RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 14 Kristy Dempsey

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RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 14

Kristy Dempsey

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Guest Blogger Badge RPBM 15 Kristy Dempsey


We are in for a Saturday treat today! Yes, in all my exuberance to find our excellent guest bloggers, I added one blogger too many to squeeze all the posts into weekdays. So today our Saturday treat is from Kristy Dempsey, an author that I hope to meet in person this summer at the LA SCBWI Conference! I love all of her books but I must let you know that her all-time biggest fan is my friend Jackie Wellington who lobbied hi and low for A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT by Kristy and award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper (his Website)

to be on that darn Caldecott list!

I agree Jackie!

Kristy is a huge advocate of rhyme as well and she is the perfect blogger to share how strongly she feels about this topic!

I am honored to introduce

Kristy Dempsey.


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather


Why Rhyme?


I am an obstinate rhymer.
I know what they say:
       Editors shy away from rhyme.
       Rhyme is difficult to edit.
       It’s hard to do well.
       There’s too much bad rhyme.
And on, and on, right?


I’ve heard those reasons and from time to time I’ve allowed them to discourage me from writing in rhyme. Since there are so many aspects of submitting and publishing that are out of my control, I should probably try to avoid giving editors any extra reasons to reject my manuscripts, shouldn’t I?


But then I remember my first-born child with eyes the color of muscadines that sparkled when we read books in rhyme. When she was six months old, we moved to Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She grew up hearing and speaking two languages, sometimes mixing words from the two. She was drawn to rhyming words no matter what language she was speaking. She giggled when I spoke to her in rhyme. She repeated rhyming pairs under her breath as I chanted nursery rhymes. She pointed to the rhyming words in a book well before she knew how to read by listening to the phrasing, watching me and perceiving that the next rhyming word would come at the end of the line. These were key building blocks in the foundation of her love for reading, for words and for self-expression in her communication.


Rhyme is an integral part of a child’s natural inquiry into how to use and find joy in language.


One of the first books that became a favorite to us was a simple paperback purchased from a Scholastic flyer. My daughter learned to count AND to rhyme with this book. To be honest, the meter is not perfect and the reader stops to count on each page breaking up the flow of the rhyming. But this just serves to highlight each rhyming couplet. It was during a reading of this book that I first heard my daughter repeating the rhyming pairs under her breath after I read each couplet. She was 18 months old.

 *Kristy 3

Later, after having similar reading and giggling experiences with her younger brother and sister, I took a job as the librarian of the American School in our city. It was then that I began to be more intentional about including rhyme as an integral part of every child’s education. With my own children, we had just been having fun responding to their own joy of the language. But with my students, I began to recognize key aspects of rhyming books that contribute to positive literacy learning experiences.

(How did this change my writing? I’m not positive it did change the nuts and bolts of how I write in rhyme, but it did make me an obstinate rhymer. Kids need rhyming books so we MUST keep writing rhyming books that are good enough to convince editors!)

Here are some key aspects of rhyme that have convinced me of its necessary role in a child’s development (and the reason I pay such close attention to these details in my writing):


1. Rhythm and repetition

Inherent in any good rhyming story is a rhythm of language that is almost contagious. There will be other posts during RyPiBoMo that discuss how to do meter well. But what I want to discuss here is what good meter does for the beginning reader/listener of a rhyming story. It creates a sense expectation and confidence. There will be a familiar/similar sound that falls on that beat in 3, 2, 1… there! The child knows what to listen for after a couple of lines, after the beat and structure become internalized.


One book that has made this obvious for me is Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. Almost from the first time my little ones hear this book, they are predicting the rhyming words for me as I read it aloud.

Kristy 2

Little Blue Truck
   came down the road.
   “Beep!” said Blue
   to the big green toad.


   Of course, my students are using the rhythm of the story to build their expectation for when that second rhyming word will fall. And they are also looking at the illustrations for clues at to what that word will be. Which all goes hand in hand with the second aspect of rhyme I wanted to mention.


2. Context

Acclaimed author and teacher Mem Fox says, “If children cannot learn the skill of predicting what’s going to come next in language, they cannot learn to read.”


