BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – INTERVIEW with Josh Dopirak by Debbie Vidovich

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Top 10 Best in Rhyme


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We are honoring the late Kate Dopirak and her wonderful talents with this interview of Kate’s husband Josh by Debbie Vidovich.

Debbie: Twinkle Twinkle Little Car is a bit of change for Kate, in that her previous books spoke to a slightly younger/Mommy and me type audience.  This is for a slightly older, more independent child.  What inspired her to write this story? Did it come to her quickly, in one sitting or over time?  Did it require a lot of revision or did book 3 come easier?

Josh: This wasn’t usually the case, but Kate came up with the title first. She always seemed to knock out a draft with ease but the revision process proved to be much tougher. Originally, the story involved a child looking for a car. Universally, it felt like she was on the right track but industry feedback forced her to rethink execution of the concept. Several iterations later she ended up getting it right. The final draft resulted from the right things coming together – valuable feedback from publishers/critique partners and persistence to get the story right (18 versions!)


Debbie: Kate was an amazing Mom, to the boys and her pup.  How did that influence her writing?


Josh: Kate was a mom first and she loved every minute of it. She was always on alert for good ideas and the stories just happened as a result of that love. Naturally, being a mom, a wife, a writer AND trying to do all of those things well presents challenges. Hurdling all of those obstacles made the little things in life a bit sweeter. These small victories are well represented in her works.


Debbie: Kate really connected to the 3-5 age group. Tell our members about Kate’s professional background and how that influenced her writing.

Josh: Kate loved children and spent much of her time working alongside them throughout her life. Starting out as the “in demand” neighborhood babysitter, she graduated to a summer camp counselor position in her teens and moved on to an elementary school teacher after graduating from Allegheny College. She had such a natural way of connecting with young kids through her smile and energy. Slowing down and being truly present with them enabled her to tap into their world.


Debbie: What would Kate like us to know about her writing journey. Was there a particular piece of advice she’d give while presenting workshops etc.?

Josh: Journey implies great difficulty and there was. But she was going to create rain or shine. Success wasn’t defined as getting published or creating a hit. It was creating, perfecting and enjoying the experience.

She did get sidetracked with various genres but ultimately refocused all of her time writing for young children. Other genres may sell better but she focused on what she loved and would advise the same. More importantly, she put herself out there joining the SCBWI, critique groups and attending conferences. This is where she got her first break – meeting who would ultimately become her agent. The approach was simple – write as much as possible and market in every possible way.

Lastly, she may not have always been writing but she was always working. She had an uncanny ability to eavesdrop on a conversation while having a conversation herself. I called her the ultimate multi-tasker. Also, if she was stuck on something she would simply assign her brain the task of solving the problem while she slept. Presto, it worked. I always teased her about it – who knew problems could be solved in your sleep? Overall, she’d tell anyone that this passion for the craft will help through the tough times. 


Debbie: Twinkle Twinkle Little Car is my favorite of Kate’s books.  Are there unfinished or yet to be published books we can look forward to in the near future?

Josh: Hurry Up! is set for publication in the summer of 2020. The theme is relatable…we’re on the treadmill of life and sometimes we need to dial it back, be present and appreciate the beauty around us. Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal is an accomplished, award winning talent. We’re excited to see how he tells the story. 


Debbie: Did Kate share any stories or advice about dealing with the dreaded rejection letter? I remember she told me her first book got tons of rejections before it got picked up.

Josh: Rejection never deeply bothered her. It did, however, serve as inspiration to become better. She actually kept a collection of rejection letters in a big binder. A glutton for punishment, I suppose…this thing is the size of an encyclopedia.


Debbie: Tell us about Kate’s and your reaction to getting her first book deal!

Josh: It all happened so quickly. She signed with her agent and within a month or so a deal was done for You’re My Boo. She had been writing for 7 years and had several published short stories and essays at that point. She always felt like she was inching closer so it was great to get that validation. However, the second one didn’t happen so quickly. Another 4 years passed before she landed a deal for Snuggle Bunny. This was tough for her because she figured things would get a lot easier once she sold Boo.


Debbie: Kate’s brother is a lawyer, did he do the contracts on Kate’s books or did you recommend a book contract specific lawyer? And where does one find those?

Josh: Kate was thankful to have a lawyer in the family. As a courtesy, her brother Joe combed through the document. There weren’t any red flags so she quickly moved on. Kate was always anxious to get that business stuff out of the way and just get back to writing!


Debbie: Rhyme Revolution member, David McMullin asks, “Why did Kate write Twinkle Twinkle Little Car in rhyme vs prose?”

Josh: After reading all of her drafts, it appears rhyme was the only option on this one. She was following the pattern of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and she had the most fun writing in rhyme.


Debbie: Kate developed and passed away from a neurological disease called Creutzfeldt Jakob, is there anything about this disease you want our audience to understand?

Josh: It’s a rapidly progressive, terminal disease with no treatments or clinical trials. It’s so rare that big research dollars are not committed to curing the disease. As a matter of fact, most grant money is raised through families impacted by the disease. Here a dollar goes a long way, giving families hope for progress and a chance at survival. 


Debbie: Kate’s funeral was beautifully up lifting. You and your family were exceptionally gracious to all of us in attendance. I would love to share the rewrite of Twinkle Twinkle that her siblings read in eulogy, if you care to share it. It was equally touching and so very true. Who wrote it?

Josh: The Twinkle poem was a collaboration between Kate’s two siblings. Inspired by her words and body of work, Joe and Molly worked together to craft a worthy tribute. They were hopeful Kate the author would have been proud of their endless revisions.


Twinkle Twinkle brightest star

How I wonder where you are

Up so high in the sky above

Shining down with abundant love


Thinking of you and times so funny

Convinced that you are the original Snuggle Bunny


Wishing that our time with you lasted longer

Realizing that you have made us stronger


Reminding us to slow down, not to hurry, and to enjoy life

An A+ teacher and writer, a Super Mom and a best friend wife


Striving to be as “good” as you

Treasuring the magical person behind “You’re My Boo!”


A million watt smile to light our way

Our love and respect you have every single day


Your impact on us, oh so great

Thank You, Thank You, Beautiful Kate (Katie)!


Debbie: I am very grateful for the time I spent with Kate, to meet her was to call her friend. Her generosity, kindness and joyful spirit will forever live on in her books. Is there anything you’d like to say, that we haven’t touched on here today?

Josh: She leaves behind this great legacy for her boys, families and friends. During a summer getaway a few years ago she mentioned that, despite the inevitable someday, she felt comfort that her works could live on forever. Her writing will be a perfect gift for our family’s next generation and hopefully many others for years to come.

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Please include Kate’s favorite illustrations from the book and why she like them.

Josh: Kate lived the simplicity of the cover and how the car pops. She also loved the convertible illustration and thought it was the perfect way to drive around through the story.

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BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – Laura Sassi INTERVIEW BY Linda S. Mai

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Top 10 Best in Rhyme


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Congratulations on being chosen for Angie Karcher’s Top Ten Rhyming Picture Books for 2018!  I’m very honored to have this chance to interview you.

Linda: Your book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE is adorable and your rhyme delightful. What was the inspiration for this book? Was there any special reason why you chose an opera house for your setting?

Laura: My initial inspiration was crossing paths with a little mouse in the woods. The writer in me immediately started imagining what his life might be like, where he might live etc.  The first result of those observations was a rhyming rebus called “Mouse House” (Highlights for Children, May 2013). Months later, I was paging through my notebook looking for inspiration for Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month writing challenge (now called STORYSTORM) and I came across that mouse again! Only this time, I imagined where else a mouse might live – and that imagining led me to the opera house, which I thought would be a humorous setting for a mouse full of rich language and illustration possibilities.

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Linda: You’ve proven you’re gifted when it comes to rhyming books, but when did you first know you wanted to write in rhyme? Did you have a mentor? Critique group?  

Laura: I’ve been an avid reader and writer since childhood. My mother actually saved most of my earliest childhood writings. Interestingly, many of them are written in rhyme – and not badly – which goes to show that I’ve loved rhyme (which is my favorite mode of storytelling) almost all my life! Becoming good took a lot of writing (and reciting), a lot of reading and a lot of just plain playing with rhythm and rhyme in my journal. The best decision I ever made in terms to truly improving my craft was to join a critique group – and I’ve been in several now over the years – that focus on picture books and rhyme. 


Linda: Any suggestions for authors who have not published a rhyming book yet – but love to write in rhyme?

Laura: The key, in my opinion, is to saturate yourself in the kind of writing you love.  Read as many rhyming picture books as you can – with a writerly eye – thinking about what makes them work – or not.  Do the same with poems from anthologies and magazines. And then, using those as models of rhythm and rhyme, write, write, write! I also have three great resources that I have found invaluable to improving my craft.  They are:  The Complete Rhyming Dictionary Revised (Doubleday), edited by Clement Wood and revised by Ronald Bogus, Timothy Steele’s All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification (Ohio University Press) and Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Longman). Finally, if possible, join a critique group!

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Linda: After you’ve written and revised your manuscript, how do you know when it’s “ready” to be submitted?

Laura: That’s a tricky question. It’s kind of like asking when you know a pie is ready to come out of the oven. Each pie is different just like each poem or story is different.  That being said, there are certain hints that indicate to me that a rhyming manuscript is ready to submit. These include: 1) The meter and rhyme are working flawlessly – and are fresh and unexpected. 2) The story arc is satisfying and is not limited by the rhyme 3) At least THREE people beside myself have read it aloud smoothly and with enjoyment. 4) My agent gives it the thumbs up. 

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Linda: Do your own children influence/inspire what you write? 

Laura: Absolutely!  Many, if not most, of my stories and poems got their initial spark from something that my kids said or did, or something that we saw together.  One of the joys of being a writer is seeing the world through writerly glasses and I’m quick to jot down any ideas that come to me, as they often do, when I’m with my children.  


Linda: Debbie Smith, a member of Rhyme Revolution would like to know if you write in rhyme from the start, or do you write the story first and add the rhyme later?

Laura: I write in rhyme from the start, but interestingly it’s seldom in the metrical form I ultimately choose for the piece.  My mind just likes to think in playful rhymes.  I do, however, bullet point the plot line pretty early on, but this is more like telling a story in list form than prose. I also like to capture snippets of rhyming phrases – couplets or quatrains – that have the feel that I’m going for in a particular story.  I call this phase my playing around phase and I can sometimes do it for months before settling on the right versification for a particular story. 

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Linda: Is there any special place, or time of day, etc., that helps you develop new ideas for books? How do you keep your creative juices flowing? 

Laura: I find that getting out and exploring, either on my own, or with my family, is a great generator of new ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a story or poem spark just by walking in the woods or down a city street and seeing something that sparks my creativity.  It can happen anywhere, so I try to always keep pen and paper on hand – in my purse or back pocket.  My phone has also become a wonderful repository for ideas.  As far as keeping those creative juices flowing, I’m easy.  Writing is what fills my well – and I find time to let words spill on paper (or laptop) every day.  That alone keeps the flow fresh and moving. I also make a goal to treat myself to at least one conference/writing retreat a year. 


Linda: What’s next for you in your writing journey? Do you have another rhyming book in the works?

Laura: I’m writing, writing, writing!  I have several rhyming picture books in the hopper ready to go out on submission, so I guess we’ll all just have to stay tuned on this front.  


Linda: What would you like your readers to know about yourself?

Laura: I love connecting with readers and writers.  Invite me to your school or library or special event. Come chat at book events.  I’d also love to connect on social media and via my blog.  Here’s how:

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Book trailer:

BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – Linda Vander Heyden INTERVIEW BY Manju Howard

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Top 10 Best in Rhyme

Manju: I’m excited to present Linda Vander Heyden and her Best in Rhyme nominated picture books.

