thank you so much for having me here today!  I so appreciate it!

 

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Bio:

Susanna is the award-winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese.  Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A BathWhen Your Elephant Has The Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built will be published by Little Simon in July 2017.  When Your Llama Needs A Haircut (Little Simon) and Alphabedtime! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books) are forthcoming in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 respectively, with additional titles coming in 2018 and 2019.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Links:

Website: http://www.susannahill.com/HOME.html

Blog: http://susannahill.blogspot.com

Face Book Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaLHill

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/SLHill1

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=26268678&locale=en_US&trk=tyah&trkInfo=tas%3ASUSAN%2Cidx%3A2-1-2

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/102248907287284628149/posts/p/pub

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/susannaleonard/

Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course):http://susannahill.com/for-writers/making-picture-book-magic/

Remember to use #trucksontour

 

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Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon
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2018 Rhyme Revolution Conference Registration is OPEN! Plus other fun stuff

RR Conference Badge updated

Rhyme Revolution has come to an end but the rhyming fun

and opportunities are just beginning!

But first,

If you participated in Rhyme Revolution 2017 copy and paste this badge and share it proudly on your website and on social media! Please add #rhymerevolution to your post.

Congratulations on completing another year of learning and rhyming fun!

THANK YOU everyone for another successful year!

Angie

First bit of  exciting news!!

I have been busy contacting a few agents and editors this month and have more submission opportunities for writers of rhyme!

Starting June 1st, my manuscript critiques will receive a star rating (from 1 – 5 stars) based on the quality. An author who receives a 5 star rating on a rhyming picture book manuscript will be invited to submit to a growing list of agents and editors interested in reading manuscripts with the Rhyme Revolution stars.

You can purchase a manuscript critique HERE.

*As I am receiving quite a lot of manuscript critique requests, I will only accept a limited number per month and then put you on a waiting list or bump you to the next month, so I can respond in a timely manner. As stated above, the rating system begins June first but you may purchase a critique now and it will qualify for this opportunity. 

This is SO exciting and will hopefully improve the reception and quality of rhyming manuscripts.

Interested agents and editors may contact me at Angie.karcher@yahoo.com.

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Second exciting opportunity…

Now that Rhyme Revolution is over, are you ready to focus on writing a rhyming picture book manuscript?

Registration is now open for The Rhyme Revolution Online Writing Classes.

The classes run June – November and fill up fast as I only accept 5-7 people per class. I’m offering less classes this year as I have several projects going on so, don’t delay if you want a spot!

I always bring in an accomplished author who writes rhyming picture books to do a Q and A the last week of class.

We do a weekly webinar on Google Hangout and you will receive daily lessons via a private Facebook group for the class. You can look at the lessons at your convenience so it works well for those with busy schedules.

I offer a private face-to-face critique to each class member that will include the starred rating system opportunity.

The classes often continue as a rhyming critique group after the month ends.

It is a fun, low key class yet packed full of tons of info and links to keep you reading for weeks if you follow up.

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Third opportunity…

Sign up for a rhyming critique group!

The deadline to comment is May 5th.

First, you must join the Rhyme Revolution Facebook Group. The post is pinned at the top of the feed. Comment there and you will be registered for a rhyming critique group!

Make sure we are friends on Facebook (If not, send me a friend request) and I will add you to a private Facebook critique group.

Once you are in the group you will see the guidelines and organize yourselves. Each group will need an organizer (so comment as well if you will volunteer to get things started) to keep everything organized. This position can rotate as you decide. Once this group is set, you are on your own to keep it going. We have had many successful rhyming critique groups and I am happy to facilitate these again this year!

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And finally…

What you’ve been waiting for…

RR Conference Badge updated

Registration for the Rhyme Revolution Conference

is open!

CLICK HERE for more information!

Limit of 50 people!

Pay in full or make bi-monthly payments.

An amazing faculty at this 4 day Rhyme Revolution Conference!

Lisa Wheeler

Jill Esbaum

Miranda Paul

Lori Mortensen

Agent Adria Goetz with Martin Literary Management

Editor – TBA very soon!

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Last, but not least…

Congratulations

Week 4 Prize Winners

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Week 4 

Monday – Katie Engen – THE STORY BOOK KNIGHT by Helen and Thomas Docherty

Tuesday – Maria Marshall – THE FRECKLE FAIRY by Bobbie Hinman

Wednesday – Sherry Howard – MONSTER TRUCKS – by Anika Denise

Thursday’s Winner – Maritza M. Mejia – OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS by JESSICA Petersen

Friday’s Winner – Jennifer Broedel – THE GIRL WHO THOUGHT IN PICTURES by Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley

 

Thank you for reading the blog posts and commenting daily!!

Everything has been mailed out.

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for these generous book donations!!

 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 20 ~Asia Citro of The Innovation Press ~ Rhyming Picture Book Submission Request

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Thank you so much, Angie, for the opportunity to introduce

myself to everyone here!

I’m Asia, the publisher behind The Innovation Press, and I love rhyming books.

LOVE them.

As a parent, I love how engaging rhyming books are for children (hidden bonus: I don’t get tired of reading them 9023840384 times).  As an educator, I know how valuable they are to the development of language and reading skills.  Which is why, as a publisher, I actively seek rhyming submissions.  This year we have ten titles coming out and three of them are written in rhyme.   So far we have two more rhyming books slated for 2018…and there’s space for more.

All that to say, I am definitely excited to meet all of you!  I was thrilled to discover Angie’s event to teach the craft of rhyming.  Because it definitely is a craft!  Writing a children’s book is hard enough without the additional layer of making sure the rhyme and meter work perfectly without losing any of the content or character development in your story.

In terms of what I’m looking for in a submission — I love manuscripts that tell a creative and/or quirky story.  I am always really excited to see books that have an original approach that I haven’t seen before.  As a former teacher, I also value manuscripts that have some sort of learning involved (whether it be character learning or academic learning).  If you take a peek at our 2017 books, you’ll see I have a bit of a penchant for hybrid texts — books that combine non-fiction and fiction.  Oh and I also love manuscripts that make kids laugh.

Though we are a newer press, we have international distribution and foreign rights representation.  Our books are found in stores, shops, libraries, and schools all over the world and in several different languages.  We are also a member of the Children’s Book Council and we are an SCBWI PAL Publisher.

If you think you have something that would be a great fit for us, we’d love to see it!  You can find our submission guidelines on our website here.

And last, but definitely not least, I’m giving away two of our 2017 rhyming picture books.  OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS came out last month and is both written and illustrated by debut author (and SCBWI member) Jessica Petersen. THE GIRL WHO THOUGHT IN PICTURES is the first book in our new rhyming biography series, Amazing Scientists, that highlights the lives and achievements of amazing women scientists.

Thanks for so much for having me and HOORAY FOR RHYMING BOOKS!

Blue Stars

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 19 ~ Bobbie Hinman ~ Self-Publishing a Rhyming Picture Book

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These award winning rhyming picture books

are written by Bobbie Hinman

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Self-Publishing a Rhyming Picture Book

by Author Bobbie Hinman

 

“What do you mean you’re going to start a publishing company?

You can’t do that!”

That’s what I heard when I announced to my friends and family that I was going into the publishing business. Let’s face it—self-published books are often held to a higher standard than those from traditional publishers. The market is flooded with indie books, many of which, I’m sad to say, are of inferior quality. Now, add to the equation the desire to write and publish a rhyming children’s book and the plot thickens (pun intended).

When writing a rhyming book, whichever way it is published, it’s important to remember that the major aspects of writing for children hold true no matter whether the stories are written in prose or in rhyme. However, if you choose to self-publish, you, and you alone, are responsible for overseeing every aspect of the creation and production. First, and of utmost importance: You must produce a quality book! But before you can do that, you must have a good story. Before that, you must have a good idea. And before that, you have to know what children like and how they learn. In other words, you have to think like a child and write like an adult. So, how do children think? Here are a few thoughts to guide you:

            Children are:

  • Excited when good things happen to the characters

  • Self-centered, enjoying stories that relate to them

  • Emotional, often falling in love with story characters

  • Living in the present, unable to relate to stories that span too long a time period

            Children love:

  • Illustrations with bright colors

  • Happy endings

  • Relatable descriptions, such as “soft as a kitten”

  • Adjectives, especially funny ones, such as “a hurly-burly monster”

            And:

  • Children love rhymes!

Yes! Children love rhyming books and are often able to memorize a rhyming story after hearing it just a few times. They also love to guess the last word of a rhyming line. Often, when reading to a class of kindergarten children, I will read a line from my book, such as “When evening comes and you turn off the light, it’s time to climb into bed for the ______.” I pause and let them fill in the word “night.” They are always very proud of themselves.

Remember: The basic story creation is the same whether you are writing in prose or in rhyme. After you have your idea, you need to create a character with whom children will identify and a compelling story that has a beginning (the character and situation are introduced), a middle (the storyline progresses) and an end (resolution to the situation). If these elements are missing, the story is incomplete. That is why I always write my story in prose first, then create the rhyme. If a rhyming book has lovely rhyming text, but no story, children won’t “get it.” However, on the other hand, if the story is wonderful, but the rhyming is “off,” that is just as bad. Poor rhymes can be as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard. The words must really rhyme; you can’t force it. If words don’t rhyme, they don’t rhyme! Then, there’s the rhythm. The rhythm pattern should be consistent throughout the book. A rhyme without rhythm doesn’t work. Sometimes simply adding or deleting one or two extra syllables can make a huge difference, but you really have to be able to feel it. If you are having difficulty with your own rhyming and rhythm, remember my advice: A story written in good prose is much better than one written in poor rhyme.