Rhyme helps to scaffold this skill by not only allowing students to predict a word based on the context within a phrase but to pair a word with a sound they have already heard in a previous line.


So how does this idea of context affect us as writers? When writing rhyming books for    young children, let’s pay attention to word pairs that will allow students good prediction opportunities. It is much easier for students to anticipate the rhyming of  “road” and “toad” in Little Blue Truck than it would be to guess a less concrete example like “by” and “why”. When we increase the opportunity for prediction via context, we’re helping build more confident readers.


And this idea of a more confident reader takes me to . . .


3. Joy

I don’t know about you, but I’m in this business for the readers. There is nothing more important to me than that book in the hands of a child, in the hands of a reader, and hopefully a reader with a look of joy or wonder or understanding on his or her face. There is nothing that compares to that moment. I’ve seen those looks on the faces of my students as we share the same experiences I had with my own children, reading, rhyming, giggling, chanting and connecting, not only to one another, but to words and the joy they elicit. I couldn’t let RyPiBoMo go by without reminding us of the reasons rhyming books are so important. And I would love to leave you with a collage of pictures of those faces that hold your rhyming books in their hands, that take such joy in the way you weave words, that read your stories and get caught up in the way you’ve used language. But since I can’t share their pictures here, let me introduce you to some rhyming books that have brought joy to us over the past year. Let’s give them even more, okay?

Kristy 1


About Kristy:

Kristy Dempsey grew up in a Tennessee holler, became a teenager in a small South Carolina town and went to college thinking she would become something that would take her far, far away from hollers and small towns. She became many different “somethings,” the most recent of which has her a continent away from home working as a teacher and a librarian in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, a bustling city of 4 million people. Ironically she often finds herself writing about home and small towns, brave choices, family relationships and all the things she misses most from her childhood. She is the author of Me with You (Philomel), Mini Racer (Bloomsbury), Surfer Chick (Abrams) and the recent A Dance Like Starlight (Philomel), a 2015 ALA Notable Book, Junior Library Guild Selection with starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.


Kristy’s Website

me and you          racer  

Buy Me and You           Buy Mini Racer

Surfer              dance

                   Buy Surfer Chick    Buy A Dance Like Starlight

RhyPiBoMo 2015 tiles with bird

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 14

This is NOT part of the pledge. It is an option for a writing exercise for those interested. You will not publically share this as part of RhyPiBoMo but may keep a journal of your writing this month for your own review.


Today’s writing prompt is to write a rhyming poem called WHY RHYME?

For example:




“Don’t write in rhyme!”

All the “writer folks” say.

“It’s silly, it’s less than, it’s corny, passe’.”

“No one will buy it. They’ll rip it to shreds.

And all those who write it are daft in their heads!”

“But, wait…why not try it, I say with a grin.”

I wink as I smile and I say it again.

“If you don’t try it then you’ll never know

if you’ve got what it takes to make your words glow.”

When writing in rhyme there’s a magical flair

that stirs from within,

                                              then “ZIP-ZAPS”

                                                                                  out to the ends of your hair.

You float off your seat and then swivel in space

because writing in rhyme requires rhapsodic grace.

All writers of rhyme know just what I mean.

If you don’t write in rhyme, you are missing this scene.

When all that you’ve put on the page starts to dance

like a ballet at dusk with a hypnotic trance.

The feeling I feel as ovations occur

is permission I need to write what…

                                                                            I prefer.

© 2015 Angie Karcher


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather*

Rhyming Party!

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Rhyming Party

What’s a Rhyming Party you ask?

It’s a party in our RhyPiBoMo Facebook group where I quiz the attendees about past blog post information and all involved

MUST…respond in rhyme!

It’s silly, fast-paced fun and one lucky partier will win

a Scholarship for my Writing in Rhyme to WOW! Class!!!




Golden Quill Poetry Contest

The Golden Quill Poetry Contest is open for submissions.

The deadline is April 25th midnight Central Time.

And…did I mention the prizes?