Linda: Thanks, Manju! I’m excited and honored to have my books be among those nominated!

Horse Cover

A Horse Named Jack is about a curious horse who loves children. One day, when the children don’t show up to play, Jack grows bored, Bored, BORED! He clip-clops through the barnyard and raids the neighbor’s garden. Soon Jack’s up to his ears in trouble!

Hannah Cover

Hannah’s Tall Order:  An Alphabet Sandwich is about a little girl with a big appetite. When Hannah stops by her favorite sandwich shop, Mr.McDougal will have to scramble (chop, grate, and peel) to keep up with her quest for the perfect sandwich!

In a previous interview (link: you shared that A Horse Named Jack is based on your own horse named Jack. He sounds like a clever escape artist. Who inspired Hannah’s Tall Order?

Linda: I wanted to write an alphabet story that would be silly and make kids giggle. Hannah is a character who just popped into my head one day. She’s precocious. A little girl with a big sense of adventure. With Hannah, nothing is impossible!

How do you create an emotional connection between your main characters and readers?

Linda: That’s a great question! It can be challenging to create a character that touches a child’s heart and captures his or her imagination. In A Horse Named Jack, I think kids connect with Jack’s child-like innocence. He is curious and easily bored. He gets into trouble, though it is never his intention. In Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs, Mr. McGinty, an older gentleman, has a child-like wonder of nature and wants to help save the butterflies. In Hannah’s Tall Order, I think kids can relate to Hannah’s sense of adventure. They wonder what’s going to happen as her sandwich grows taller and taller.

What aspect of writing rhyming picture books do you find the most challenging?

Linda: Writing in rhyme is fun for me. I love the rhythm and musicality of the words. My sisters and I grew up hearing nursery rhymes and listening to classical music. I think that helped us develop an ear for rhythm. (Thanks, Mom!) I think one of  the most challenging things about writing stories in rhyme is keeping a natural speaking voice and not “forcing” a rhyme. Also, writing in rhyme can feel a bit restrictive at times while trying to move a story forward.

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In addition to the challenges of writing in rhyme, Hannah’s Tall Order is an A to Z picture book. How did you make all the ingredients blend together?

Linda: This question makes me smile, because even though Hannah’s character just seemed to pop into my imagination, the story took a long time to write. I researched foods and tried out different ideas. Finding foods that began with the correct letter (and number of syllables) was challenging. (It’s not easy finding a plausible food that begins with “x!”) And the rhyme had to sound natural. I also tried to break things up a bit as Hannah goes down her list of ingredients. That’s where poor Mr. McDougal comes in. Hannah is oblivious to his over-the-top efforts to fill her order!

Describe your path to publication with your editor at Sleeping Bear Press. 

Linda: My path to publication was a long one! I studied the craft of writing picture books…attended workshops and conferences. I joined a critique group, took on-line courses, attended webinars, and sent manuscripts off for critiques by published authors. I took creative writing classes at our university, which included writing poetry. I learned about the importance of a natural speaking voice when using rhyme and about searching for that perfect word. And I’m very grateful to have been chosen for an SCBWI mentorship with an amazing picture book author!

Along the way, there were many times I felt discouraged. When I first started submitting my stories, publishers often requested a self-addressed, stamped envelope be included for their response. I always knew what to expect when I found that same envelope in my mailbox months later! But rejections are a part of the process. I began to look at them as opportunities for growth. I also came to understand how important it is that we not let the desire to be published overshadow our joy of writing!

I am thankful for my family and friends who encouraged me to keep trying. And I love that my stories found a home at Sleeping Bear Press!

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Did you include art notes in your manuscripts? Did any of the illustrations surprise you?

Linda:  I try not to include many art notes in my manuscripts. I use them only if I think the text needs clarifying. I’m very grateful for a wonderful working relationship with my editor. If I have any concerns or questions about an illustration, she is open to hearing them. But those times have been few, and I trust her judgement. I truly love the illustrations in each and every book!

Member Michelle Donny Kennedy asked: Once you’ve edited and polished your story, how do you further cut the word count to fit submission guidelines?

Linda: Hi Michelle, great question! I try to focus on action that moves the story forward and eliminate descriptions that can be shown by an illustration. (A brief illustration note can be used, but only if absolutely needed to clarify what’s happening in a scene.) I ask myself whether a sentence moves the story forward, or can it be eliminated? Are there any unnecessary characters that can be taken out of the story? How about unnecessary words, like “that” and “quite?” Sometimes two sentences can be combined into one tighter one. Or a contraction can be used instead of two words (if it still sounds natural). Having another picture book author critique our stories to see if he/she can find unnecessary words or ways to trim word count can also be very helpful.

What advice would you give to those authors writing in rhyme?

Linda: I would encourage them to read many (many) picture books written in rhyme. And read beautiful poetry. Feel the rhythm and musicality of the words. Does the rhythm flow well? Does the author’s speaking voice sound natural? Does the rhyme work, or can you tell the author was perhaps struggling to find a word that would rhyme? I would also encourage authors to read their stories out loud. And listen while others read them. When we read our own stories, we tend to make the rhythm work, but when others read them, we’ll be able to hear if there are lines that may need some revision.

Where can people find you online?

Linda’s website:  http://WWW.LINDAVANDERHEYDEN.COM/

Linda Headshot

Bio: Linda Vander Heyden is the author of three picture books. She is drawn to stories with heart and humor. Her debut book, MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHS was short-listed for the Next Generation’s Green Earth Book Award and is a Sigurd F. Olsen Nature Writing Award Honor Book. She is delighted to be sharing her two latest stories with children…A HORSE NAMED JACK and HANNAH’S TALL ORDER: AN ALPHABET SANDWICH (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018). She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, three cats, her border collie, and a horse named Jack!

2018 BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – Sue Fliess INTERVIEW BY Cathy C. Hall

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2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme

mary had a litle lab


Wheee! It’s Sue Fliess (Pronounced “Fleece”)!

Sue Fliess, whose name is pronounced “fleece” (which is the perfect tie-in to her book, Mary Had a Little Lab) is a prolific picture book author as well as one of the authors with a book in our Top Ten Best in Rhyme Picture Books of 2018.


So off we go with lots of questions for Sue:


I LOVE Mary Had a Little Lab for so many reasons! But we’ll start with the rhyme since the book plays off the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” nursery rhyme. So which came first? The idea to write about a girl scientist with a problem, or the nursery rhyme inspiration for the book?


Well….sort of neither! I actually dreamt the title of this. Usually my dream ideas amount to nothing, but this one had legs. In my dream, someone asked me what I was working on and I rattled off this title. Of course, no such thing was happening, but I thought about it all morning after I woke up. As is the case with many of my stories, I decided to at least try to write an opening. I loved my opening (which stayed from first draft to final book), and the story felt like it wrote itself from there.



Besides the delightful play on the nursery rhyme, I love the STEM focus of the book. Is there a different approach you use when writing STEM books?


Yes, but it’s more about working STEM aspects into the storyline. Since I mostly write fiction, I can get away with STEM being creatively weaved in, as opposed to worrying about exact science, for example. With this particular story, the title gave me a head start. But when I could tell I wanted Mary to be a little on the ‘mad’ scientist side vs. just a straight-up scientist, I threw in some Rube Goldberg-esque inventing. So that gave it the E in STEM, along with the science part. But in a silly and humorous way.



And finally, I love your humor, which seems to be a trademark in your picture book style. I’m a big fan of all humorous picture books, but I wonder if humor is something that can be taught. If so, how can writers develop their funny bone?


Wow, I’m grateful that you said that because I feel like I’m figuring it out as I go each time, asking, is this funny? Corny? Or only funny to me? Either way, I would tell people to read funny picture books to get a feel for how writers work the humor into the storyline. Sometimes the answer is to leave room for the illustrator to inject the humor. I will often have an art note like: I picture this as a funny scene. Or, this is sarcasm.  In case my text does not make it obvious. Funny is hard to pull off. Bu this is why you have other writers read your work – to tell you what’s working or not working.



Oh! And here’s a question from one of the Rhyme Revolution members, Natalee Herring Creech, just for you:  Did you or your agent do anything special with the submission—Mary Had a Little Lab—because it was in rhyme? (Like avoid or target certain editors/publishers?)


Hi Natalee! Almost all of my books are in rhyme, so as opposed to avoiding certain editors or publishers, we usually target those that we know have liked my rhyming work in the past, whether they have published me or not. Very few editors we submit to now do not like rhyme, because that would be a waste of everyone’s time. As with any submission, you or your agent should do the homework to make sure the editors would be receptive to whatever style you’ve chosen to write your story in.



You have a book trailer for Mary Had a Little Lab (and most of your books!). I’m sure your background in marketing and copywriting is hugely helpful so do you produce your own book trailers? Do you think PB authors need book trailers?


I don’t think anyone needs a book trailer to be successful, but after publishing many books in this super crowded market, I’m looking for any tools I can use to help me avoid the same types of promotion of my books. A trailer is a little different than just showing the book cover over and over. So a book trailer is an easy (fairly easy—I taught myself) and fun way to have a teaser for a book—plus, people love watching videos. I do recommend keeping them at about 1 minute in length.

Loved that book! Best of everything in 2019 for you and yours AND your writing!


How about the best advice you ever got in your writing career? And what do you always tell any writer who wants to be a rhyming picture book author like you?


I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years. One piece of advice I got was: write like the writer next to you is writing the same story at the same time. Which goes hand in hand with this piece of advice: You’re only as good as your last book. Which sounds harsh. But essentially it means don’t publish/write a book and rest on your laurels. If you are going to continue publishing, you have to stay relevant, which means as soon as you finish one story, start working on the next. Because you never know what’s going to sell, when. But if you’re not writing, you won’t have anything to submit. For writers who want to be rhyming picture book authors, I always say start with the story. Then decide if the best way to tell it is in rhyme. If the answer is no, don’t force it into rhyme. Rhyme is just a vehicle for delivering your story. Next part of that is, read it out loud to yourself. Then have someone read it out loud to you. I still find that I think my story is polished, and then someone will read it out loud and stumble over parts of the rhyme. Then I fix and do it all again.



Thanks, Sue! And best of luck with Mary Had a Little Lab and all the books you have coming out in 2019! You can check out her terrific website for all her titles, published and upcoming, but you can’t leave until you go to her Videos tab and watch a parody video (or seven). SO much fun! I love Sue Fliess (pronounced “fleece”)—and you will, too!

sue fliess


Sue Fliess (“fleece”) is the bestselling author of Robots, Robots Everywhere!, How to Trap a Leprechaun, and more than 25 other children’s books including Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins, Ninja Camp, A Fairy Friend, Tons of Trucks, and many Little Golden Books. Her books have sold over 850,000 copies worldwide. Her background is in copywriting and PR/marketing, and her essays have appeared in O Magazine, HuffPo, Writer’s Digest, and more. Fliess has also written for Walt Disney. Her books have received honors from the SCBWI, have been used in school curricula, museum educational programs, and have even been translated into French, Korean and Chinese. The Bug Book was chosen for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Her books have won awards and accolades. She’s a member of SCBWI and The Children’s Book Guild of DC. She does book signings, school visits, and speaking engagements. Sue lives with her family and their dog in Northern Virginia. Visit her at

2018 BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – Karen Beaumont INTERVIEW by Darlene Ivy

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2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme


pretty kitty


Q I have to ask. Do you have cats? Did they find you or did you find them?