Do your homework first. Read lots of rhyming books. See what children are reading. Then think like a child, but write like an adult.

One blue star

Bobbie

Bobbie Hinman has a B.S. degree in Elementary Education. The combination of her teaching experience and time spent with her thirteen grandchildren has given her insight into the way children think and the stories they love to read. Bobbie has been a speaker and presenter at numerous schools, libraries and book festivals all across the United States and in Canada. Her 5 rhyming picture books have received a combined total of 25 children’s book awards. In her new book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book, Bobbie tells you how she self-published and sold over 50,000 copies of her books. Her picture books are titled The Knot Fairy, The Sock Fairy, The Belly Button Fairy, The Fart Fairy and The Freckle Fairy. The premise of her books is simple: Who better to blame it on than a fairy? You can see more about Bobbie and her books at http://www.bestfairybooks.com

Bobbie 2

Buy it Now

Blue Stars

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Time with Angie ~ THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann

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Today we are celebrating

 THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT

by Penny Parker Klostermann

Penny Parker Klostermann Image 3

This was the Best in Rhyme Award Winner for 2015!

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Spend a few minutes listening to Penny read this story

and then…learn how to make your own dragon game!

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Click HERE to hear Penny read

THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT

at the KidLitTV Studio!

 Penny ib KidLitTV

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Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Dragon Craft

Make your own dragon game!

Dragon Game

Right click, copy, paste and print the template above.

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HERE are more ideas for dragon fun on Penny’s website.

Want to purchase this adorable book?

Dragon

Buy it Now!

 

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I’m excited to share some good news…

I’ve been offered a craft segment on KidLit TV called

KidLit Crafts with Ms. Angie! 

I’m so excited to work with Julie Gribble and the KidLit TV team!

Watch for more info coming soon!

 

KidLit TV logo - new

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 17 ~ Diana Murray ~ Revise Like a Pirate!

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Ned the Knitting Pirate image

Ned the Knitting Pirate

by Diana Murray

Illustrated by Leslie Lammle

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Honor Book

Grimelda

By Diana Murray

Illustrated by Heather Ross

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Diana!

2016-best-in-rhyme-logo

See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Revise Like a Pirate!

By Diana Murray

So you’ve finished your rhyming picture book manuscript. The words seemed to pour out onto the page straight from your heart. Ah, what a magnificent draft. How you admire it. Tis’ a thing of beauty. Now…stop being a lilly-livered landlubber and get yer cutlass ready! Time to revise like a pirate!

Remember the Arrrrrr’s of a good story:

  1. Rhythm: Picture books are usually meant to be read out loud. One reason I like writing in meter is that it gives the text a song-like quality. When you set the meter, it gives the reader a nudge to read with a certain rhythm. Reading your own story out loud can help ensure your rhythm is smooth. As a second step, have someone else read your story out loud and see if anything trips him/her up. Rework problem spots until your story can set sail smoothly. For example, a couplet in NED THE KNITTING PIRATE originally read: “The pirates were a rugged lot—as fierce as they were strong./And one day, as they swabbed the deck, they sang this pirate song:”

My editor thought that sounded bumpy. When I read it myself, I put a lot of stress on “one”, so it sounded OK to me. But a few crit partners mentioned the issue as well and I didn’t want any pesky barnacles slowing down the story. So I simply changed it to: “The pirates were a rugged lot—as fierce as they were strong./And as they swabbed the deck one day, they sang this pirate song:” It was a small tweak, but it established the rhythm more clearly, keeping things moving along regardless of individual pronunciation.

PIRATES

Avast!

Just because you want the meter to scan clearly doesn’t mean you should let things get monotonous. Does every line end with a period in the same place? Are you using any enjambment? Are you varying the way you break up your lines? Using substitutions can also help. For example, even though NED is written in iambic meter (ba/DUM), I sometimes eliminate the first unstressed syllable, like this: “The whole crew turned and stared at Ned. The ship was deadly quiet./“Yarrrh,” said Ned. “I likes to knit. Ye might too if ye try it.”

One reason I think it works in this case is that the first line has a feminine ending. That is, it has an unstressed syllable at the end (“QUI/et”). So omitting an unstressed syllable before “Yarrrh” doesn’t feel jarring.

Having variation like this is a bit more of an advanced technique. You can just go with your gut and see what feels right. If you want to read more about the technicalities, here is a good article (I personally found it extremely helpful): http://learn.lexiconic.net/meter.html

Another way to vary the rhythm (although less common) is to include poems within poems. For example, in NED, the pirates sing sea shanties. I set these off in a different meter (anapestic, ba/ba/DUM) from the rest of the writing: “We’re pirates, we’re pirates, out sailing the sea./We do what we likes, and we likes to be free.”

On a side note, these lines are also “headless”. That is, I omitted the first unstressed syllable at the start of the line, so that the rhythm is, ba/DUM ba/ba/DUM ba/ba/DUM. When I began writing many years ago, I always wondered why I was driven to eliminate the first unstressed syllable in anapestic meter. After some research, I discovered that it’s commonly done because it better mimics natural spoken language.

  1. Rhyme scheme: Pick a rhyme scheme and stick with it. But never let the rhymes commandeer your story! Story always comes first. You don’t want your rhymes to sound twisted or unnatural or to scream “mutiny”. Also, be aware of using only obvious rhymes. It’s fine to rhyme house with mouse and bee with tree, but including some surprising rhymes (or simply multi-syllabic rhymes) can add interest and punch to the story.

  1. Repetition and Refrain: It’s sometimes useful in a story to have an event/action happening over and over again. In NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, Ned keeps trying to change the words to the pirates’ sea shanty and is met with disapproval from the Captain each time–thus building tension. You can also consider using a refrain, a repeated phrase that children can join in on, thus enhancing potential for a fun read aloud. And just like rhythm, the refrain can have a bit of variation to keep things from getting boring. In my story the pirates keep singing a song but the lyrics change slightly.

  1. Rest: Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break from your manuscript. Why not throw down anchor for a while? Write something else, take a walk, drink some grog. I wrote a first draft of NED in 2010. I liked the concept, but the story didn’t feel quite right. There wasn’t enough conflict and the ending wasn’t satisfying. I couldn’t make it work. After some initial crits and attempts to revise, I finally set it aside. I didn’t look at that manuscript again for close to two years! With fresh eyes, suddenly everything was clear to me. It was almost like reading a manuscript that wasn’t my own. I started relentlessly revising without hesitation, making filler words, story tangents, and so-called “darlings” walk the plank!

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I hope this helps you revise like a pirate. Oh, and don’t forget to give your story a nice, strong hook! Yarrrrrrh!

One blue star

Diana Murray image

Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a motley crew of pets. Diana’s poems have appeared in children’s magazines such as Highlights, High Five, Spider, and Ladybug. Diana is the author of children’s books including CITY SHAPES, NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA THE VERY MESSY WITCH, GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, and many more. http://www.dianamurray.com

 

Blue Stars

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 16 ~ Helen Docherty ~ Rhyme Schemes

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The Storybook Knight

The Story Book Knight

Written and Illustrated by

Helen and Thomas Docherty

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Helen and Thomas!

2016-best-in-rhyme-logo

See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Rhyme Schemes

By Helen Docherty, author of The Snatchabook

and The Storybook Knight

I’m going to start with a confession: I never actually set out to write in rhyme. The first stories I wrote were in prose. But when the idea for The Snatchabook came to me – and it came pretty much fully formed – the story itself seemed to dictate that it should be written in verse. I knew that I had to create an atmosphere of suspense and mystery, and to draw the reader in from the very beginning of the story. Writing in rhyme seemed an effective and natural way to achieve this.

Helen 1

One dark, dark night in Burrow Down,

A rabbit called Eliza Brown

Found a book and settled down…

When a Snatchabook flew into town.

This opening 4-line stanza is written in monorhyme (the last word in each line rhyming with all the other last words) for a specific purpose; to foreshadow the events of the story and to link the two main characters, Eliza and the Snatchabook (who will, of course, eventually become friends). The first and fourth lines introduce an element of suspense, suggesting to the reader that something scary is about to happen. The middle two lines, in contrast, present an image of cosy domesticity; however, the fact that they are enclosed by the first and fourth lines warns us that Eliza’s bedtime routine is about to be disrupted. Monorhyme should, in general, be used sparingly (to avoid becoming tedious), but it can be an effective device in the right place.

The rest of The Snatchabook follows the more conventional AABB rhyme scheme:

Helen 2

In every house, in every bed,

A bedtime book was being read.

Tales of dragons, spitting flames;

Witches, playing spooky games;

Pirates, on the seven seas;

Princesses, trying to sleep on peas.

From a personal perspective, I find this rhyme scheme (and meter) quite lulling – suitable for a bedtime story. It seems to encourage a slow reading, with each line being savoured. Of course, the pace can be upped for moments of high drama:

Helen 3

She threw the window open wide

And shouted to the Thing outside:

“Stop stealing all our books, right now!

Just give them back, I don’t care how!”

Within the constraints of a rhyme scheme, you can always try to surprise the reader with an unexpected rhyme. For example:

[And so, the Snatchabook began]

To give back all the books he’d picked.

Eliza Brown was very strict.

Incidentally, in the original (UK) version, I’d used ‘nicked’ – a colloquial British term for stolen – rather than ‘picked.’ Some words get (literally) lost in translation!