1st place – A Manuscript Critique by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

2nd place – A Scholarship for Non-Fiction Archeology by Kristen Fulton

3rd place – A Scholarship for Pacing Picture Books to WOW! Class by Agent Jodell Sadler


PLEASE make sure you read the contest rules and follow them exactly. Unfortunately, due to the number of poems we will receive, a poem will be disqualified if it does not follow the guidelines exactly. This is only fair to those who did follow the rules and is good practice for us as writers because editors expect those guidelines to be followed to the letter.


Contest Rules:

First and Last name included in the body of the email at the top left

Email address included in the body of the email at the top left

Phone number – top left

Space down 5 spaces

The Theme is: Freedom

Title of poem – centered with no by line or name here

8 line limit

Must be a rhyming poem

You will be judged on clever title, rhyme scheme, rhythm, scansion, perfect rhyming words, internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia, and clever ending.

Email poems to Angiekarcherrpbm@gmail.com

by April 25th midnight central time




Writing in Rhyme to WOW! class logo

Do you enjoy writing rhyming picture books?

Do you find rhyme challenging?

Do you want to pep up your prose with poetic techniques?

Then this is the class for you!


Writing in Rhyme to WOW! is a 4 week course,

M-F with daily lessons, writing prompts, rhyme journaling, creating tools you will use, group poetry readings, webinars and critique groups, and a one-on-one webinar critique with Angie.

Each class begins on the first Monday of the month and the weekly group webinars are on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, (Chicago Time) or at a time that best suits the group due to time zones of those involved.

There is only 1 spot left in May!

I am beginning to sign people up for June and July!

If you register now for June or July, I will give you the $99.00 price!

Contact Angie with questions.

Sign up now before the classes are full!

Click here for more information!




Need a critique?

Angie is now offering

rhyming picture book and poetry manuscript critiques.

She offers a One Time critique or a Twice Look critique.

See the tab above or click here for more information.



RhyPiBoMo Gift Shop is Open!

Cafepress notebook


Please stop by and see what’s available this year. There are notebooks, mugs, buttons and more. All proceeds will go to WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS!

Thank you Tanja Bauerle for these gorgeous images!!!



Official RhyPiBoMo 2015 Registration ended on April 8th.

If you are not officially registered you will not be able to participate in the Golden Quill Poetry Contest, in Rhyming Critique Groups or will not be eligible for daily prizes.

To see if you registered in time go to the Master Registration List on the drop down menu under the RhyPiBoMo Blog tab above.

*RhyPiBoMo 2015 Pledge

Please comment below. You MUST add your FIRST and LAST names

to be eligible for today’s prize!


102 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 14 Kristy Dempsey

  1. I’ve always loved reading rhyming stories to my children. The sheer joy in their faces was awesome. And having them jump in and supply the rhyming word was such fun. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of rhyming picture books!

  2. Thank you, Kristy, for sharing your reasons for rhyme, especially when I read, then smile inside and out. – Judy Rubin

  3. Same thing at our house–my kids always loved and gravitated towards the rhyming books. And they enjoy predicting what rhyme will come next. Thanks for a great post, Kristy!

  4. Despite all the pitfalls, there is still “something” about rhyme (done well), and I think the third point sums it up beautifully. It’s simply joyful, in a way that prose can rarely achieve. Thanks for posting!
    – Al Lane

  5. Mona Pease
    I love rhyme and love that you “crooned” to your kids, Kristy. Rhyme is fun and easy to croon or sing.
    Kids don’t worry as much about “good” rhyme as we do! Thanks.

  6. Caroline Twomey-I love reading rhyme to my two boys, especially funny rhyme! It just lights up their little faces and makes me laugh out loud with joy. Thank you for a lovely post Kirsty.

  7. Kristy,

    A lovely take on writing rhyme. We have a great responsibility in writing for children. Thank you for your post.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful post. As I sit here listening to a children’s choir practice with lines of rhyme being sung with with such enthusiasm, I can hear your point loud and clear!

  9. Vicki Wilke
    No doubt about it – we’ll continue to shout it – and joyfully tout it … rhyming rocks!
    Thanks Kristy!