KB I don’t have cats now, but I’ve had many cats through my life. I like to think we found each  other!


Q Pretty Kitty reminds me of an updated and urban version of Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Was that book an inspiration for yours or did something else spark this story?

KB No, her book did not inspire this story. I wrote PRETTY KITTY to inspire pet adoption, and as a tribute to my beloved cat, Jake. Jake was the embodiment of pure love, wrapped in thick, soft, fluffy, creamy white fur, with a stubby little pom-pom tail. The excuses given by the protagonist to resist adopting the kitties were the same ones I pondered when my then seven year old daughter held up this tiny ball of fur she’d found in the big, red barn and asked, “Mommy, can I keep him?” I was a recently divorced mother of two young girls, renting a small old farmhouse in the country. I was juggling numerous part-time teaching jobs as I struggled to develop my writing career and provide a stable home life for my kids. I was stretched to the max, emotionally and financially. I didn’t need another mouth to feed! But as I looked into my daughter’s sweet, pleading eyes, my heart melted, and I heard my mouth say, “Okay.” I  have never regretted that decision. Jake was a cherished member of our family for 18 1/2 years.


Q Why did you choose rhyming verse to tell your story?


KB All of my published books (17 to date) are written in rhyme. It’s my passion! I feel that very young children respond well to rhyme, if it is done right.


Q Rhyme Revolution members also submitted questions for you. Joy Moore asks: How do you choose the stanza length? and How do you know when the story is ready to submit?

KB I don’t choose the stanza length. It just happens, intuitively. My writing process is very right brain, so I never really know where a story will go until it’s gone there. I feel my way, rather blindly, without a map, if that makes sense. I don’t use “formulas” or magic spells or rule books! I just dive into word play and stir up whatever is floating around in the elusive, intangible, mystical realm of the Muse!

There is a great quote that says “A good story is not written. It is re-written.” I guess, for me, a story is ready when I know in my heart that I’ve re-written it  enough for it to sparkle, and it gives me a sense of joyful enthusiasm. I trust my gut!

prety kitty back

Q Following up on that question. What is the story of Pretty Kitty’s path to publication? Was it an easy one?

KB I don’t remember how many times it was rejected, but it was. I intended for it to be a companion book to DOGGONE DOGS!, also a counting book, which was published by Dial. But they rejected it, as did others. Luckily, Laura Godwin at Holt, with whom I’ve worked before, is an animal rescue/rights advocate and she loved it because of PRETTY KITTY’s pet adoption theme.

Q As a final question, do you have any words of wisdom for other picture book writers, especially those that write in rhyme?
KB Yes! NEVER GIVE UP! Trust that if you’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to develop your craft, study the market, and keep submitting, you will find your niche. I was told in the beginning not to write in rhyme – that editors HATE getting manuscripts in rhyme! Thankfully, I didn’t listen! I’ve learned that what they hate is getting manuscripts in BAD rhyme! Many people underestimate the demands of this art form and submit amateur material. My formula for success is:  PASSION + PERSEVERANCE + PATIENCE = PUBLICATION! Follow your passion, not the market. Develop your own unique voice. And make those manuscripts sparkle! You will find your place on the literary playground! It’s a demanding, exhilarating, rewarding ride! I wish you all great joy and success on your journey.

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Check out Karen’s website HERE:


2018 Best in Rhyme Top 10 – Tim McCanna Interview by Nancy Riley

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2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme



  1. Bitty Bot is a busy little robot! In your first story Bitty Bot builds a rocket to go on a space adventure. Now, in Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, Bitty Bot builds a submarine to explore the ocean. Was Getaway in the works before Bitty Bot was published?


Yes and no. I wrote the first draft of Bitty Bot back in 2011 and tweaked it for years until I got my agent in 2014. We sold Bitty Bot in a two-book deal to Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster soon thereafter. But I hadn’t written or even considered a sequel at that point. I wasn’t sure if I could replicate the rhyming style I’d used for Bitty Bot into another story! While the first book was in the process of being illustrated, I brainstormed and landed on the concept of Bitty going to the beach and having an ocean adventure. It was a lot of fun to explore new territory with Bitty and use beach and underwater-related rhyming words.

tim mccanna - image 2

  1. Do you have more adventures planned for Bitty Bot?


Well, I’ve written a third adventure that puts Bitty in a forest setting. I’d love to have a trilogy, but it all hinges on sales numbers of the first two books. That’s just the nature of the business, I guess. We’ll see!


  1. Are all your picture books written in rhyme? Did you have trouble finding agents or publishers who accepted rhyming manuscripts?


I’ve written many manuscripts in prose over the years, but so far, I haven’t sold any. Nine out of my ten sold manuscripts are rhymers. The exception is BOING! A Very Noisy ABC, which uses onomatopoeia in alphabetical order to tell a story. I never ran into an agent or editor that said they wouldn’t accept rhymers. The key is to do your research and target your submissions. Luckily, my agent recognized that my body of work had potential and that my rhyming was solid. She’s able to submit my manuscripts to editors she knows will connect with my style and subjects.


  1. One of our Rhyme Revolution members, Suzie Olsen, would like to know: What writing challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?


Good question! When I first started out writing rhyming picture books, my manuscripts were very long and dense. I was unwilling to cut a single word, and I included too much detail. I was using long sentences in a fairly inconsistent meter. It was a mess! Once I shifted my style to more spare, airy text in tighter, shorter phrases, things started to click—and sell. On average, my rhyming stories are between 50 and 300 words. I try to leave a lot of room for the illustrator to shine. Not everybody needs to write in those same parameters, but it’s important to recognize when something isn’t working and be willing to change and experiment until you find a voice that works.


  1. What words of wisdom or advice can you offer to writers of rhyme as we move into 2019?

Writing picture books is hard work. Writing picture books in RHYME adds even more pitfalls to the process. You can absolutely sell rhyming picture books, but editors are watching for manuscripts that fire on all cylinders. Tight meter, unforced rhymes, lovable main characters, great stories with openings that hook and endings with a satisfying twist. It’s a lot to ask for! Be patient and give yourself time to write lots of rhymers and study the greats. If you truly love to rhyme, then go for it!

Learn more about Tim’s books HERE 


2018 Best in Rhyme Top 10 – Josh Funk Interview by Gayle C. Krause

       2018 Best in Rhyme Logo

2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme



 by Author Gayle C. Krause

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat! I’m incredibly honored to have

three books nominated for the Best Rhyming Picture Book of 2018 Award!


1. Tell us something we, as rhyming picture book fans, don’t already know about



I have been rhyming my whole life. My first word was banana (which is

filled with internal rhyme). I guess that was a sign…


2. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?


            jfunk - headshot       jfunk - character

I think I’m a lot like Baron von Waffle. Crispy and villainous on the

outside, but fluffy, misunderstood, and craving friendship on the

inside. Also, I

enjoy sneaking the last drop of syrup before others can get it.


3. How long ago did you get the idea for Lost in the Library?


jfunk - library

Actually, the folks at the New York Public Library got together with Macmillan and put

the idea together: Patience goes missing and Fortitude goes searching through the library

(getting a tour throughout), eventually finding him in the… well, I don’t want to spoil it.

That’s all they gave me. I dug deeper into their characters. Fortitude, stoic and steadfast,

had never entered the library before. Patience became a master storyteller, etc.

The idea for the sequel, though (*wink*) – that one’s all me.


4. When did you start the first draft for Mission Defrostable and how long, from

that point, until the book was completed? Did this 3rd book in the Lady Pancake Series

come quicker or slower than the first two? 


Because I know the characters, the world, and have an idea of what Brenda Kearney’s

brilliant illustrations might look like, it probably only took me a week or so to complete a

first draft.

jfunk - mission defrostable

But these books actually start well before the first. I do a lot of brainstorming and preparation as to

what the vibe of the book is going to be, who the new characters are going to be, what is the pacing

going to be like. Before I even start the first draft, I already have a loose pagination of

the entire story in my head. So I’d say once I actually get started with the drafting it

comes pretty quickly – faster than the first one for sure.


5. When and where do you write?


I’m a software engineer by day, so I tend to write on the evenings and weekends at

home. I also love to go to the public library to write. Sometimes I work in a study room.

But I’ve had a lot of success sitting in the open space in the children’s room and putting

on headphones with some white noise – it’s easy to be inspired with all the books,

librarians, and little readers around.


6. What inspired you to write Albie Newton?


jfunk - albie

Albie Newton’s classroom is basically my office. I work with a diverse group of really talented

people. Albie was inspired by many of the brilliant people I’ve worked with who sometimes don’t

have great social skills on the surface. But when you look closer, they might surprise you with

what great people they truly are.


7. Jay Reese, a member of the Rhyme Revolution, would like to know what your

preferred POV is when writing in rhyme? And is there a market preference for a

particular rhyming POV that we should be aware of?


Hi, Jay! The answer to your question is that I don’t think this has ever come up. I don’t

have a conscious preference and I don’t think the market has one either.

I haven’t analyzed a large subset of rhyming picture books to see if the trend of certain

POVs in rhyming books is any different from non-rhyming, but I’d hypothesize (without

any data to back it up) that there is no difference. I think POV and rhyme are completely

independent of each other. If it’s good rhyme, it won’t matter what the POV is.


8. Do you have any new rhyming picture books coming out in 2019?


Actually, I *don’t*! I have three books currently scheduled for 2019, but all three are in

prose! It’ll be my first year without a rhyming picture book since I was first published in

2015! (but don’t worry – I should have two rhymers out in 2020)


9. What are you currently working on?


I’m currently working on a bunch of sequels. HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER (sequel

to HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE). A second (IT’S NOT HANSEL AND GRETEL) And third (IT’S NOT LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD) It’s Not a Fairy Tale books. A fourth pancake book. A second NYPL Lions book. And a secret project. And hopefully something totally brand new very soon.


10. If you could give advice to writers who haven’t published yet, or an earlier

version of yourself, what would you want to share?


Keep writing new things. Don’t get hung up revising the same manuscript over and

over and OVER again. Yes, get it critiqued, revise, get it critiqued again, and maybe even

query it. But also start writing something new. That new thing will start off in such a

better place than the first manuscript because you’ll have learned sooooo much along

the way. And then write a third. And a fourth. And keep going.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a keynote speaker say “And finally, after

seven years and 10 completed manuscripts, I finally got my first book deal.” But I can tell

you it was a lot – like pretty much all of them. I know you love that first story. But it’s

likely going to be your fifth or tenth that will be your first one published.

Now, go off and break a pencil!



Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as

books – such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the

Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable), How to Code a Sandcastle (and the upcoming

sequel How to Code a Rollercoaster),  It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon,

Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in

conjunction with the New York Public Library), and the forthcoming It’s Not Hansel and

Gretel, It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, and more coming soon! Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited

(or virtually visited) over 300 schools, classrooms, and libraries. Josh is a board member of The

Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional

SCBWI Conferences. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he

still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and

writes manuscripts. Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys

_______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his

biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.


For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at and on Twitter at



2018 Best in Rhyme Award


The 2018 Best in Rhyme Award nominations are underway!

I am so excited that my friend and fellow-rhymer Debbie Vidovich has taken the reins for this year’s Best in Rhyme Award. She has stepped in to organize the nominations and voting and our 2018 Committee is in place!

Thank you to our 2018 Best in Rhyme Committee

Manju Gulati Howard
Nancy Derey Riley
Linda S. Mai
Cathy C. Hall
Darlene Ivy
Gayle C Krause
Ellen Warach Leventhal
Kenda Henthorn
Jen Bailey
Kris Kuykendall
Debbie Vidovich

Nominations are only open through October 1st so don’t delay. Go to the Rhyme Revolution Facebook group and nominate your favorite rhyming picture book for 2018!