The Storybook Knight (which was in the 2016 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List) employs a different rhyme scheme (ABAB, or alternate rhyme):

Helen 4

Leo was a gentle knight

In thought and word and deed.

While other knights liked fighting,

Leo liked to sit and read.

I find this rhyme scheme more conversational and a little jauntier than AABB, so it felt more suitable for the story of Leo, forced to undertake a quest by his pushy parents. I particularly like the way that the final rhyme in each 4-line stanza can deliver a punchline, or subtly subvert the rest of the verse:

Helen 5

One morning, Leo’s parents said

They’d like to have a chat.

There was nothing wrong with reading,

But he couldn’t just do that!

They’d seen an ad that morning

In their favorite magazine.

A dragon needed taming!

Leo wasn’t very keen.

When I start writing a new story, there is often a particular rhyme (and not necessarily the first) that comes into my head, and which then dictates the rhyme scheme of the book. For example, when I had the idea for Abracazebra, the story of a goat who is jealous of the zebra who arrives in his sleepy village and starts performing magic shows (to everyone else’s delight), I started with just two lines:

Helen 6

Abracazebra? I smell a rat.

You can’t trust an animal with stripes like that!

As the story took shape, new lines grew around the original two, which actually come about two thirds of the way through the story:

So he started to whisper in people’s ears,

Conjuring up their darkest fears:

“Abracazebra? I smell a rat.

You can’t trust an animal with stripes like that!

You don’t see stripes on a pig or a cow…

…So why should we welcome stripes here now?”

Like The Snatchabook, Abracazebra follows the AABB rhyme scheme, but with more syllables in each line. Sometimes, it can be fun to add a twist to a rhyme scheme. My latest rhyming story, You Can Never Run Out of Love (out September 2017) is written in a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, but with a refrain that follows a different pattern, with an internal rhyme (call it CCD). Here is an example:

Helen 7

You can run out of time.

You can run out money.

You can run out of patience,

When things don’t seem funny.

BUT…

You can never (no never, not ever)

You can never run out of LOVE.

By breaking with the original rhyme scheme and introducing a refrain, the central message of the story is reinforced, and the key word (love) is given its own, un-rhymed status. When reading the story aloud to elementary school children, I’ve found that they naturally join in, saying the word ‘love’ at the end of each refrain; and I think that the rhyme scheme encourages them to do this.

Finding the right rhyme scheme for each story can be tricky, but it’s also fun and ultimately satisfying, as is finding the right words to rhyme. Good luck if you are writing your own rhyming story!

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Helen Docherty Head shot

Before becoming an author, Helen used to teach Spanish and French. She also has an MA in Film and Television Production. Helen has lived and worked in France, Spain, Cuba and Mexico, and now lives in Swansea, Wales, with her husband, the author and illustrator Thomas Docherty, and their two daughters.

Her first rhyming story, The Snatchabook (illustrated by Thomas Docherty), has been translated into 17 languages. In 2014 it won an award voted for by school children. It has also been staged as a play and even as an opera, by a school in Canada.

The Storybook Knight (2016) is Helen and Thomas’s latest book together. Helen’s next rhyming story, You Can Never Run Out of Love (illustrated by Ali Pye), is coming out in September 2017.

Twitter: @docherty_helen

Facebook: @HelenDochertyAuthor

 

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

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Congratulations

Week 3 Prize Winners

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Monday – Patti Richards – GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES by Deborah Underwood

Tuesday – September Cardiff – LEONARD’S BEARD by Nancy Cote

Wednesday – Mary Warth – THE RHINO WHO SWALLOWED A STORM by LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo

Thursday – Susan Schade – ROCK-A-BYE ROMP by Linda Ashman

Friday – Linda Evans Hofke – SUN KISSES, MOON HUGS by Susan Schaefer Bernardo

 

Thank you for reading the blog posts and commenting daily!!

I will stick these in the mail next week. I have your addresses via registration.

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for these generous book donations!!

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 15 ~ Eric Ode ~ Repetition

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Too Many Tomatoes

By Eric Ode

Ilustrated by Kent Culotta

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I Will Repeat Them in a House. I Will Repeat Them with a Mouse.

by Author Eric Ode

It’s an off-balance feeling. That sensation that comes with international travel, when we’ve put ourselves in a place where the language, sights, and customs are unfamiliar. The street signs, the storefronts, the conversations on the sidewalk… Nothing looks or sounds quite like we expect. Then, when the familiar does come along – a Starbucks in Rome or an English-speaking pedestrian in Cusco – it jumps out with the intensity of a spotlight.

Familiarity grounds us. Comforts us. Gives us confidence. I think this helps explain why repetition is such a powerful and effective element in picture books – and in rhyming picture books especially. While a story’s vocabulary, setting, and characters might be new and confusing, repetition provides the child with something reassuring.

Think about that child you know who learned to “read” Green Eggs and Ham before they could read Green Eggs and Ham. It didn’t take many bedtimes with Sam and his floppy-eared friend before “I will not eat them with a…,” was tucked in that child’s back pocket like a shiny pebble.

Or consider the enthusiasm that erupts from the story time circle when the librarian shares Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The children know that line is coming. They expect and look forward to it. And when it does, they join in with pep rally enthusiasm.

Repetition works! Repetition, whether the child knows it or not, is often what makes one particular story a favorite, the book a child goes back to again and again until Daddy is ready to hide it under the couch.

So how and where do we put repetition to work in our own writing?

For starters, pages can open with a repeated line. Several pages in Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama begin with the book’s title.

Repetition can roll around someplace in the middle of the stanzas like in Ogden Nash’s The Adventures of Isabel. (“Isabel, Isabel didn’t worry, Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.”) This repetition builds a framework for the story, like the repeating beams of a skyscraper.

Of course lines of repetition can wrap up a page. (All together now! “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”) There’s Patricia Thomas’ “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” (“Oh, please. Don’t sneeze!”) Or one of my favorites, Reeve Lindbergh’s There’s a Cow in the Road. (“Then the cow looks at me, and the cow says, ‘Moo!’ And the next thing I know, there’s a ______ there too!”)

In their delightful I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, Janeen Brian and Ann James take the last line of each stanza and repeat it in a chant-like fashion.

I’m a dirty dinosaur

with a dirty snout.

I never wipe it clean.

I just sniff and snuff about.

SNIFF, SNIFF, SNUFF, SNUFF, SNIFF AND SNUFF ABOUT!

Placed at the end of a page, repetition can build anticipation. What’s going to happen next?

Repetition can be scattered about the story like splattered paint on canvas. My own Too Many Tomatoes repeats the title seven times over the course of the story, sometimes at the beginning of a stanza, other times in the middle or at the end.

Still other books – Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, for instance – are built almost entirely upon repetition.

Do you have a rhyming picture book manuscript that’s feeling less-than-grounded? Three words: Repetition, repetition, repetition. When it comes to picture books, familiarity does not breed contempt but contentment.

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Eric Ode is the author of ten picture books including the rhyming picture books Dan, the Taxi Man; Busy Trucks on the Go; and Too Many Tomatoes (Kane Miller Books) and Bigfoot Does Not Like Birthday Parties (Sasquatch/Little Bigfoot Books). A multiple award-winning songwriter for children and a former elementary teacher, Ode travels throughout the country sharing his stories, poetry, and music at schools, festivals, and education conferences. Visit www.ericode.com.

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 14 ~ Nancy Cote ~ Birth of a Story

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Leonard’s Beard

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Cote

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Nancy!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Birth of a Story

by Nancy Cote

Leonard’s Beard, was destined to be written in rhyme.  On the day the seed for the story was planted in my mind, the wind was blowing hard.  It was a beautiful, sunny, Fall afternoon and my husband had just come home from work.  He entered through the door in my studio.  The wind caught the door and slammed it against the wall.  A powerful gust of wind entered the room blowing my notebooks and folders to the floor.  My two dogs scrambled to get to them before I could.

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One of the folders that contained photos I had taken of my neighbor Leonard in his writing studio, spilled out under trampling dog feet.  As I distracted the dogs and gathered the pictures up from the floor, my husband asked if I’d gotten to rake any leaves in the yard.  I guiltily answered no, as I continued sorting the photos and placing them back into a folder titled “Leonard.”  Glancing once again at the photos, I started to smile and my mind began racing.  I thought about the leaves I hadn’t raked and mentioned to my husband with a laugh, that I didn’t have to rake.  The leaves would all find their way to the bottom of the hill and into Leonard’s yard anyway.  At that moment, the thought expanded.  I imagined if Leonard was standing outside in his yard, that whatever would blow downhill just might land in his beard.  Since my eccentric neighbor wore a large red beard, everything might get caught and trapped in that beard.  I literally felt the rhythm of the day bouncing in my head as the first line of the story was etched in my mind.  “Below a great hill, in a house by a bog, lived a writer named Leonard, his dogs, and a frog.”  It was the rhythm of the day, and in that moment, I didn’t choose a writing style as much as the rhyme chose itself.

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There was no question that this stormy story sang a song.  The story of a writer who loses his direction, then finds it due to a wind storm, blew into my imagination and was set free on the wings of rhyme.

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Leonard’s Beard, is essentially about living in the moment and not losing sight of what’s important to you.  Through joyful language and pictures it reminds us that it doesn’t have to take a wind storm  to be yourself, but sometimes it helps!

Nancy 3

I’ve written eight picture books and three of them were written in rhyme.  I believe that instinctually you know through the characters, subject matter and intent of the story, what style of writing will compliment that story.  Like a symphony, music is intended to convey a mood, and I believe writing style does the same.