  10. Manju Howard: Thank you for this post, Kristy! My biggest take away – “word pairs that will allow students good prediction opportunities.” I had been focused on how the rhyme serves my story, not how the rhyme serves my young reader. Both are important.

    • Absolutely both are important. At the very least, we should consider our readers. Not every single pair has to be predictable but readers take such joy in anticipating those rhyming words.

  11. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your love of rhyme, and inspiring us to GO FOR IT. My daughters love rhyme, we often rhyme silly things back and forth. I’m a believer! – Maria Oka

  12. Lynn Alpert – Thanks for the great post, Kristy! After hearing all the ‘don’t write books in rhyme’ stuff, this is a great reminder for why TO do it!

  13. Kristy, so many great points here! Thanks for your part in bringing good rhyme and lyrical language to young readers. I adore Surfer Chick and A Dance Like Starlight! Sandy Perlic

  14. Thank you for the validation and dare I say “challenge” to continue writing in rhyme. My children too loved rhyming books, both to anticipate the coming rhyme and eventually to chant both words themselves. Both have grown into amazing adults with a deep appreciate of reading, rhyming, and Shakespeare.

  15. “If children cannot learn the skill of predicting what’s going to come next in language, they cannot learn to read.” What an excellent point. So true. And I liked how you explained your other points thoroughly with examples.

  16. Nadine Cranenburgh: Thanks Kristy for sharing your wisdom and passion. I’m an obstinate rhymer too. Even more so now. It is great to hear kids get a rhythm in their head and even imperfect meter can be entrancing, although I can’t help fixing it as I read sometimes. Looking forward to tracking down some of your books and suggested titles.

  17. Yes, yes, yes! 95% of my 1st grade class is ESL, but even in the first week of school they could recite a simple poem we learned. (I use poems or songs for anything I want them to remember.) Now 2 months later if I even accidently say the first two words of the poem they launch right into it! I love the challenge of playing with words when writing poetry. It’s fun to write, fun to say, and fun to hear!

  18. Excellent insights into why kids love rhyme and how important it is to the joy of language as well as their own language development and love of reading. Thank you, Kristy. Val McCammon

  19. Appreciations from Jan Annino to Angie Karcher & Kristy Dempsy.

    This article makes me feel as if I’ve been on a South America tour with all the interesting references to Kristy’s life out of the country. I’ve loved reading the picture books of Mem Fox to children but also for my own enrichment, her essays on reading so I feel Kristy & I would have a lot to talk about if we met. And it sounds as if her ballet book should win more major awards.

    I have put Alice Schertle’s LITTLE BLUE TRUCK & Kristy’s ME AND YOU on my library list. I read to the littlest ones, K & !st grade, some of them slow learners & I think these titles sound ideal for them.

  20. Patricia Toht: Thanks for your advice, Kristy. I love the idea of good prediction opportunities. I hadn’t really thought of end rhymes that way. Gives me another goal to aim for in my rhyme!

    • It’s something to consider at the very least, Patricia. Not every end rhyme has to be predictable. Sometimes for humor or other reasons, a less predictable pair might be chosen. But in books for young readers, it’s something to think about!

  21. I agree and love that you mention you write for the reader! What child – doesn’t love a jolly, predictable rhyme. Thank you for your advice
    Jennifer Huls

  22. Sandy Powell — I agree, if we can’t resist writing in rhyme then we should do it, just learn to rhyme well. Love, THE GRUFFALO. It’s one of my favorites.

  23. Cindy Argentine
    This post has such reassuring words about the importance of this craft to young readers. Thanks, Kristy. I agree that it is an honor to bring joy to children through books.

  24. Melanie Ellsworth – Kristy, I’m with you – let’s keep writing those rhyming books! Thank you for encouraging us. I agree that rhyming gives children the chance to build confidence. I love WAKING BEAUTY by Leah Wilcox, illustrated by Lydia Monks because it keeps withholding the word “kiss” which kids know is the correct rhyming word to end each stanza, but the prince can’t figure it out. It positions kids to be the experts and know something that the main character doesn’t know, and kids can use context and sound to figure out the rhyme. I look forward to reading your books, Kristy – they are now on my must-read list!

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