The 2019 Best in Rhyme Award will be announced in New York City at the KidLit TV Studio on February 10th.  Many thanks to Julie Gribble and KidLit TV!!

KidLitTV 2017

The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement – February 4th, 6:00 pm ET, KidLitTV Studio, NYC

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement is February 4th at 6:00pm ET. Don’t miss this exciting live streaming announcement from the KidLitTV Studio in NYC!

I want to thank the Best in Rhyme Committee who is a group of truly amazing writers and friends! This group, led by Manju Gulati Howard and Debbie Vidovich read, scored and blogged about the Top 10 books on the list. I was thrilled to see SANTA’S GIFT on the list this year, so of course, I was not involved at all, except for sharing the blog posts and handling social media. This is quite a time consuming job and these ladies deserve a roaring round of applause!
The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Committee:
Manju Howard
Debbie Vidovich
Sherri Rivers
Cathy C. Hall
Kenda Henthorn
Annie Bailey
Gayle C. Krause
Deb Williams
Darlene Ivy
Suzy Leopold
Jill Richards

Angie Karcher – Award Founder


Here is the list of Top 10 Best in Rhyme Books. Please find these and read them, as they are fantastic!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT by Matt Forest Esenwine
SANTA’S GIFT by Angie Karcher
TWINDERELLA by Corey Rosen Schwartz

I will be naming a winner and 3 honor books this year. Watch for the link to the live stream, coming soon.

Best in Rhyme 2017 Live Stream logo

Many thanks to Julie Gribble and the KidLitTV Team

for hosting this fun announcement every year!! ❤


2017 TOP 10 List

Little Ex

Written and Illustrated

by Anna Dewdney

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo


Little Excavator is the rollicking tale of a young excavator trying hard to find his place in the grownup world. He fails and fails again!  With pluck and determination, Little Ex finds the one special thing that only he can do. Kids of all ages will relate to this universal tale of finding the specialness in each of us.
Anna’s soft, friendly but exuberant use of color exquisitely compliments the text and is a hallmark of her illustration style. It’s impossible not to fall in love at first site. Go Little Excavator, go!
I  recently had the  opportunity to interview the loving and devoted Reed Duncan, life partner of the late Anna Dewdney.  In the year and a half since Anna’s passing Reed and the creative team at Penguin brought Little Excavator to print with other books soon to come.
Little Excavator was very dear to Anna’s heart. She had sidelined it for a long time due to other obligations. According to Reed, Anna worked throughout her illness to finish it, altering her painting technique to accommodate her limitations. It was a true labor of love. She asked him to read it to her the day she died.
1)  You mentioned Little Excavator was near to Anna’s heart. What was her inspiration for the story?
Anna loved the Little Excavator character.  She had been drawing animals and people her whole life but she hadn’t rendered too many vehicles, so when she created this very animate, cute machine with lots of spirit, she was especially pleased.  The inspiration comes from when she and I were restoring our home; we have some large, deep stone-mill foundations on our property and in the process of preserving these stone foundations we encountered some small, tight spots that only a little excavating machine could successfully get to.  And the idea was born…
2) I loved that Little Ex cheerfully perseveres despite repeated setbacks.  He’s a wonderful role model. Today’s children live in an increasingly stressful and polarized world; how do you think Little Ex will impact them?
I hope that kids — and anyone, really — can take the core message of the book to heart and execute this principle in their daily practice, namely that we all have unique characteristics and sklll-sets that enable us to do what others can’t.  It may take some figuring out before we come to know our special talents and how to employ them, but everybody has them.
3) The patience and unconditional love the adult machines exhibit toward Little Ex is also important to this age group.  How did Anna feel about that?  Her adult characters always do exactly the right thing.
As a mother and a teacher, Anna knew implicitly that patience and support are key to a child’s development.  Young people are supposed to experiment and fail — that’s their job; it’s our job as adults to guide them and support them in that process of effort and self-discovery.
4) Of course the crowning achievement is when Little Ex finds his own perfectly suited place in the world.  How do you think kids will relate to that?
I hope the kids who read the book will feel relieved that somewhere in the world is a place perfectly suited to who they are, even if it doesn’t always or at first feel that way.
5) All of Anna’s characters are lovable and their struggles are relatable to children’s everyday experience.  She really understood them.  Can you tell us a bit about her experience bringing her stories to publication?
Anna spent many years working with children — her own and also her students when she was a teacher.  Those day-to-day experiences that we all can relate to are a big part of what make her books so immediate to her readers.  She worked for many years as a freelance illustrator until her own stories got published.  She also worked as a waitress and as a rural mail carrier and as a housesitter in addition to teaching; for her, making art was the only thing that mattered and everything else was just in support of those artistic goals.  She worked with limited success for about 20 years before the first Llama Llama book came out.  Persistence, persistence, persistence.
6) The Llama llama books are iconic and beloved.  Llama, Llama Red Pajama was my first mentor book.  What advice would Anna have for fellow rhymers/illustrators trying to get their first book published?
Keep at it!
7) Anna is also a gifted illustrator.  Her vibrant colors and sweet faced animals are appealing to kids and adults alike.  Can you tell us a little about her process and when she decided to be her own illustrator?
Anna began drawing and painting and inventing characters and stories when she was a very little girl.  She always had a high sense of theatre and drama and she imagined her stories very visually, so for her the story and the image were inseparable.  A story would unfold for her not just in a narrative arc, but also graphically and with strong color-value relation.
8) Can you include two of your favorite illustrations from Little Ex and tell us what you love about them?
I love the scene where Little E falls into the hole he has just dug — he’s so overzealous that gets in over his head, literally!
My favorite illustration in the book is just before Little E goes across the bridge with the apple tree, the scene where he’s looking back at the reader and is framed by all the other machines; the expression on his face there is Anna’s expression, a very happy can-do expression, like “I got this!”.  I see Anna everytime I see that picture of Little E.
Anna 2
9) I understand Anna left more books in various levels of completion.  Is that true and when can we expect them?  A world without more Llama llama would be a dreary world indeed.
Yes!  Lots of stories, some Llama stories and several others too.  Anna created many other characters that the public hasn’t met yet.  My hope is to bring as many of these to the public as I can over time.  The next full Llama picture book, Llama Llama Loves to Read, hits the shelves on May 1st, 2018.  And of course there are several other Llama books coming out all the time: board books, sticker books, spinoff books from the Netflix animated series, and a really lovely memory book (Llama Llama and Me: My Book of Memories) that comes out in January of 2018.
10) Speaking of little Llama, is it true there is a series coming out on Netflix?
“Llama Llama”, a Netflix Original Series, debuts on Jan. 26, 2018.  This first season features 30 animated episodes.  Anyone who loves Anna’s books will really enjoy the series; it’s very true to her work.  All the familiar characters have roles and there are some new characters who appear too.  Jennifer Garner voices the Mama Llama character and she is fabulous in that role — loving and warm and funny and perfect.  A huge amount of care and attention went into the development of every detail of this show, from the storylines to the original music to the animation and color palette and to the voices of the characters.  We had an all-star production team, with key players from award-winning shows like The Lion King, The Magic School Bus, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Stuart Little, Inspector Gadget, etc.  I couldn’t feel luckier to have had such an assemblage of brilliant people work on “Llama Llama”, and I couldn’t be more proud of the result.
Anna and Reed  shared a very close connection, as life partners and work partners. Reed always got first reed on Anna’s stories. They bounced ideas off each other all day in regards to storyline, color etc. How lucky we are to have such a devoted man to bring Anna’s unfinished works to the world.  Best of luck to Reed and the team at Penguin books. Thank you Reed for this loving and insightful glimpse into Anna and her process.
Anna 3

1 star


We are so pleased to have

LITTLE EXCAVATOR by the late Anna Dewdnehy

on the

2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 6:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017


2017 TOP 10 List


Written by Diana Murray

Illustrated by Heather Ross

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

I’m rolling out the Best of Rhyme carpet for Diana Murray and her picture book, Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show. In Diana’s entertaining sequel, Grimelda’s spell book goes missing in her still very messy room. The young witch wants to find a spell to turn her typical cat named Wizzlewarts into a spooktacular pet, so she can win first prize in the pet show.
After Grimelda the Very Messy Witch was published, you shared in an interview that you lose things like your young witch. Did you have any “spooktacular” pets to draw upon to create Grimelda and the Spooktacular Pet Show?
Well, we’ve had snails and newts for pets, so there’s that. Am I the only one who thinks snails are super cute? They’re fun to watch, too. As for the newts, one of them escaped from its tank and I ended up finding it in a kitchen drawer. That was quite a Grimelda-like surprise!
Once you brainstormed the concept for this sequel, did you go through a similar writing process as your first Grimelda book? What aspect of writing rhyming picture books do you find most challenging?
Since it was a sequel, the process was pretty different (more collaboration with the publisher, etc.). As far as technical details, I kept the meter and rhyme scheme the same in the sequel and tried to mimic the original refrain. In the first one, there was a repetition of “Where’d I put that pickle root?” and in the second there is a repetition of “Not spooktacular enough!” So in terms of rhyming difficulties, it was a challenge to keep coming up with words that rhyme with “root” and “enough”, yet blend seemlessly into the story.
In general, I think there are two main difficulties when it comes to writing any story in rhyme:
  1. Making the language sound natural rather than forced.
  2. Taking control of the story and not letting the rhymes make you meander or take too long to get to the point.
Did you include art notes in your Grimelda manuscripts? Did any of Heather Ross’s illustrations surprise you? What ended up being your favorite spread in the book?
I made a few illustrator notes just for clarification. But yes, the final art was full of surprises for me! For example, the creatures at the pet show were unlike anything I had imagined. I think the pet show spread is probably my favorite. There are so many wonderful details to pore over. I wondered how Heather would  illustrate the “haunted snail”.  She made it float! And the frog who turns into a prince always gets a laugh when I read the book to kids.
How are the Grimelda books marketed? Does having a series based on a witch give both books a longer shelf life than the Halloween season?
Neither of the books explicitly mentions Halloween so they are technically suitable for any time of year (like the classic, “Room on the Broom”). But I still find they are mostly promoted at Halloween. They were in some Halloween bookstore displays, for example. But the marketing is not something I have much control over.
How many polished manuscripts did you have when querying your agent? Did you have a website prior to publication? Do you use social media to promote your work?
I queried my agent with GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH. When she expressed interest and asked what else I had, I sent her NED THE KNITTING PIRATE and one other manuscript (can’t remember which one). She was particularly interested in Grimelda and Ned and signed me up on the basis of those. They both sold fairly quickly. I had many, many other picture book manuscripts (maybe 25?) that I didn’t send to her originally. For example, I had already written CITY SHAPES, but I didn’t send her that till a year or two later.
I did have a website, but it was not as polished as the one I have now. It had a little background information and listed some of my poetry sales and awards. It was very simple.
I do use social media–mostly Twitter and Facebook. I mainly use them to stay in touch with others in the business, but I also post information about new book sales, releases, and contests and such.
Diana, Thank you for taking the time to share your writing world with us.
Thank you for the opportunity!

1 star


Diana Murray - Headshot

Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two daughters, and a spiky bearded dragon who loves listening to stories—especially about dinosaurs. Diana’s many picture books have been mentioned earlier, and her poems have appeared in magazines including Highlights, High Five, Hello, Spider, and Lady Bug.