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If you allow yourself to be free of overanalyzing and controlling, the expression will come naturally.  That is the magic.

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Nancy Cote, an award winning Children’s Book Author / Illustrator, has illustrated over forty picture books and has written eight of her own.

Her stories, illustrations, paintings and poems have been featured in many exhibits, collections and children’s magazines throughout the U.S.  She is currently earning International recognition for three picture books she illustrated for Ariella Books of Berlin, Germany.

She was featured at the University of Southern California Book Festival having illustrated the first three books of the ReadConmigo award winning series of bi-lingual books and is a full member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Currently she is being represented by the Liza Royce Agency in NYC.

Nancy earned a B.F.A. in Painting at U. Mass, Dartmouth and worked part-time in the children’s department of the Swansea Library for sixteen years, until she ventured out as a freelance author/illustrator with the encouragement of her husband Mike, and her family.  She works full-time from her home studio in the historic village of Somerset, MA.

www.nancycote.com

nancycote@blogspot.com

twitter @nancycote31

Facebook: Nancy Cote

SCBWI > members-public > nancy-cote

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Rhyme Time with Angie ~ Ned, The Knitting Pirate by Diana Murray

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Today we are celebrating

NED, THE KNITTING PIRATE

by Diana Murray

Ned the Knitting Pirate image

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read

NED, THE KNITTING PIRATE

Then…learn how to make your own pirate eye patch!

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Click HERE to hear 

NED, THE KITTING PIRATE

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Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make your own pirate eye patch!

Skull and Crossbones

Copy and paste above for the template or click HERE for the free clip art Skull and Cross bones.

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HERE are more ideas for pirate fun on Diana’s website.

 

Want to purchase a few of Diana’s books? 

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Watch for more Rhyme Time

every Wednesday in April.

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RR Classroom Challenge 2017

Check out more National Poetry Month Challenges for Libraries, Classrooms and Families HERE.

Librarians, teachers, parents and kids…please comment below

to be eligible to win a prize.

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 12 ~ Rebecca J. Gomez ~ Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

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Ninja Chicks image

Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Illustrated by Dan Santat

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Honor Book

Congratulations Corey and Rebecca!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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More Than Rhyme: Using Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

by Rebecca J. Gomez

There’s something special about a good rhyming picture book. When you read it, the words roll off your tongue in a rhythmic cascade, making it a real pleasure to read aloud. But there is more to a good rhyming picture book than its flawless meter and rhyme.

What makes a rhyming picture book more than a good story that rhymes is the way the author uses language. When an author uses poetic techniques beyond rhyme and meter in the text, it becomes less like a rhyming story and more like poetry.

Here are some ways that you can use poetic techniques to make your rhyming picture books truly shine.

Assonance, consonance, and alliteration. Using these in your writing is like sprinkling your manuscript with “ear candy.” When used well, these poetic techniques add fun and flavor to your text.

Internal rhymes. These can be delightful surprises, like the cream filling in cupcake!

Check out this example from TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum for an example of alliteration and internal rhymes:

Brothers tumbled, bumble-jumble,

as they stumbled for the door.

“Don’t you worry, kid. We’ll save her!”

Off the seven toadies tore.

(TEENY TINY TOADY also has a lot of fun onomatopoeia.)

Onomatopoeia.  These little words and phrases can show a lot with just one word! Consider the words pop, scritch, or bang. Each of them gives you an impression of something happening behind the sound, such as a balloon bursting, a fingernail scratching, or a door slamming shut.

Repetition. Using repetition in your writing can build tension, create emphasis, or encourage young readers to anticipate what is coming.

Simile and metaphor. Both of these devices will help you be concisely creative. A well-placed simile or metaphor can affect mood, describe a setting, or evoke an emotion. In the following example from HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, the metaphor is used for humor:

The fox said, “Surrender?

No way, chicken tender!”

Emotive language. This is what I think of as showing while telling. Using the right words to tell WHAT is happening can serve double duty by eliciting an emotional response. Word choice is key; think beyond the literal. Consider this line from WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?:

He spotted and jotted down

all imperfections

while marching around

doing careful inspections.

The phrase “marching around” shows Moose’s state of mind as he’s inspecting his friends’ work.

Imagery. Your words are meant to paint a picture. In a rhyming text, your goal should be to create an image in your readers’ minds using the fewest words possible. It’s often the surprising, clever combinations of simple words and phrases that evoke the most vivid pictures! Consider this stanza from BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson:

An itty-bitty mouse

pitter-pat, tip-toe,

creep-crawls in the cave

from the fluff-cold snow.

Do you see the tiny mouse sneaking into the cave? Can you see the fluffly snow and feel the chill? All of this was accomplished with very few brilliantly used ordinary words (and a few other poetic techniques as well).

I encourage you to read a lot of rhyming picture books, and make note of the various poetic techniques employed in each. Are there any that work especially well for you? Any that seem overdone? Then put poetic techniques into practice in your own picture book manuscripts!

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Rebecca headshot

Rebecca J. Gomez is the coauthor, along with Corey Rosen Schwartz, of two rhyming picture books, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? and HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys working in her art journals, hiking through the woods, and hanging out with her family. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, three kids, two poodles, and one parrotlet.

 

twitter (@gomezwrites)

website www.rebeccajgomez.com

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 11 ~ Deborah Underwood ~ Musicality of Words

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Goodnight

Goodnight, Baddies

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Juli Kangas

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Deborah!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Musicality of Words

by Deborah Underwood

For many years, I sang with a chamber choir that performed new compositions. This was a joy—and sometimes a challenge. On occasion, we’d sing through a newly-composed piece for the first time and it would be obvious that the composer was used to writing for instruments, not voices.

The giveaway? The word stresses and the musical stresses didn’t align, making the text difficult to sing.

If you tap out the musical beats while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” you’ll see that the beats line up with the accented syllables of the words. Because of this, singing the song is natural and easy:

ROW, ROW, ROW your BOAT, GENT-ly DOWN the STREAM
Now substitute text that has the same number of syllables but different stresses. You might get this:

ROW, ROW, YOUR boat GENT-LY down THE stream, OH!

Try singing that gracefully!
When text stresses and musical stresses align, a song flows. If I have an ear for rhyme, I suspect it’s partly due to my years of singing in choirs. I’ve internalized rules of rhythm and word stress by singing well-set texts for decades.

Good lyrics can teach us a lot about writing good rhyming picture books. You don’t need to be a singer to benefit: all you need to do is read a libretto, or study a well-written song, or go to a musical.

When I was around 10, I saw my first Gilbert and Sullivan show and was delighted by the text’s cleverness. In The Mikado, the ruler has decreed that anyone caught flirting will be beheaded. A town official explains:
This stern decree, you’ll understand,

Caused great dismay throughout the land!

For young and old

And shy and bold

Were equally affected.

The youth who winked a roving eye,

Or breathed a non-connubial sigh,

Was thereupon condemned to die –

He usually objected.

 

Even without knowing the music, you can hear how this verse dances. (The playfulness is also a big selling point for me. In another song, they are forced to keep coming up with rhymes for “executioner”—my favorite is “Don’t blame me/I’m sorry to be/of your pleasure a diminutioner.” Silly!!)
Another treasure trove: the songs of the British duo Flanders & Swann. Here’s a link to one of my favorites, Ill Wind, for which they took the music of one of Mozart’s horn concertos and added their own text:

For Ill Wind click here

And of course many Disney musicals have fabulous lyrics. Who can resist Beauty and the Beast’s “Gaston” and its classic line “I’m especially good at expectorating”—take that, all you folks who think we need to simplify vocabulary for kids. Or have a listen to one of my favorites, the soaring “Out There” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

 

And Hamilton! There’s a whole four-year self-study course in rhyme and rhythm right there.
If you’re musically inclined, try writing (or borrowing) a melody and singing your picture book text to see how it flows. You can even go a step further: after I finished Good Night, Baddies, I wrote and recorded a lullaby based on the text. It was a fun addition to the book trailer and a nice freebie download for readers.

For Lullaby click here   

So when you’re looking for mentor texts, by all means read rhyming picture books. But stretch your feelers farther, too—there’s a lot to be learned from our talented colleagues in the music business.

And if you think this means you can write off your Hamilton tickets, you won’t get any argument from me.

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Debra headsot
Deborah Underwood is the author of numerous picture books, including Interstellar Cinderella, Good Night, Baddies, and the New York Times bestsellers Here Comes the Easter Cat, The Quiet Book, and The Loud Book. Her upcoming books include Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten (June) and Here Comes Teacher Cat (August). She lives in Northern California with her feline muse, Bella. Visit her online at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com.

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Congratulations

Week 2 Prize Winners

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Monday – Kirstine E. Call – Copy of MARY HAD A LITLE GLAM by Tammi Sauer

Tuesday – David McMullinCopy of A FAIRY FRIEND by Sue Fliess

Wednesday – Nadine PoperCopy of HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Thursday – Jill Proctor – Copy of HEY,COACH by Linda Ashman

Friday – Mona Pease – Copy of MONSTER TRUCKS by Anika Denise

 

Thank you for reading the blog posts and commenting daily!!

I will stick these in the mail next week. I have your addresses via registration. 

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for these generous book donations!!

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 10 ~ Anika Denise ~ Scanners vs. Scribblers

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Monster Trucks

by Anika Denise

Illustrated by Nate Wragg

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Anika!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Scanners vs. Scribblers

by Anika Denise

Do you love writing in rhyme, but don’t know your iamb from your elbow?

Guess what? You’re not alone. Plenty of writers approach rhyming texts instinctually — without being fluent in the fundamentals of metrical structure or systems of scansion.

Just as there are “plotters” and “pantsers” in novel writing, we rhyming picture book folks may be similarly sorted out to scanners vs. scribblers. Scanners can identify poetic meter in seconds flat, dashing off slash-and-breve notation with dizzying precision. Scribblers rely on their ear to “hear” the beats of a line, and go with what sounds right.

I’m more of the latter. I studied poetry in college, but am woefully out of practice when it comes to analyzing metrical structure. I don’t open up a file on my computer and say, “I think I’ll try this one in dactyl hexameter.”

But after my rhyming story is roughed out on the page, an essential step in my revision process is to go back and scour the manuscript, line by line, to make sure every word scans perfectly.

So what the heck is scansion, anyway?

Scansion is the process of identifying stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. When a trusted critique partner or editor says a line isn’t scanning correctly, it means that a word has been forced into an unnatural role, with the stress (or accent) on the wrong syllable. Or, there isn’t a consistent pattern of word stress within the sentences of a stanza to guide the reader.

If you ask someone to read your text aloud and they stumble, it signals a scansion problem. Here’s where a little slash-and-breve work can be helpful. Mark the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line as they would be in the dictionary, and compare it to where you are putting the stresses when you read it. Where the two don’t match up, revise.

A brush-up on the basics (for the scribblers among us)

Meter: An arrangement of words in patterned units

Foot: A unit of meter with one stressed syllable, and one or more unstressed syllables. Lines are named according to their number of feet.

Monometer: one foot

Dimeter: two feet

Trimeter: three feet

Tetrameter: four feet

Pentameter: five feet

Hexameter: six feet

Some common poetic patterns of syllabic stress:  

Anapest: two short or unstressed syllable followed by one long or stressed syllable (unstressed/unstressed/stressed )

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!

            There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.

 

Dactyl: one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables (stressed/unstressed/unstressed)

One berry, two berry, pick me a Blueberry.

 

Iamb: a short syllable followed by a long syllable (unstressed/stressed)

 

            A Fool might once himself alone expose,

            Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.

 

Spondee: two accented syllables (stressed/stressed)

 

            Cry, cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go.

 

Trochee: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one (stressed/unstressed)

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Combining syllabic stress patterns and number of feet in a line is what gives us metrical structure.

The good news is, you don’t have to be able to recite these definitions to write rhyme that scans properly. But like my grandma always said, “It helps to know what you don’t know.”

Mapping meter and scansion encourages us to approach revisions to rhyming text methodically. When you can identify metrical patterns — the established rhythms and beats of your text — then you can also identify when you stray from those patterns. If breaking from the established pattern is intentional (and effective), then stick with it. Otherwise, revise.

Say you are writing a rhyming picture book about a young girl collecting ingredients from her garden to make a savory pie for her family.

Here’s a sample stanza:

Crispy carrots, onions, peas.

            Fresh produce is plucked with ease.

            No need to tug, or yank or pull.

            Just dig and SNIP!

            Now my basket’s full.

So, apart from being, well… all around pretty bad, there are big problems with word stress and scansion in this stanza. The most glaring being the word “produce” would be pronounced “pro-DUCE” in the current meter. Produce is a homograph (a pair of words spelled the same way, but with different meanings) rendering the line nonsensical, or at the very least, confusing.

Taking it line by line, the first line of the stanza is trochaic; then we have the word stress issue in the second line, then it switches to iambic at the third line… and the result is a bit of a muddled meter mess.

Looking at the stanza holistically, there are other issues beyond scansion. “With ease” is a weak rhyme. (Let’s make a promise to each other: if we find ourselves having to throw in “with” anything — ease, glee, delight, fright — to make a line work, we’ll revise it, okay? Good. I’m glad we had that chat.)

Also: “tug,” “yank” and “pull” all mean the same thing, which makes the line feel forced, and doesn’t serve the narrative. And to get really nitpicky (see what I did there?) peas are “plucked” from a low growing vine, while carrots and onions are dug up from the ground. Any vegetable gardener worth his or her salt knows this. It’s important to be precise and credible. Kids are especially good at sniffing out discrepancies like this in picture books. So are editors.

Okay, so evidently I’m a little more of a scanner than I thought. But in truth, I think anyone dedicated to writing successful rhyming picture books is both a scanner and a scribbler. We rely partly on metrical study, and partly on cultivating a well-tuned ear.

Either way, with practice, you will begin to wield meter to do all sorts of wonderful things in your stories—to add humor, build tension, capture a mood, and otherwise DAZZLE with your daring (but disciplined) verse.

Write on!

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Anika Denise is the author of several critically acclaimed books for young readers, including three illustrated by her husband, Christopher Denise: Baking Day at Grandma’sBella and Stella Come Home, and Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel). Publishers Weekly pronounced her latest picture book, Monster Trucks, “a mash up made in heaven,” in a recent starred review. Coming soon is Starring Carmen (Abrams 2017); The Best Part of Middle (Henry Holt, 2018), and a few more she can’t mention yet — but is super excited about. Anika lives in Rhode Island with her husband, three daughters, overgrown vegetable gardens, pesky squirrels, and a slew of imaginary friends. Visit her online at anikadenise.com and on Twitter @AnikaDenise.

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 9 ~ Linda Ashman ~ Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

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Hey Coach

by Linda Ashman

Illustrated by Kim Smith

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Linda!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

by Linda Ashman

Hello! Thanks for inviting me here to chat about Hey, Coach!, and about meter—an aspect of rhyme-writing that can cause a fair amount of confusion and angst.

But first, the book. Hey Coach! was inspired by my son’s first experience playing soccer years ago, and by his patient and good-natured coaches. In writing the story, I wanted to capture the energy, humor and everyone-speaking-at-once chaos of a young soccer team’s first season. The text is written entirely in dialogue—no description, no he said/she said attributions, just the voices of the kids themselves.

The story begins with the first practice:

Hey, Coach!

Guess what?

I’m on your team.

Can we be blue?

No, red!

No green!

 

Let’s be the Tigers.

No, the Sharks.

The Unicorns.

The Bears.

The Sparks!

(Notice the off-rhyme in the first stanza? I generally try to avoid them, but this one—team/green—sounded okay to me.)

It then proceeds through all seven games. Each one presents a new challenge, whether it’s a thunderstorm, wardrobe malfunctions or injuries:

Ouch!

My nose.

My knee.

I’m stung.

I bumped my head.

I bit my tongue.

 

I’m sick.

I slipped.

I stubbed my toe.

Uh, Coach—

I really have to go.

To show the team improving over time—without having to say so in the text—Kim Smith’s illustrations include a scoreboard for each game. Over the course of the season, we see the team’s losses get narrower until—finally!—they win their last game. The book ends with the kids gathered around the coach:

Hey, Coach—

I’m sad.

Our season’s done.

I love this game.

It’s so much fun.

 

I’ll play next year.

Can’t wait till then—

 

Can I be on your team again?

It’s a tribute to coaches—one that I hope will resonate with kids and parents as well. I also hope that teachers will use the book as a way to discuss dialogue, and encourage their students to write their own dialogue-only stories.

And now, on to that other topic . . .

Meter

Like many beginning picture book writers, I wrote my first manuscripts in rhyme without knowing a thing about meter. And—not surprisingly—I racked up the rejections. Learning about different metric patterns (and about poetry generally) made a huge difference in my writing.

Meter—the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a text—determines the rhythm and tempo of your verse. Well-done, metrically-consistent verse is pleasing to the ear, whether it’s soothing and lyrical or bouncy and energetic. Inconsistent meter, in contrast, can be jarring and discordant.

Here’s a quick rundown of four common metric forms (noted as either rising or falling):

Iamb (rising)

One unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.

Examples: to/DAY, be/GIN, de/PART, en/DURE, Ma/RIE, Lou/ISE

I Hatched

Hey, Coach! is written in iambic, as is Jill Esbaum’s terrific book I Hatched! (illustrated by Jen Corace). Here’s how it begins:

A patch of light!         

One final peck.           

I give a shove and s-t-r-e-t-c-h my neck.

Then—CRACK!

Ta-da!

My head pokes through.

At last, I’m hatched!

Hello, what’s new?

Anapest (rising)

Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.

Examples: com/pre/HEND, un/der/STAND, in/ter/JECT, in/ the/ BOWL, Em/my/LOU

Before

Joyce Sidman’s beautiful book Before Morning (illustrated by Beth Krommes) is written primarily in anapest:

In the deep woolen dark,

as we slumber unknowing,

let the sky fill with flurry and flight.

 

Let the air turn to feathers,

the earth turn to sugar,

and all that is heavy turn light.

Trochee (falling)

One stressed syllable followed by one unstressed (it brings to mind a drumbeat, itself a trochaic word).

Examples: FRIEND/ship, AW/ful, PUMP/kin, GAR/den, BASE/ball, ED/gar, PE/ter, LO/is.

Goodnight

Deborah Underwood’s Good Night, Baddies (illustrated by Juli Kangas) is written in trochaic verse. Here’s how it starts:

Sun dips down; the day has gone.

Witches, wolves, and giants yawn.

Queen and dragon, troll and gnome:

tired baddies head for home.

Dactyl (falling)
One stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.