Congratulations Diana

on having


on the 2017 Top 10 List

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 6:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017


2017 TOP 10 List

Mighty Construction Site


by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

They’re back!
The five hardworking crew members from Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site,
written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, are back and gearing up for a new day and a new job.
But, in the new Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, the task is “a massive building, so
immense” that Cement mixer has to think fast. “He gives his horn a blaring blast” and five more
mighty trucks hear the call.
“Rolling, rumbling, revving hard,
ten big trucks meet in the yard.
A mighty, massive supercrew—
there is nothing they can’t do!”
As work begins, each crew member, both old and new, is quickly introduced and its job
“Skid Steer’s nimble, small, and quick.
She turns, she spins—she does a trick!”
Were you reading carefully? Did you notice that Skid is a girl truck? So is Flatbed Truck,
another new crew member. The illustrations don’t provide gender clues, so readers and listeners will have to pay attention to the text to notice this subtle nod to young female construction fans.
In this story of teamwork and hard work, an original crew member is paired with a new
crew member. When Crane is out of beams, he’s helpless without his new friend Flatbed!
“On site,
she rolls right to a stop,
with Crane’s supplies
all stacked on top.
Flatbed Truck’s
just saved the day!
Their work can get
back underway.”
“Rough and rugged all day long,
rolling, lifting, digging strong,
each truck has had a part to play
to help the work get done today.”
Mighty, Mighty Construction Site is a solid companion to Goodnight, Goodnight
Construction Site. This story ends with a reference to the previous book that fans will
understand, but the story stands alone and complete with plenty of action, fun word play and
rhyme, and solid information about the construction process. Near the conclusion, the pace of the text slows as the “tired, but strong and proud” trucks “roll to find their cozy beds, to cuddle up and rest their heads”, making Mighty, Mighty Construction Site a wonderful bedtime book.

1 star

Sherri Duskey Rinker

How This All Began

In 2008, in the midst of hectically trying to manage the demands of being a working mom in a career I no longer loved, I wroteConstruction Site, and it was picked up by the first publisher to whom it was sent (Thank you, Chronicle! It’s the literary equivalent of winning the lottery, I realize.) It’s been an unexpected and wonderful journey, and I’m deeply grateful.


Congratulations Sherri on


making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 6:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017


2017 TOP 10 List

Stinky Stench


by Josh Funk

Illustrated by Brendan Kearney  

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo


There’s a stinky stench in the fridge–and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast–this fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids and adults alike!
Oh my flapjack-a-doodle, I loved this picture book! And I’m not just saying that because Josh Funk promised to name a character Cathy C. Hall in his next picture book!
Um…I’ve just been informed that Josh Funk did NOT promise to name a character Cathy C. Hall in his next picture book.
But he did promise to answer all five of my questions, so let’s see what he has to say:
So Josh, here’s THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH in the Top Ten, showing up at Goodreads in its Best of list, and now you have another book coming out in this series! Did you ever imagine that breakfast foods could be so profitable for you?
Nope! In fact, when I was querying LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (the first book in the series) to agents, one of the common responses I received was “anthropomorphic foods don’t sell.” It just goes to show that breaking the rules is sometimes a good thing (especially because another common rule you hear is ‘don’t write in rhyme’ – which clearly I broke as well).
And of course, the third book in the series (MISSION: DEFROSTABLE, available 9.4.18) will also be in rhyme.
Speaking of your rhyming picture books, which comes first when you write: the rhyme or the story?
Story. Always story. Story is the most important part of a rhyming picture book. In fact, the second most important part of a rhyming picture book is the rhythm. Any first grader can rhyme – it’s the rhythm that takes a ton of work to get right.
Rhyme is actually the least important part of a rhyming picture book.
So there’s hope for me! Humor plays a big part in THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH, both in the characters and story. How did you come to write so comically?
Because picture books are a visual art form (and I am a terrible visual artist), I think of things I’d like to see illustrated. Funny things that I could never draw. Like a pancake and French toast racing through the fridge causing culinary chaos. It just lends itself to hilarity.
And Brendan Kearney, the book’s illustrator, just ran with it. He’s added so much visual humor to the story. Starting with the character design (whipped cream hairdo, strawberry hat – those were all his ideas) and spreading throughout the entire fridge setting.
I’m also a fan of the occasional, well-placed pun – like the literal red herring and tripping by Miss Steak (which I just sort of fell into).
And I think we’re all fans of your books, Josh! So what do you have coming out next year?
2018 is going to be a busy year! I have 4 books (3 that rhyme) coming out between May 1st and September 4th (a slim 125 day period – but who’s counting?).
The first is called ALBIE NEWTON (Sterling, 5.1.18), illustrated by Ester Garay. It’s about smart and creative boy who starts school, but doesn’t really have all the social skills down yet. His grand attempt to make friends causes lots of problems for his classmates, and – well, you’ll have to read it to find out how it ends. But I think lots of kids will relate to Albie Newton and the other kids in his class.
HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (Viking/Penguin, 6.5.18), illustrated by Sara Palacios is being published in partnership with Girls Who Code – and I couldn’t be more excited about this one, even though it doesn’t rhyme! It’s the first in a series of informational fiction picture books about a girl named Pearl and her robot, Pascal. In this first book, they use fundamental coding concepts to construct the perfect beach day using sequences, loops, and if-then-else statements – but using them in real world situations.
Later in the summer, I’ve got another rhyming book called LOST IN THE LIBRARY: A STORY OF PATIENCE & FORTITUDE (Macmillan, 8.28.18), illustrated by Stevie Lewis. This is the first picture book about Patience and Fortitude, the two lion statues that faithfully guard the New York Public Library (in fact, this book is published in partnership with the NYPL). When Patience goes missing, Fortitude realizes that Patience has ventured inside the library. So for the first time ever, Fortitude abandons his post to search for Patience before the sun rises and we, the readers, get to explore the library for the first time alongside Fortitude.
And lastly is the third book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series: MISSION DEFROSTABLE (Sterling, 9.4.18). In this action-packed adventure, the fridge is freezing over – and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have to travel to parts of the
fridge they’ve never ventured … and need to enlist the help of one of their fiercest rivals. Dun. Dun. DUN!
Can’t wait to read ‘em all! And now my last question because we’re also about letting all those rhyming picture book writers out there know there’s hope. What’s the best advice you can give to them?
Great question. I have lots to say about this subject, but most importantly I think rhyming picture book writers should remember that ALL picture books (especially rhyming ones) are meant to be read aloud to children (usually by adults). It’s important that everyone who speaks the language can read and perform the book well. It has to work for people with all accents and from all regions – which means that you have to be very careful when using words that people pronounce differently – especially regarding the rhythm!
For example, think about the word ‘family’ – how many syllables does it have? The dictionary will tell you it has 3 – but many people pronounce it with 2. So putting the word family in the middle of a line could screw up the rhythm for some readers. Then think about how many words are just like that in your story. Every syllable matters.
So have your manuscripts read aloud TO you by everyone – especially the worst readers out there. Listen for places where they screw up – and then fix those spots.
Thanks so much for honoring The Case of the Stinky Stench with Best in Rhyme consideration and inviting me to answer some questions!
Thank you, Josh! And best of luck to you and THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH. (Even if you’re not putting me in one of your books.)

 Josh Funk

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books – such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stenchand the upcoming Mission: Defrostable), It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, and the forthcoming Albie Newton, How to Code a Sandcastle (in conjunction with Girls Who Code), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in conjunction with the New York Public Library), It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and more coming soon!
Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.
Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.
For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

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Congratulations JOSH on


making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

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on February 4th at 6:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

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Santa's Gift Cover - Final


by Angie Karcher

Illustrated by Dana Karcher


2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

What a delight it was to meet you, Angie. The year was 2015. Both you and I were attending the WOW [Week of Writing] Conference in Georgia. Since we both live in the Midwest, I feel a special connection to you. Just wish we lived closer, as you live in Indiana and I live in Illinois.
Congratulations, Angie, on your continued success with the Rhyming Picture Book Award and the Rhyming Picture Book Month/Rhyme Revolution. You’ve always been supportive of all writers who write in rhyme and prose.
Hip, hip, hooray for your recent publication, a picture book titled SANTA’S GIFT! The folks in Evansville, Indiana must be proud of your rhyming picture book about a historical landmark. The true story captures special family traditions and community spirit. How wonderful for everyone to come together to restore the 35 foot tall Santa. Once again, the beloved Santa waves to travelers with a twinkle in his blue eyes, wishing  a gift of safe travels.
Q:During the season of giving, you are sharing many read alouds of SANTA’S GIFT. Tell us about these gatherings with a variety audiences, including your Mom. What fun and joy for all.
Yes, it was quite a busy few weeks promoting this book! I recently looked back and counted all the book signings, readings, school visits, etc. and I did 25 events in 6 weeks, and many of them dressed as Mrs. Claus. It was so much fun to read this story to kids and adults alike. Those who are familiar with the Santa statue in my area often teared up, as many grew up with Santa waving to them as a child. Others who weren’t familiar with the statue now hope to visit it someday. It has been such a fun and heartwarming project. It was expecially fun reading the story to the residents of the nursing home where my mother lives. Those folks all knew about the statue and were telling me fun stories about Santa. It was a special day.
Q: Every writer has a unique journey along the writerly path of becoming published. Share some tips and advice for those who continue read, write, and submit.
My advice is never give up! If this is truly your passion, then keep at it. I’m a perfect example of how perserverence pays off. I’ve been writing for over 20 years off and on. I’ve been writing professionally for the past 6 years. When I say professionally, I mean that writing is my job. It’s my career. I regularly attend writing conferences, take classes, teach classes, do manuscript critiques for other writers and present at schools and conferences.
Create a writing platform that will bring you exposure as a writer and enable you to network with others. My suggestions is that you find a platform that will help others. Once you figure out what your platform is, then do everything you can to promote it, invite others to participate and celebrate writing!
Find a group of writers that are your “people.” This can be a critique group, a book club, a Facebook group…The main thing is that you can go to these folks for advice and sharing the good news as well as the rejections. These are people you can trust with your writing and your heart. Writing is an emotional business and we all need a support group.
Q:The illustrations in SANTA’S GIFT are bright, colorful, and delightful. Did you share illustration notes or your vision of the illustrations with Dana Karcher, illustrator?
Yes, I’m fortunate because Santa’s Gift was published by a regional publisher that is in the town where I live. Because they are a small publisher, Dana and I were given free reign to collaborate. This was her first picture book and my first illustrated picture book so…we worked very hard to get it right. We talked through every single page, making notes and sharing ideas. I’m a visual writer so I mentioned what I envisioned and then Dana enhanced that or came up with an even better illustration. It was so exciting to see the words come to life on the page. The day I read the finished book to myself was the highlight of my career. I absolutely love the art!
Q:What’s next for you, Angie? What is your current WIP? What projects are you working on?
I’m pleased to share that I’ve accepted the position of IN SCBWI ARA. I’m heading to the New York Conference next week and can’t wait to meet more of the SCBWI Team! I’ve been a member of SCBWI for over 15 years and am happy to help serve Indiana.
I am hosting a Rhyme Revolution Conference in New Harmony, IN in October. You can check out the details HERE. It’s going to be a long fall weekend with an amazing faculty, lots of great sessions, writing time, a hayride, bonfire and s’mores.
I am also starting a new position this year with KidLitTV hosting a craft segment called Ms. Angie’s Craft Time. Coming soon, my first craft goes with Leslie Helakoski’s adorable picture book HOOT AND HONK JUST CAN’T SLEEP.
Dana and I have two titles coming out this year with M.T. Publishing. The first picture book, NO TEARS IN BASEBALL is about a bat boy and is set at historic Bosse Field, the third oldest baseball field still in use in the U.S. Our second picture book, THE SIGNATURE SHIP, is set on The Landing Ship Tank, a WW II ship that was built in the shipyard in Evansville, IN.
I have more exciting news coming soon! Oh…it’s so hard for me to keep a secret! = )
Q:Do you have any hidden talents you’d like to share?
I am a closet illustrator. I love sketching and painting. I am taking some illustration classes and hopefully will be working on a portfolio this year. But, don’t tell anyone!
Thank you, Angie, for celebrating the love of reading with all readers—young and old. As Dr. Seuss said, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” SANTA’S GIFT is a delightful story to read. So sit back, relax and experience the magic of Christmas.