Examples: UN/der/wear, DI/no/saur, LUL/la/by, POR/cu/pine, EL/e/phant, REG/in/ald, EL/in/or

I’ve yet to come across a book written entirely in dactyl (if you’ve seen one, let me know!), but I included it here because you’ll sometimes find it combined with trochaic verse. In general, rising and falling meters can be combined in a pleasing way but, again, it’s important to be consistent about it.

How do you know if your meter’s consistent? By scanning your verse, noting the stressed and unstressed words and the number of feet in each line (a “foot” is one unit of meter).

To learn more about meter (and about poetry and rhyme more broadly), I always recommend two books: Poem-Making by Myra Cohn Livingston (clear and concise) and The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry (very comprehensive and entertaining).

Happy Writing!

(Which, I’m sure you noted, is a trochaic phrase.)

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Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty-five picture books including, most recently, Ella WHO?, illustrated by Sara Sánchez (Sterling 2017), Henry Wants More!, illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes (Random House, 2016), and All We Know, illustrated by Jane Dyer (HarperCollins, 2016), which Kirkus called “simply beautiful” in a starred review. Her next rhyming picture book, William’s Winter Nap, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, comes out with Disney-Hyperion in October. She’s also the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how-to” ebook for picture book writers. Linda lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, two dogs, and—on school breaks—their college-age son.

Website

Group Blog

Facebook

Twitter (infrequently used): @lindaashman2

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Rhyme Time with Angie ~ Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks

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Today we are celebrating

HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Hensel

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read

HENSEL AND GRETAL

NINJA CHICKS.

Then…learn how to make your own Ninja Chick!

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RT Ninja Chicks

Click HERE to hear 

HENSEL AND GRETEL

NINJA CHICKS

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RT Ninja Chicks Craft

Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make your own Ninja Chick!

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Here are more ideas for Ninja fun on Corey and Rebecca’s websites.

Want to purchase these books? 

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Watch for more Rhyme Time

every Wednesday in April.

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RR Classroom Challenge 2017

Check out more National Poetry Month Challenges for Libraries, Classrooms and Families HERE.

Librarians, teachers, parents and kids…please comment below

to be eligible to win a prize.

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The Rhyme Revolution Auction ends this Friday, April 14th at Midnight CST!!

There are lots and lots of donated goodies left!

Click HERE for a peek!

 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 7 ~ Author Sue Fliess ~ It’s NOT About the Rhyme!

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A Fairy Friend

by Sue Fliess

Illustrated by Claire Keane

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Sue!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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It’s NOT About the Rhyme!

By Sue Fliess

It’s not about the rhyme. It never is. Well, at least, it never should be.  But what it always is about is the story. Or at a very basic level, it’s about the idea you’re trying to convey with words. Writers should think of rhyme as a mechanism or tool—just as illustrations, free verse, graphics, photography, or prose are all ways of telling a story.

My readers ask me all the time, why do you like writing in rhyme? or why do you write in rhyme? And what I tell them is that I always first have an idea or concept for a story. I jot down those ideas, characters, or fragments. When I think there is enough to move forward with, only then do I decide on the best way to put that idea on the page. For me, many times it seems that rhyme fits, but other times, rhyme is not the answer. I’ve written many stories in prose that haven’t sold. Twenty out of my twenty-two picture books are written in rhyme. Which may only mean that I’m simply better at writing in rhyme than prose!

One reason this is true is that rhyme forces me to boil the story to its essence more effectively and keeps me from getting too wordy. I like the challenge. It’s like a puzzle and I find it both fun and satisfying. Some find it constraining, and I can certainly vouch for that during revisions! When a critique group member or an editor requests a plot change—I am suddenly a prisoner to my rhyme scheme. Eventually l figure it out, but only because at this point I’m very comfortable writing in rhyme and have grown accustomed to the challenges it poses during revisions.

Another reason I like writing in rhyme is that I’m a very musical person (you may have seen my song parodies about writing), and I think that’s why my brain gravitates towards rhyme. A rhyming picture book is like a song. And just like song lyrics must tell a story in 3 minutes or less, picture book writers must be able to tell their story in as few words as necessary. Rhyme helps me do that.

So, when you are ruminating about a story, figure out all the parts of that story first. If you think it has staying power and you love the idea, pursue it. But I recommend writing it in prose first. Then once you have your story down, ask yourself if rhyme—or another writing mechanism—will serve the story better. If not, stay the course. If you think rhyme will make it more playful or fun or engaging, without giving you a migraine, by all means, give it a shot. You may have to play around a bit with the tools in your toolbox—and I encourage that. You will discover which way is the best way for you. But no matter how you choose to tell it, always keep your eye on the story.

HOW TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN, Sky Pony Press Watch the trailer.

FROM HERE TO THERE, Albert Whitman & Co. Watch the trailer.

Here is a teacher’s guide that may be of interest:

http://www.suefliess.com/a-fairy-friend

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Sue Fliess (“fleece”) is the author of over 20 children’s books including From Here to There, A Fairy Friend, Tons of Trucks, Shoes for Me!, Calling All Cars, and many Little Golden Books. Fliess has also written for The Walt Disney Company. Her background is in copywriting, PR, and marketing, and her articles have appeared in O the Oprah Magazine, Huffington Post, Writer’s Digest, Education.com, and more. Her picture books have received honors from the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, have been used in school curriculums, museum educational programs, and have even been translated into French. She’s a member of SCBWI, Children’s Book Guild of DC, and does book signings, school visits, and speaking engagements. Sue lives with her family and their dog Charlie in No. Virginia. Visit her at www.suefliess.com.
Instagram: suefliess

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Rhyme Revolution Day 6 ~ Tammi Sauer ~ Writing a Rhyming Picture Book Well

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Mary Had a Little Glam

by Tammi Sauer

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Tammi!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Writing A Rhyming Picture Book Well

by Tammi Sauer

My first book, COWBOY CAMP, debuted in 2005. Since then, I’ve had sixteen other books hit the shelves, and I have another twelve under contract. Do you know how many of those books are written in rhyme? One.

I never planned to write a rhymer. This book snuck up on me and demanded to be written. I blame Linda Ashman.

While reading Linda’s writing resource, THE NUTS & BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS, one of the writing exercises caught my attention. It suggested writing a fresh take on a familiar song or rhyme such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Out of nowhere, the words MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM popped into my head. I knew I had to write Mary’s story. And, of course, since “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is written in rhyme, I knew my manuscript needed to follow suit.

This situation was equal parts exciting and flat-out scary.

Sure, I’d read hundreds and hundreds of rhyming picture books, but I’d never considered writing one. I knew a rhyming picture book needed to have all of the other important picture book components, plus it had to actually, you know, RHYME.

First and foremost, I knew I had to give Mary a story. That’s key. The manuscript couldn’t just be one cute and bouncy stanza after another. Each stanza needed to serve a purpose in pushing the story forward.

Once I uncovered Mary’s story, I read—and analyzed!—even more rhyming picture books. I also did a lot of research on writing rhyme. The best resource I have found for this, by the way, is Lane Fredrickson’s site rhymeweaver.com. I seriously cannot believe that goldmine of information is free.

Another thing that I did was go over the manuscript again and again in my head during my morning walks. I pounded out the story’s rhythm with each step. This helped me to make sure I had my accented syllables in the right spots.

Once I felt I had a solid draft that was full of story and fun language and void of inverted syntax and near rhymes, I shared it with my critique group as well as with a few of my other author friends who write in rhyme. I knew that if I was going to send a rhymer Out There, I wanted every word, phrase, and stanza to be as strong as possible.

All of that hard work paid off. MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM, illustrated by the oh-so-fabulous Vanessa Brantley-Newton, received a star from Kirkus. My favorite words in the review? “Sauer’s rhythm never falters.” Yes! My little rhymer also made the 2016 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List.

At the present time, I don’t have plans to write another rhymer, but, if I do, I will blame Linda Ashman.

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Tammi Sauer is a full time children’s book author who also presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 29 picture books to major publishing houses including Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. In addition to winning awards, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. CHICKEN DANCE:  THE MUSICAL is currently on a national tour, NUGGET & FANG was a featured book at the 2015 Scholastic Book Fair, and YOUR ALIEN, an NPR Best Book of 2015, was recently released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, and French which makes her feel extra fancy. You can learn more about Tammi at www.tammisauer.com and can follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

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Congratulations

Week 1 Prize Winners

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Monday – Maria Bostian – Copy of A FAIRY FRIEND by Sue Fliess

Tuesday – Judy Sobanski – Copy of TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum

Wednesday – Elizabeth Saba – Copy of HENRY WANTS MORE by Linda Ashman

Thursday – Arin Wensley – Copy of TRAINBOTS by Miranda Paul

Friday – Maria Oka – Copy of RACE CAR DREAMS and swag – Sharon Chriscoe

Thank you for reading the blog posts and commenting daily!!

I will stick these in the mail this week. I have your addresses via registration. 

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for the generous book donations!!

 

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Registration ends tonight at midnight so register if you haven’t already!

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 5 ~ Sharon Chriscoe ~ Writers, Start your Engines!

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Race Car Dreams

Race Car Dreams

by Sharon Chriscoe

Illustrated by Dave Mottram

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Sharon!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Writers, Start Your Engines!

By Sharon Chriscoe

In many ways writing is like racing. There’s the starting line (the beginning), the race (the middle), and the finish line (the end). If we’ve done our jobs well as a storytellers, our books will zoom right into the victory lane of our readers’ hearts.

One of the most important ways to achieve this goal is with a strong story arc. For us rhymers, there is no difference between a story arc for rhyme versus prose. Story ALWAYS comes first. The rhymes should feel natural, and they should work to enhance your story arc.

Here’s a nice visual I like to use when working on my story arc:

Chart

 

All story arcs begin at the starting line (the beginning), otherwise known as the ‘introduction’ or ‘exposition’. This is where your character, setting, and conflict (or main issue) are introduced.

In my picture book, RACE CAR DREAMS, an adorable little race car is the character, the setting is at the race track where it’s almost nighttime, and his conflict (or main issue) is that he’s tired and ready for bed. Yes, a lot of important details are a wrapped up in these four short lines.

The zooming has stopped.

The sun’s almost set.

A race car is tired.

He’s wringing with sweat.

Once you have your starting lineup set and ready to vroom      it’s time for the race (the middle) to heat up! This is the part of your story where most of the action will take place. Here, you’ll include a rise in your action and the climax.

Sound hard? Don’t worry, it isn’t if you think of it this way: When you watch a race, most of those zip-zooming, heart pumping, sitting on the edge of your seat action usually takes place during the actual race. Those exciting moments will carry you all the way up until that checkered flag is just about to drop.

From the moment the cars get their green light, the rise in action develops the conflict through Why and How.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, the Why is that His day has been filled with high octane fun. The how, is He hugged all the curves. He’s had a good run. See, a rise in action develops the idea that he’s tired from racing.

Once your character is speeding around the track, spend a little time there. Make several laps, give your audience (readers) an exciting race! Like any good race, problems arise, detours are needed, and roads get bumpy. But the trick is, don’t linger there too long.

Keep up the excitement without letting it go on endlessly. The rule of thumb is there are usually three obstacles to overcome during the race (the middle). As in all rules, sometimes they can be broken       but the ‘Rule of Three’ is a wonderful balance to try to achieve.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, my little race car is tired and ready for bed. But in order to get to that sleeping point, he must first wash his rims, fill his tummy with oil, and choose a book that’s all about speed. See, ‘Rule of Three’ even in a bedtime story.

With all three of these goals achieved, it’s time for the most exciting part of the book. The climax! This is where your turning point will take place. You know, like when that trailing race car vrooms past car after car near the end of the race, putting the crowd on their feet as he’s about to zip past the finish line! Or in the case of a bedtime book, a little one’s heavy eyes are finally ready to close.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, with his heater warming his grill, his book closed, and his wrench snuggled, the little race car’s turn of events is that now he’s finally ready to drift off to sleep.

This shifts our gears directly into the finish line (the end). ‘The end’ comes in two parts and happens very quickly. The first part is the falling action, where any conflicts, questions, and further character development is wrapped up.

This provides a relaxing, soothing moment for the reader to take a break from all the action. In a race, this would be the moment when no matter how fast other cars throttle their gas, it’s clear that the winner is literally inches away from the checkered flag, and the finish line.

Or in RACE CAR DREAM’S falling action, he’s ready to cross the finish line  . . .straight into dreamland! His engine now hums. He lets out a snore. His bumpers relax and sprawl on the floor.

The final part of the finish line (the end) is the resolution, which is well, where the story ENDS.

The resolution should always leave the reader satisfied. Much like a race, not every reader has to be happy with the outcome. Some may wish that Race Car had never went to sleep and instead he vroomed into town to zip and zoom down the streets all night long.

The point is, the story concludes with a satisfying ending where:

He zips and he zooms

sweet dreams of the race.

He vrooms to the front . . .

 . . . and takes home first place!

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Sharon Chriscoe may not vroom around a race track, but she does zip and zoom around in a bread truck with her husband, Ricky. Fueled with fresh bread, snacks, and writing tools, Sharon has made this her mobile office! She and her husband live in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. They have three adult children and one adorable grandchild, as well as an assortment of dogs, cats, bunnies and occasionally a groundhog. In addition to RACE CAR DREAMS, she is the author of BULLDOZER DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2017), FIRE TRUCK DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2018), and THE SPARROW AND THE TREES (Arbordale Publishing, 2015). She is also a contributor to several magazines such as Highlights High Five, Highlights Hello, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. To learn more about Sharon, her books, and future events, visit her website: www.sharonchriscoebooks.com

RACE CAR DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2016

BULLDOZER DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2017

FIRE TRUCK DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2018

THE SPARROW AND THE TREES, Arbordale Publishing, 2015

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 4 ~Miranda Paul ~ Spot the Plot

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Trainbots

by Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Shane McG

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Miranda!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Spot the Plot! An Exercise for Revising your Rhyming Picture Book

By Miranda Paul

Poetry is oodles of fun. Writing in rhyme takes creative problem solving skills—like puzzles or brain games. Therefore, it’s easy to get engrossed in the process of selecting a perfect pair of like-sounding words or a wacky character description.

When I’m drafting a story in rhyme, I sometimes turn my attention to the words rather than the bigger picture. This misdirected focus can lead to nice details but a fuzzy plot. After days or weeks of crafting clever lines, I must find ways to objectively self-edit or I could end up with six hilarious stanzas describing a single character action or scene. While that scene might be fun to listen to, it might not be right for a picture book that should deliver a full story.

Before I wrote Trainbots, I wrote two other train manuscripts. Both of these fell mostly into the “concept” book category—they focused on informing the reader about parts of a train, through loosely-told stories. Several nice rejections on the first story–a couple of which pointed out the lack of action—led to rewrites. But I wrestled with the same problem as I wrote the second story. By the time I drafted the third train manuscript, which became Trainbots, I had a system in place to spot the plot (and strengthen it).

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Trainbots by Miranda Paul illustrated by Shane McG. Published by little bee books, a division of Bonnier Publishing.

Here’s a method to check where your rhyming picture book manuscript is chugging forward or stalling out.

  • Format your picture book into stanzas. Generally, I break each line at the rhyming word. Depending on your style of poetry, these might be 2-6 lines each.

  • Print your story, double spaced, with plenty of room on the right side of the page.

  • Next to each stanza, write one prose sentence that describes only what happens in the text of those lines. (Leave it blank if nothing is happening in terms of action.)

Miranda 3Text for the first ~50 words (4 spreads / 8 pp.) of Trainbots, by Miranda Paul illustrated by Shane McG. Published by little bee books, a division of Bonnier Publishing.

  • Fold the manuscript so you can only see your prose sentences. Read your story in prose!

  • Using your prose, draw some sort of visual representation of your plot (e.g. story arc/story mountain or chart/graph).

  • Reflect on your drawing or graph. Questions to ask: How many stanzas are introduction or exposition, describing character or setting? Where does the conflict or action really begin? Is the conflict only internal, or is there external conflict? How many attempts are there to solve that problem, and how many stanzas do those scenes comprise? Are there new and interesting characters, actions, or settings to illustrate as the story moves along? Does the action rise to a climax? Are some stanzas redundant? Does the story reach a resolution?

  • Unfold the paper and revise the original! Cut or tighten redundant parts, add lines where there are gaps. Ideally, you’ll want between 12-15 “scenes” or spreads for a 32-page picture book. Don’t be afraid to rewrite an entire stanza and pick an entirely different rhyming word for the end.

This method won’t work with every rhyming picture book, but I hope it helps you learn to see your work with fresh eyes. Finding ways to approach our own work with an outsider lens

Miranda 4

Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly and have been named to several award and state reading lists. Her three most recent releases—Whose Hands Are These?, 10 Little Ninjas, and Trainbots—are all written in rhyme. Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, serves as Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™, and is a regional advisor for the SCBWI (Wisconsin). She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.

Now Available:
10 Little Ninjas – illus. Nate Wragg – Currently #1 in Children’s Counting Books!
Trainbots – illus. Shane McG
One Plastic Bag – illus. Elizabeth Zunon
Water is Water – illus. Jason Chin
Whose Hands Are These? – illus. Luciana Navarro Powell
Coming in 2017
Blobfish Throws a Party – illus. Maggie Caton
Are We Pears Yet? – illus. Carin Berger

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Time with Angie ~ Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

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Rhyme Time Logo

Today we are celebrating

COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE

by Lori Mortensen!

Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range.

Then…learn how to make your own tiny bicycle!

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Reading

Click HERE for Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

“Clyde sure gits my southern twang a ‘goin’!”

 

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bicycle

Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make a tiny bicycle just like Clyde’s

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HERE are more ideas for fun with Clyde on Lori’s website.

 

Want to purchase these books? 

Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

Buy it now

Dirty dog

Buy it now

 

 

Watch for more Rhyme Time

every Wednesday in April.

 

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RR Classroom Challenge 2017

 

Check out more National Poetry Month Challenges for Libraries, Classrooms and Families HERE.

Librarians, teachers, parents and kids…please comment below

to be eligible to win a prize.

 

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 2 ~ Jill Esbaum ~ Is Your Rhymer Ready?

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Teeny Tiny Toady

by Jill Esbaum

Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Jill!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

 

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Is Your Rhymer Ready?

7 Troubleshooting Tips

by Jill Esbaum

Writing a character-driven rhyming story isn’t for the weak of heart. Rhyming stories must have perfect rhyme, consistent rhythm, and a story that not only makes sense, but connects with readers emotionally. Oh, and they should be FUN! Of those three things––rhyme, rhythm, and story––the toughest to get right, at least for me, is STORY.

Gleaned from many years of critiquing and writing, here’s a checklist you might use to determine whether or not your story is ready for editorial eyes, along with troubleshooting tips.

  1. Have I introduced the conflict quickly? Is my main character’s (MC) problem/goal clear to

readers on the first or second page?