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Mrs. Claus barn image

Mrs. Claus by the reindeer barn

Angie’s Bio:

Angie is the author of WHERE THE RIVER GRINS, 2012 M.T. Publishing, THE LEGENDARY R.A. COWBOY JONES 2014 M.T. and SANTA’S GIFT 2017 M.T. Publishing. Her poetry is included in the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial Tribute to Poems and Songs. NO TEARS IN BASEBALL, M.T. Publishing, July 2018 and THE SIGNATURE SHIP, M.T. Publishing, November 2018

Angie is the founder of Rhyme Revolution, The Best in Rhyme Award and the Rhyme Revolution Conference. (October 2018, New Harmony, Indiana) She is available for school visits, conference presentations and readings. Please see her website for more information.




Congratulations ANGIE on


making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

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Captain Bling cover


by Rebecca Colby

Illustrated by Rob McClurkan

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CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PLUNDER by Rebecca Colby, Illustrated by Rob McClurkan:

Captain Bling and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!

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What better Christmas gift than a rhyming picture book, combining pirates and the retelling of a classic Christmas poem? Author, Rebecca Colby had me hooked with her clever title, CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PLUNDER, and her interesting rhymes moved this story merrily along with several unexpected twists from Santa for Captain Bling and his crew.


  • First, Rebecca, CONGRATULATIONS on being names as a Finalist for this year’s Best in Rhyme Award for CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PUNDER!! Combining Christmas and pirates is such a fun and unique mash-up!  How did this concept first come to you and what was your goal for this story?


I love humor, and over the years I’ve discovered that one way to ensure a book is funny is to put two things together that aren’t normally found together. The contrast between two normally opposing things fuels humor—in this case, pirates and Christmas.


Every year I participate in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo). In 2014, when the event still took place in November, I decided to concentrate on coming up with as many mash-up ideas as I could. With it being the run-up to Christmas, holiday ideas featured heavily on my list.


My initial goal for the story was purely to write a humorous story. I knew from the beginning that the pirates would be naughty with a capital N, and seeking to steal Santa’s treasure of toys. But (spoiler alert here) I wanted the pirates to eventually have a change of heart. What I hadn’t worked out at that point was what the catalyst would be for their transformation.


  • Your love of rhyme is obvious!  How long have you been a rhymer and what has it taken to get both your rhythm and rhyme to this level of publishing perfection?


I seriously took to rhyme twelve years ago when my eldest child was a baby. I decided to embrace those long, sleepless nights she was gifting me with as an opportunity to write picture books and poetry.


When I first began writing in rhyme, my ex told me in no uncertain terms how bad my meter was. He suggested I either buy a metronome or give up on rhyme altogether.


Feeling confident in my rhyming skills, I refused to take on board his criticism until my local critique group told me the same thing, albeit in a more diplomatic manner.  That’s when I started studying meter and began asking people to read my work aloud, so I could hear where the rhythm was off. Within a few short months, I had developed a much better ear for meter.


I should add, however, that this was still not the point at which my work came to “a level of publishing perfection,” as I was still using predictable rhymes and slant rhymes. What helped me most was studying books by other PB rhymers like Julia Donaldson.


  • Also, how do you decide whether your story will be written in rhyme or not?


Good question! Very often I use traditional rhymes as patterns for my books, so I’ll have chosen a rhyme before I start to write. With Captain Bling, because I knew I was writing a Christmas story, I wanted to use the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem as my model. Had I not been able to make the story fit the rhyming pattern, I would have changed it to prose.


Before I get a reputation as only writing to traditional rhymes or songs, I should add that I’ve just sold a rhyming picture book that is not patterned after a traditional rhyme.


  • What advice could you give to new or interested writers in Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution group regarding writing in rhyme?


First and foremost, find some trusted critique partners. Angie’s Rhyme Revolution attracts rhymers from all over the world and, if they wish to be, she kindly connects them into critique groups. I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of this opportunity, as well as following Angie’s thorough and helpful posts each April, and reading and studying as many rhyming picture books as you can. Also, put a good rhyming dictionary on the top of your Christmas wish list!


  • It’s exciting to see that you’ve traveled the world and currently live in the UK!  How has that effected your picture book writing and please tell us about any impacts it may have also had on your US publishing and promotional aspects, as well.


I don’t feel my traveling and residence in the UK has adversely impacted on my being published in the US. I tried for years to get UK agents and editors interested in my work, and it was only when I gave up on the UK market and began submitting to the US market, that I realized, actually, my writing ‘voice’ was better suited for the US anyway.


As to promotional aspects, it’s harder to get festival and school events here as most of the organizers have never heard of me. Having said that, I’m pretty good at putting myself forward for events. I also produce free teaching resources for my books and am able to promote myself on-line to US librarians and educators that way. The only disadvantage I see is that I’m still waiting to be sent on a US book tour, but, I think that’s a pipe dream for many US-based PB authors as well, unless they write a bestseller.


  • And finally, what’s next on your publishing path?


As mentioned above, I’ve just sold a further rhyming picture book, however, I’m not yet at liberty to disclose additional information about it. Other things I’m working on include a non-fiction book for adults, stand-up comedy sketches, and screenplays—none of which are in rhyme. Nothing may come of these other projects, but they keep me out of trouble and are allowing me to spread my writing wings, so to speak.


Thank you, Rebecca and much continued success!!

RebeccaColby - HEADSHOT

Rebecca Colby’s Website

Rebecca is a children’s picture book author, poet, and screenwriter. Her children’s books are represented by Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Her fourth book, CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PLUNDER, was published by Albert Whitman & Co., 2017.


Rebecca’s other books include:

MOTOR GOOSE (Feiwel & Friends, 2017),

IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS (Feiwel and Friends, 2015), and


Congratulations REBECCA on



making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!



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2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

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Pom Witch Cover 110 KB


by Denise Doyen

Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

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When a scary old tree blooms with the most beautiful pomegranates ever seen, the neighborhood kids’ mouths water with anticipation. But the tree isn’t theirs—and it has a protector! So begins the Pomegranate War, a fun, rollicking, rhyming tale of a battle between the sly, plucky young rascals and their wry, witchy neighbor who may have more than one trick up her sleeve. 

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Denise Doyen had me at witch. I love a good witch story! And a witch story that rhymes, too? Wicked cool. But I have to admit that I was a little surprised about…well…pomegranates. Possibly because I’m one of those people who didn’t know what a pomegranate was until 2001. And I didn’t actually taste a pomegranate until three years ago.


I know. It’s embarrassing. Because pomegranates are delicious! Still, I knew when Denise agreed to answer five questions for an interview that my first question would be pretty basic:


Why pomegranates, Denise? I feel like there must be a story there, in choosing such an unusual fruit! (It is a fruit, right?)


Hi Cathy, so nice to visit here.


Botanically, I’ve read it’s an overgrown berry. Why poms? This story came from a real childhood experience of, well, pilfering pomegranates. So, I guess that choice was made long ago when a group of us kids lusted after some ‘overgrown berries’. I might also have been influenced by the recent popularity of pomegranates (their antioxidant properties discovered.) Seeing pomegranate gems sprinkled on my salad or pom juice in fancy bottles kept bringing that childhood passion to mind. 

Then, trying to vividly recall that passion brought the language of delectable fruit into play. The summer I was working on this story, my older son, Paul, was writing a thesis for an advanced English Lit class. We’d head out to cafés together and work across the table on our respective projects. One evening, he mentioned an apropos poetic work he’d read in his class, “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti.

Pom Witch - End Papers

I was enchanted. I saw how Rossetti celebrated each tactile, flavorful, aromatic, colorful aspect of the fruit that her goblins seductively touted. I think we rhymers can get caught up in a running cadence–and let it gallop away with us. Studying Rossetti’s poem gave me the confidence to drastically change tempo, to slow down when I wanted the reader to covet and take notice as the Pomegranate Gang did―with childlike awe: “the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits”.


I noticed that your first book, ONCE UPON A TWICE, is also a rhyming picture book. Do your stories always come to you in rhyme?


Seems like it. Actually, I search for my next story by recalling books I loved as a child, then I try to glean what it was about them that so captured my imagination. As a kid, I felt a real affection for Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. I recited it by heart. I loved the magical sounding nonsense words that still made sense. I enjoyed the brave boy’s adventure that unfolded like a miniature play, and yes, the end rhymes that wove it all together. So, I tried to incorporate those elements into my story about a bold, wayward mouse in Once Upon a Twice.


The qualities I wanted for The Pomegranate Witch came from ballad poems that I adored and memorized, like “Casey at the Bat”, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and “Paul Revere’s Ride.”  Those classic-yarns and their air of nostalgia felt right for the tale I wanted to write about a spooky old farm house, an enchanted tree, the local ‘witch’ and the antics of children caught up in a neighborhood mystery. The meter of a ballad’s iambic heptameter offered a familiar yet dramatic pacing. I added some wordplay and strove to make the rhymes unique. Pondering this interview question, I realize that being able to memorize lovely language felt special and valuable to me as a kid. Rhyme is a great way to cue one’s mind to link: one line of text — to what comes next. Surely, that’s a reason I’m drawn to it. 



THE POMEGRANATE WITCH is centered on fall, harvest time, and Halloween. Is it harder to sell a seasonal book? And do you have any promotional tricks that will make it a treat to plan school events with a seasonal book?


Well, fortunately Halloween is a big book-selling holiday. I received photos from friends showing The Pomegranate Witch featured in their local bookstore’s festive fall windows or Halloween table displays. Illustrator Eliza Wheeler’s cover is so charming and evocative (ditto the entire book.) She added such thoughtful, imaginative layers and visual clues to the text. The pomegranate end papers are to die for. Actually, pomegranates themselves have proven one way to expand the niche of the book. At my book signings, I demonstrate how to open a pomegranate and get at the seeds without making a huge mess! The kids are fascinated (and parents and teachers, relieved.)  The town of Madera featured readings of the book on their Children’s Stage during their Annual Pomegranate Festival. Also, the book’s underlying themes are helpful; I’ve been very pleased to see several reviews noting that the childhood escapade and provocative questions about the mysterious neighbor make the story suitable for year-round readings. That wider storyline–about childhood invention and ‘not judging a book (or witch) by its cover’―were my intended focus, not Halloween.


RE: school visits. A favorite interaction: I have students recite the poem’s repeats with me. We practice first. I give them an easy visual cue (I hold up 3 fingers.) Then, at intervals kids can anticipate, the whole audience chants “The pomegranate, pomegranate, pomegranate witch!”

Pom Witch - Year to ear to hear...

What an interesting journey you’ve had to children’s publishing! What’s the best advice you ever received along the way, and what do you always tell those rhyming picture book writers when they’re first starting out?


Yes, I’ve sort of ricocheted through the Arts: studying design, a decade as a professional dancer/choreographer, film school, a director of children’s television, a graphic artist during The Mom Years and now, writing for children. I don’t think such branching of creative interests is unusual. I know so many writers who are also musicians, actors who paint, architects who sculpt, dancers who design costumes and clothes, illustrators who are accomplished chefs. Often diverse interests inform each other. For instance, I’m pretty sure my years of tap dancing lessons at Miss Isabel Christie’s Studio sensitized my ear to rhythm, syncopation, stressed/unstressed beats, anticipatory pauses, etc. I am a much better poet because a can tap it out and “feel the beat” in my feet, my bones, my heart.


Advice for new, brave, rhyming picture book writers? That old true chestnut: Always put word choices that truly enhance your story, your setting or your characters above your rhyme. And don’t fall to the temptation of overused couplets: tree/me, sky/high, blue/too. I always gather a ton of photographs showing the places, actions, plants, animals or people who I am trying to build my story around.  Sometimes just studying those pictures, looking with a poet’s exactness at all the colors, textures, elements, motions suggested by them, will conjure an original flash, a fresh take or cool description. One of my favorite phrases in The Pomegranate Witch came about this way. I was mulling over a photo of an ancient pomegranate tree, its crown, its bark, the earth beneath and I thought “Wow, those roots undulate like snakes.” Voila. The line in the story now reads, “…dirt ripplesnaked with roots.”


My mother (a retired kindergarten teacher) tells stories about how her little language learners used their small vocabularies in novel ways. One of my favorites is when someone knocked on the classroom door and a little girl said, “Teacher! The door is talking.” I mean, how great is that? We language masters need to trick or coach ourselves out of the ruts of everyday usage, look anew, because a flash thought like “the door is talking” is where poetry begins.

 Pom - pom prize

And finally, what’s Denise Doyen staying up way too late and working on these days?

So, as is my habit, I searched my fondest childhood reading moments to come up with an inspiration. I loved Madeline. I wanted to live in Paris, have eleven mirror-like roommates, see carousels, city rivers and stone bridges, and stroll through parks full of kites. I wanted to survive some brief, exciting Incident (that ended with a dollhouse.) So, I’m gathering up those childish wants and feelings, as well as Ludwig Bemelman’s simple, direct language and I’m applying them to a story called “Claire’s Stairs.”  I guess we’ll see what happens…


Thanks, Cathy for the interview and Rhyme Revolution for promoting books that rhyme.


Big congrats on THE POMEGRANATE WITCH being in the Top Ten list of Best In Rhyme 2017 books! Please go visit Denise’s wonderfully eerie website to read more. As for me, I’ve got a sudden hankering for a sweet treat.

You thought I was going to say pomegranate, didn’t you? But I’m off to find ONCE UPON A TWICE. And yep, a nice juicy pomegranate to go along with it!


DOYEN Denise, Headshot 2


Buy it HERE


Denise Doyen studied creative writing and design at Stanford University (BA) and directing at the American Film Institute (Masters). For many years she worked in the world of children’s television where she directed the beloved Disney Channel series Welcome to Pooh Corner and Dumbos Circus as well as other productions for children including the video collection “The Mother Goose Treasury.”

Leaving show biz to raise her two boys, she embraced Mom-dom while working part-time as a graphic designer. However, her first love was writing. So, when her oldest son set off for college, Denise set off on a new creative career; she studied writing for children at UCLA. She joined SCBWI (Society for Children’s Writers & Illustrators), claimed a chair in Barbara Bottner’s Master Class and was a founding member of GOYA critique group. (GOYA: an Urdu word meaning “the suspension of disbelief that occurs in good storytelling”; it’s also a cheeky acronym for “Get Off Your Ass—and get writing!”) She loves amusing words, especially clever or elegant portmanteaus, and working late, late at night.

Her first book, Once Upon a Twice, a rousing mousey nonsense adventure, debuted in 2009 to starred reviews. It was a Junior Library Guild selection and included in several ‘best of’ lists including Kirkus Reviews “Best Children’s Books of 2009”. The book was awarded the 2010 “EB White Read Aloud Honor,” and Denise won the “2010 Ridgway Honor” for outstanding debut in the world of children’s picture books.

Her second book, The Pomegranate Witch, is loosely based on a childhood experience that she shared around a critique table one evening after Halloween, while the rest of the group was making its way through Los Angeles traffic. When she finished telling the story, her writer friends said, “That’s a book.” And now, it is.

Ms. Doyen lives with her husband, Michael, an attorney, (their young adult sons have flown the nest) and a Bengal cat, Zeek, in Pacific Palisades, CA.

Many thanks to 2017 Best in Rhyme Committee Member Cathy C. Hall for interviewing Denise Doyen about her fabulous new book




and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List again!

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Doris cover


by Diana Murray

Illustrated by Yuyi Chen

1 star

“We shouldn’t have to beg or plead

To make our brothers want to read.”

Doris the Bookasaurus finds a way

to make reading fun for Max and TJ.


I first “met” the talented author Diana Murry in 2010 when I won a Letter of Merit from SCBWI’s Barbara Karlin Grant and she WON the award. I emailed to congratulate her and we corresponded off and on. I did an interview with her last year for the GROG about her book CITY SHAPES. I can honestly say I am a fan of hers, and I am pleased to get to interview her about her book DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS.  Diana is, by the way, the first author to have two books on the 10 Best in Rhyme List for a second year! Quite an accomplishment


It appears you started with poetry in magazines before publishing books. Do you recommend starting with poetry for magazines to build a resume and hone your craft?


Yes. I had my first acceptance for a poem named “Mystery Dinner” from Spider Magazine. Shortly thereafter, I had a few acceptances from Highlights for Children. Since then I have sold many other poems, mostly to Highlights and High Five. I do recommend it. When agents or editors see that you have magazine credits, it helps to show you’re serious about your career (especially if you don’t have other publishing credits yet).


For those who are unfamiliar with your writing journey, can you give us a Reader’s Digest condensed version?


I started writing seriously in 2007. That’s when I joined SCBWI. Three years later I sold my first couple of poems and won the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant for a picture book work in progress. Two years after that in, 2012, I signed with my agent, Brianne Johnson at Writers House. In 2016 and 2017 I had my first six books release: CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH plus a sequel (Tegen/HarperCollins), NED, THE KNITTING PIRATE (Roaring Brook/MacMillan), GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE  (Sky Pony Press) and DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS (Imprint/MacMillan). I have seven more children’s books coming in 2018 and beyond. The next one, coming in February, will be an early reader, PIZZA PIG, with the Random House Step-Into-Reading series. (By the way, writing rebuses for Highlights helped me get the hang of writing early readers).


Kirkus says: “The scansion is excellent, making the verses both easy to read aloud and easy for pre-readers to eventually memorize.”  How did you manage the “excellent scansion”? And did you purposely use two different rhythmic schemes?


DORIS is written in rhyming couplets of iambic tetrameter. However, I use a lot of clipped, headless lines. In other words, instead of starting with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (ba DUM ba DUM) I sometimes clip the first unstressed syllable of the sentence. Starting with a stressed syllable (DUM ba DUM) makes the lines feel a little bolder and I thought that captured Doris’ enthusiasm. In addition, when Doris reads from other books, that text is set in iambic 4/3 meter, sometimes referred to as “ballad” meter. When you have a text within a text, it is common to set it in a different meter in order to distinguish the two. As far as the scansion, that’s mainly a matter of practice.


I really like the color combinations and the art. What was your impression when you saw the illustrations? Did you have any art notes?


I absolutely loved Yuyi Chen’s illustrations. I especially love the scene where they sail their ship into the pirate book.

Doris 1

That’s exactly what I pictured—except better. I inserted a few art notes for clarification. For example, when Doris is telling jokes and a “crowd” gathers, I noted that this would be her stuffed animals.


Such inventive language such as “dino-store”,  lounging in my “boulder bed” and “mega-dino-tastic.” Also, “stego Blocks” is too clever. And love the alliteration of “scurvy scaly pirate crew.” Do you think about word choice as you go, or go back and work on the lyrical language?

Doris 2


Diana: Thank you! Most of the time words just pop into my head as I’m going. But I do go back over the text to make sure I haven’t missed any opportunities.


What was the impetus for this book and how long did it take you to get to the finished product?


This book started out in prose and actually went through tons of revisions. Wasn’t until I wrote it in verse that it sold. It took about three years from submitting to publications. The main inspiration was watching my kids play. I always loved it when they incorporated stories from books into their playtime. I started noticing how playing and reading went together more than people might think. I wanted to show how exciting and active books can be and also, what a good variety there is—from joke books to record books, to fantasy adventures—there’s truly something for everyone.


What advice do you have for rhyming writers?


My advice for rhyming writers is, keep practicing, and make sure that you sometimes write just for pleasure. Write what moves you, even if you don’t think it will sell. Nothing you write will be wasted, even if it isn’t published. But, on the other hand, if you’re working on a picture book, don’t get stuck on one manuscript. If it’s not working, might be best to set it aside and work on something else. You may be able to save it when you look at it again in a few years (that’s happened to me before). And don’t be afraid to write a crappy first draft. That is, silence the inner critic at the beginning, or else it might stifle your creativity. Finally, a good critique group (or several partners) is a must!


Diana Murray - Headshot


Buy it HERE


Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two daughters, and a spiky bearded dragon who loves listening to stories—especially about dinosaurs. Diana’s many picture books have been mentioned earlier, and her poems have appeared in magazines including Highlights, High Five, Hello, Spider, and Lady Bug.


Many thanks to 2017 Best in Rhyme Committee Member Sherri Jones Rivers for interviewing Diana Murray about her fabulous new book



Congratulations Diana on DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS

and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List again!

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017








Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


No rest for the weary rhymers!!!

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

TOP 10 List



by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrated by Deborah Marcero



Many thanks to 2017 Best in Rhyme Committee Member

Gayle C. Krause for interviewing Corey Rosen Schwartz

about her fabulous new book TWINDERELLA.

1 star





If you are a pre-school teacher or director of an early childhood education program, like I was in my previous career, you’ll love Corey Rosen Scwartz’s Twinderella, as much as I do. In fact, even high school math teachers can use Twinderella as a quirky, unique teaching tool. But I’m not speaking solely as a teacher, though I always read a picture book with an eye for the ‘teaching moment.’ Parents can invest themselves in the two-for-one story too—a  bedtime tale about a well-loved character and a lesson in pre-math skills.


Now, let’s discover a bit about Corey’s writing process.

 Corey - spread 1


GAYLE:  How long have you been writing?


COREY: I’ve been writing picture books since 2001. I had heard that it takes seven years on average to make your first sale. I was lucky to get plucked from the slush in less than two.  Needless to say, I was very pleased with myself.  Then… it took six and half years before I sold another manuscript!  Serves me right for being cocky.  Ha!  

Corey - spread 2


GAYLE:  How long does it take you to write a rhyming picture book? How many revisions?

COREY: As all rhymers know, it can takes a LOT of work to get the rhyme and meter just right.   Once I have an idea I love, I usually get a first draft down in a couple of weeks.  It is really important to get the story right first. So I revise with an eye toward plot structure.  Does it have enough tension?  A satisfactory ending, etc.  Once, I feel confident that the story arc is totally working, that is when I focus on tweaking the rhyme and meter.  All in all, it generally takes about four or five months and roughly 25-30 drafts.


Corey - spread 3

GAYLE: Where do you get your ideas?

COREY: I get nearly all of my ideas from my kids!   They were constantly providing me with material when they were little. Now that they are both in middle school, I am having a tough time.  I can no longer rely on them to say things like “Mommy, come quick.  Josh is in the oven!”   


Grandkids cannot come soon enough!    


GAYLE: How many rhyming picture books have you written?