If you worry you may be easing into the story, you probably are. How might you cut text to jump into the action quicker? Is every bit of information you’ve included absolutely necessary to the story problem?

  1. Is my entire story focused on how the MC goes about trying to solve his problem or achieve his goal?

If you think your story might be meandering, write a one-sentence synopsis. I often have to do this midway through a story, when I’ve been so consumed with rhythm and rhyme that my story has jumped the tracks. Oops.

  1. Does the MC’s problem get worse? Does every stanza reflect that escalation?

If you aren’t sure the problem is getting worse, try jotting a phrase beside each stanza that encapsulates its reason for being there. It’s like writing a 50-word version of your story. Does the problem get worse? Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end? Using the same trick, make sure no two stanzas are performing the same task. If they are, combine them into one stronger (and detail-rich) stanza.

  1. Have I shown the story, or am I doing too much telling?

If your story feels lifeless, and you suspect you’re doing too much telling, think about your story as a stage play. How can you tweak to allow readers to feel that they’re onstage, living the story through your MC, rather than sitting out in the audience, watching from afar? A simple trick, whether writing in first person point of view or third, is to filter everything through your MC’s senses/thoughts/emotions. And if your story has no dialogue, add some! Nobody wants to watch a play in which the only one talking is the narrator.

  1. Does my story show clear cause and effect, or is it a series of unrelated events that “just happen?”

Nothing in a story should happen without a reason. Ideally, it’s the MC’s choices, good or bad, that drive the story forward, cause “the next thing” to happen. Sounds simple. But it’s not.

  1. Does my story have any do-nothing words that are included solely as filler?

If so, brainstorm other, more concise, ways to say things. There’s ALWAYS another way. I have to remind myself of this with every manuscript I write. Look for do-nothing lines, too. Weed out words/lines that don’t add anything new to the story. It’s crucial that every word of every line reveal character or move the story forward. Otherwise, snip-snip!

  1. Have I given readers a satisfying conclusion or unexpected ending twist? Has my MC grown or changed?

If you suspect that your ending is ho-hum, brainstorm five different ways your story might end.

Yes, five. Look back through your story. How might your ending reflect your beginning?

Have fun, and your reader will, too. Rhyming and Wacky go together like the Three Stooges and finger boinks.

When it comes to crafting rhyming stories, practice really does make perfect. Besides tinkering with your own stories, examine a variety of published rhyming picture books. To get a feel for meter, type them out and read them aloud. Study their plot structure. Learn to recognize problem areas in your own work. Embrace revision.

And before you know it, you’ll be on the fast (okay, slow) track to publication. Good luck!

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 Jill Esbaum is the author of 11 picture books, many written in rhyme. Recent titles include If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Teeny Tiny Toady (starred review, Kirkus), and Elwood Bigfoot – Wanted:  Birdie Friends. Several of her books have been nominated for state awards, and her I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite award. Coming this fall:  Frankenbunny. Jill is also the author of more than 20 nonfiction books for National Geographic.

Jill created a group blog of fellow picture book writers and illustrators called Picture Book Builders(www.picturebookbuilders.com), teaches and speaks at conferences around the country, and co-hosts the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop each summer. She is on Twitter @JEsbaum. Find more information at her website, www.jillesbaum.com

 

Buy it Now

 

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 1 ~ Lori Mortensen ~ Rhythm and Rhyme

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Clyde Award Image

COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE

by Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Winner

Congratulations Lori!

2016-best-in-rhyme-logo

See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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RHYTHM AND RHYME

By Lori Mortensen

If you’ve ever delved into rhyme, you know rhyming can be a complicated business.  Not only is there a boatload of elements to consider such as true rhymes, near rhymes, forced rhymes, end rhymes, and internal rhymes, but there’s also a slew of specific rhyming patterns with names like iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, and spondee. (If you know these terms, you definitely deserve some extra rhyming brownie points!)

The good news is–you don’t have to know these terms to write fun, frolicking stories in rhyme.

For me, writing in rhyme is all about the rhythm.  As a former dance major, I’m drawn to the rhythm of the words and the beat they create when they’re spoken aloud. When I first began writing in rhyme, I thought it was all about creating patterns based on the number of syllabic beats in a line, as if each syllable received the same weight.

But I was mistaken.

Instead, I discovered that each word has its own rhythm depending on which syllables are stressed.  Writing a line creates a certain rhythm that ultimately shapes the rhythm of the stanza.

Picture books contain a variety of rhythms. For example, in the first stanza of She Did It! by Jennifer Ericsson, the rhythm feels like a march that matches the energetic quality of the characters she’s writing about.

Four sisters, different sizes.

            Four sisters, early risers.

However, in Judy Sierra’s book Wild About Books, the rhythm of the text feels steady and lyrical as if the reader is chugging along with the librarian as she drives the bookmobile to the zoo.

It started the summer of 2002,

            When the Springfield librarian, Molly McGrew,

            By mistake drove her bookmobile into the zoo.

 

As the examples also demonstrated, the rhythm you choose should enhance the story you want to tell. In my picture book Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, I wrote lines with a rhythm that moseys along just like Cowpoke Clyde.

Cowpoke Clyde poked at an ad.

“Looky, Dawg, at this here fad.

            It says that when my chores are done,

            I’m s’posed to ride a bike fer fun.”

 

Once I established the rhythmic pattern, the bigger challenge became finding fresh rhymes that supported the story.  One of my favorite rhyming tools is an online rhyming dictionary. Whenever I need to find a rhyme, I plug in a word and bingo! All the rhyming options appear on the screen. As I study the options, unexpected combinations of rhymes can enrich the story in new and surprising ways as it did in this stanza:

The more Clyde thunk, the more he smiled

at ridin’ something not so wild.

It wouldn’t eat. It wouldn’t stray.

It wouldn’t buck or bite or neigh!

Smiled and wild? Stray and neigh? I hadn’t planned on writing that, but when I made those rhyming connections, the stanza fell neatly into place.

Sometimes rhymes don’t work because good rhyming options simply don’t exist.  When that happens, I have to take a step back and find a word with better rhyming choices. It can be a time consuming process, but with patience and a bit of serendipitous luck, I eventually fit the words together like pieces of a puzzle.

The ultimate test for a rhyming manuscript is to read it aloud. Once you know the rhythm, you’ll hear if a line is missing a beat, if there are too many beats, or places where a reader stumbles. When you’ve written the text successfully, anyone should be able to read it without a blip or a hiccup.

Rhyming can be a complicated business. But it’s a lot easier if you approach it with rhythm and rhyme in mind.

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When award-winning author, Lori Mortensen, is not letting her cat in, or out, or in–she’s tapping away at her computer, conjuring, coaxing, and prodding her latest stories to life. All that tapping has resulted in the publication of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. Recent releases include Chicken Lily (Henry Holt 2016), Mousequerade Ball (Bloomsbury, 2016) illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator Betsy Lewin, and Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range (Clarion, 2016) a sequel to Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, one of Amazon’s best picture books of 2013. Visit her website at http://www.lorimortensen.com for more information about teacher guides, book trailers, reviews, and more.

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Website

Chicken Lily, Henry Holt
“Nice addition to story times . . . and good for anyone who’s a little chicken.”–Kirkus Reviews
Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, Clarion
“Another doggone funny cowboy caper, chock full of chuckles.”–Starred Kirkus Reviews
Mousequerade Ball, Bloomsbury
“A surefire storytime selection.”—School Library Journal
Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg, Clarion
“Plumb funny fer sure.”—Starred Kirkus Review
Cindy Moo, HarperCollins
“Mo(ooo)ve aside your other cow tales, because this lovable bovine really does take off.”—Booklist

Coming Soon
If Wendell Had a Walrus, illustrated by Matt Phelan, Henry Holt, Winter, 2018
Away With Words – The Daring Story of Isabella Bird, Peachtree, 2018

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Pre-Rhyme Revolution 2017 “Shake It Off” Parody by KidLitTV

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And…another rhyming parody!

Parody

Yes, there’s more rhyming song and dance!

musical notes

Check out last year’s parody HERE by KidLitTV’s Katya SzewczukLaurel Nakai and the

adorable kid lit reviewer Rosie Ciuba.

KidLit TV logo - new

Thank you Julie Gribble and KidLitTV!!

Now you have competing, rHyMiNg ear worms for your viewing pleasure!

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Have you registered for Rhyme Revolution yet?

If not, click HERE!

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Guess what starts today?

Yes, the Rhyme Revolution Auction!

RR Auction Logo

Check it out HERE!

This year, there is no bidding. Only discounted “BUY IT NOW” options to make things move faster and this will also allow me to mail items as they sell, instead of trying to do it all at once, after the auction. In past auctions, most people waited to bid on the last day and this made the mailing process overwhelming.

Many thanks to all the generous donors and to all who purchase items in support of our rhyming efforts!

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Pre-Rhyme Revolution 2017 “It’s All About That Rhyme” Parody by Dawn Young

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Who remembers this rhyming fun

from 2015?

Dawn 1

We had to share this clever parody again this year, created by Dawn Young

because…we need to have this song on our minds

all month!!

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Follow this link to the

rhyming fun!

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Thank you to Dawn and the adorable rhyming dancers!

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Oh, and guess who made a cameo?

Yes, I tried to channel my inner Meghan Trainor!

Sheesh…the things we do for rhyme!

Dawn 3

Please stop by and visit Dawn’s website!

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Have you registered for Rhyme Revolution yet?

If not, click HERE!

 

 

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