COREY: Maybe a better question is how many non-rhyming pictures have I written?  Uh, none.  Ha!  That is not totally true.  I have three or four manuscripts that I have attempted to write in prose, but I’m embarrassed to even show them to my agent. Rhyme is what I do best.   My stories are not character-driven or plot-driven.  They are language-driven.  I’ve sold eight rhyming picture books and I have about a dozen others that are polished, but have not yet found a publisher.


GAYLE: How did you find the inspiration for Twinderella?

Corey - spread 4

COREY: Every year, I participate in what is now called Storystorm.  It is Tara Lazar’s challenge to come up with 30 PB ideas in 30 days.   In 2009, I came up with dozens of Goldilocks variations.  Two of the ideas were as follows:


  • Goldilocks has a surprise twin sister?  (Brownilocks?   Tawnylocks?)
  • Goldilocks and the Three and a Half Bears-  use fairy tales to teach fractions


Neither idea went anywhere, but they both kept nagging at me.  Then during Storystorm 2010, it suddenly hit me.   There was a perfect way to combine the two.   




GAYLE: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?


COREY: Yes. I actually see myself in Twinderella. Math was always my favorite subject in school. Like Tinderella, I see math as a fun, challenging puzzle to be solved. I love how logical it is. I was even a math teacher for a while and in my first draft of Twinderella, Tin wound up teaching math too! 


From Kirkus Reviews:

Touting itself as a “fractioned fairy tale,” (LOVE THIS PITCH!) however, this take on “Cinderella” proclaims that readers familiar only with the original story “don’t know the half of it!” Breezy, pun-filled rhymes introduce Cinderella’s twin, Twinderella, who uses math to divide their wicked stepmother’s chore list in half. 


Corey Author Photo


Congratulations Corey on TWINDERELLA

and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

Buy it HERE

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017







2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 – Matt Forrest Esenwine and FLASHLIGHT NIGHT Interview by Deborah Williams


Top 10 List


Flashlight Night



by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrated by Fred Koehler



Many thanks to 2017 Best in Rhyme Committee Member
Deborah Williams for interviewing Matt Forrest Esenwine
about his fabulous new book FLASHLIGHT NIGHT!

1 star

Deb: Congratulations on the great reviews for Flashlight Night!  This is your first picture book, but have you had other rhyming work published?

Matt: Thanks, Deb! Yes, I’ve had numerous poems published over the years. My first was back when I was in high school – I sent a free verse poem to the local college’s literary magazine and they liked it enough to publish it! That set me on my path. Since then, several of my poems have been published in literary journals and anthologies.

Up until 2009 or so, I was only publishing poetry geared for adults – primarily free verse – but I had some children’s poetry I’d written and didn’t know what to do with. A friend told me about SCBWI, I joined a local critique group, and began studying the craft as well as the market (a hugely important and often underestimated aspect of writing for children). My first children’s poem, “First Tooth,” was published in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed, 2015) and between that poem and all the others I have – or will have – published in books, online journals, and ‘Highlights’ magazine, the grand total comes to about 24! Granted, in publishing, the wheels turn slowly, but I’m extremely grateful I’ve been able to get this far so quickly.

Deb: Your voice talent background taught you to pay attention to how written words sound when read aloud. Was this helpful to you in writing picture books?

Matt: Yes, it was…but what was more important was my ability to write radio copy (e.g., commercials). When writing a 30-second or 60-second radio commercial, one needs to create interest on some type of emotional level; introduce a problem; offer a solution; and then conclude the message. Sound familiar?? It’s a story! So no matter whether it’s a commercial, a poem, a picture book, or a novel, the general structure is very often the same – it’s how one varies that structure and what one does with it that makes the difference.

Deb: Which do you find more challenging when writing, perfect rhyme or perfect meter?

Matt: Perfect rhyme, no question. Perfect meter can be difficult, yes, but if one is writing in accentual verse rather than syllabic, it’s the rhymes that are going to be front and center to the reader. As long as the text flows, make sure those rhymes are as good as they can be.

Deb: Rhyming books are often a hard sell, partly because they’re tough to translate for foreign markets. What would you say to encourage those of us who write in rhyme?

Matt: I know of a number of folk who’ve written rhyming picture books that have been translated into other languages, and they usually end up as non-rhyming picture books. This is another reason why having a solid, universal story – and text that can be appreciated even in prose –is so important.

Flashlight Night spread

Deb: Can you share some creative marketing ideas you’ve used with Flashlight Night?

Matt: One of my first book signings was at night, and we displayed the book on a projection screen so everyone could see. I talked about the book a little bit, then showed the kids some shadow puppets on the screen, and everyone left with a small flashlight of their own!

I also contacted a local hospital’s gift shop, because I felt ‘Flashlight’ was the kind of quiet adventure book a young child might enjoy while staying there. The manager loved the book and ordered a case, and we scheduled a book signing during the “lunch hour” (a very loose term when it comes to hospitals). Before the signing I visited the on-campus preschool and read to three groups of young children, and by the time the signing rolled around many of their parents were requesting copies! In fact, we sold out of all the books in an hour – and I’m hoping to get back there before Christmas for another go-round!

Deb: What’s the most fun you’ve had since your book came out?

Matt: I’ve really been enjoying the signings, actually. Eventually when I’m old and grizzled (which may not be too long from now) and have a wall of books to my name I’ll probably become haughty and supercilious…but for now, I’m having fun meeting people and chatting with them about the book, my contributions to various poetry collections, and children’s publishing in general.

Deb: What’s next for you in your writing career?  Will your next book be in rhyme, too?

Matt: This spring, I’ll have my name associated with two books! My second picture book, “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” (Pow! Kids Books), which I co-wrote with author Deb Bruss (“Book! Book! Book!”, “Big Box for Ben”), is scheduled for a March release. It’s about a couple of kids trying to put on a birthday party while their dinosaur friends – in the interest of helping – destroy everything. It includes a short glossary at the end so readers can learn more about the 14 different dinosaur species in the book…and yes, it’s rhyming!

I also am extremely grateful to Lee Bennett Hopkins for asking me to contribute a poem for his newest poetry anthology, “School People” (Boys Mills Press), which is being published by the same folks who published “Flashlight Night.” “School People is a collection of 15 poems about all the grown-ups that kids meet when they go to school: teachers, principals, the lunch crew, etc. Lee asked me to write a poem about the bus driver, so I’m really looking forward to seeing all my fellow friends’ and writers’ poems!

Deb; Thanks, Matt!  We’ll look forward to reading more of your writing and rhyming!

Matt: Thank YOU, Deb – and also thank you to Angie and everyone for including our little book in the Top 10!

2017 Top 10 Blogs - Mat Forrest


Congratulations Matt on FLASHLIGHT NIGHT

and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

Buy it HERE

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City. 

KidLit TV logo - new

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

Please take time to read these wonderful rhyming picture books!

Congratulations to the all the authors and illustrators!

Watch for weekly blog posts from the Best in Rhyme Committee Members about each of the Top 10 Best in Rhyme books

starting November 17th. 

Best in Rhyme 2017 Top 10

Here’s the official 2017 

Best in Rhyme Top 10 List

in no particular order


FLASHLIGHT NIGHT by Matt Forest Esenwine
SANTA’S GIFT by Angie Karcher
TWINDERELLA by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Watch for The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award announced February 4th at 7:00 pm ET from the KidLit TV Studio!

KidLit TV blk-white logo

Thank you to Julie Gribble at KidLit TV

Take a peek at the Best in Rhyme Rubric

used for scoring.

The Best in Rhyme committee is a group of dedicated Rhyme Revolution members. They have been busy reading, reviewing and scoring the nominated rhyming picture books for 2017. Members of the Rhyme Revolution Group nominated books for consideration.

Many thanks to this wonderful committee!! ❤



The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Committee:

Manju Howard

Debbie Vidovich

Sherri Rivers

Cathy C. Hall

Kenda Henthorn

Annie Bailey

Gayle C. Krause

Deb Williams

Darlene Ivy

Suzy Leopold

Jill Richards


Angie Karcher – Award Founder


*Due to the fact that Angie Karcher has a rhyming picture book nominated for this award, she has not been involved in the reading or scoring of any of the nominated books this year. The committee has been in charge of making the final decisions concerning the winner(s) of this award.

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

2017 Best in Rhyme Award 

TOP 20

Please take time to read these wonderful rhyming picture books!

Congratulations to the all the authors and illustrators!

2017 BIRA Top 20

Here’s the official 2017

Best in Rhyme Top 20 List!

SANTA’S GIFT by Angie Karcher
TRAINS DON’T SLEEP by Andria Rosembaum
LOVE IS by Diane Adams
MONSTER’S NEW UNDIESby Samantha Berger
READY, SET, BUILD by Meg Fleming
TWINDERELLA by Corey Rosen Schwartz
FLASHLIGHT NIGHT by Matt Forest Esenwine
HOOT AND HONK by Leslie Helakoski

Watch for Top 10 Best in Rhyme Award books of 2017 announced mid-November.

KidLit TV blk-white logo

The final 2017 Best in Rhyme Award announcement will be on February 3, 2018 in New York City at the KidLitTV Studio.

Thank you to Julie Gribble at KidLit TV

Take a peek at the Best in Rhyme Rubric

used for scoring.

The Best in Rhyme committee is a group of dedicated Rhyme Revolution members. They have been busy reading, reviewing and scoring the nominated rhyming picture books for 2017. Members of the Rhyme Revolution Group nominated books for consideration.

Many thanks to this wonderful committee!! ❤



The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Committee:

Manju Howard

Debbie Vidovich

Sherri Rivers

Cathy C. Hall

Kenda Henthorn

Annie Bailey

Gayle C. Krause

Deb Williams

Darlene Ivy

Suzy Leopold

Jill Richards


Angie Karcher – Award Founder


*Due to the fact that Angie Karcher has a rhyming picture book nominated for this award, she has not been involved in the reading or scoring of any of the nominated books this year. The committee has been in charge of making the final decisions concerning the winner(s) of this award.

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 16 ~ Helen Docherty ~ Rhyme Schemes

Red Stars

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!


See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

One blue star

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.


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!

One blue star

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. 

Blue Stars


Week 3 Prize Winners


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!!


Blue Stars

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 15 ~ Eric Ode ~ Repetition

Red Stars

Too Many Tomatoes

By Eric Ode

Ilustrated by Kent Culotta

One blue star

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.


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.

One blue star

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

Buy it Now

Buy it Now

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Blue Stars

To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

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

Red Stars


Leonard’s Beard

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Cote

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Nancy!


See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

One blue star

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

twitter @nancycote31

Facebook: 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


by Diana Murray

Ned the Knitting Pirate image

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read


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

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

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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!


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)


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

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Goodnight, Baddies

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Juli Kangas

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Deborah!


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:

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

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Week 2 Prize Winners


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!


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 headshot

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 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!


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:


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 . . .


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.



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


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.


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.


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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


by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez


Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read



Then…learn how to make your own Ninja Chick!

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RT Ninja Chicks

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RT Ninja Chicks Craft

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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!


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:

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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,, 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
Instagram: suefliess

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

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!


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 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 and can follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

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Week 1 Prize Winners


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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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 


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!


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:



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:

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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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

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

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Miranda 2


by Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Shane McG

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Miranda!


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

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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

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


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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Click HERE for Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

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


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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

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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 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!


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(, 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,


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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


by Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Winner

Congratulations Lori!


See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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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 for more information about teacher guides, book trailers, reviews, and more.

Social Media Links:



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

RR Blog Header

And…another rhyming 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?

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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!


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!

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Please stop by and visit Dawn’s website!

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If not, click HERE!



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