RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 5 Author Sylvia Vardell

Happy Thursday!

RhyPiBoMo Rhyming Party

So, Whatcha doin’ Friday night?

How about spending an hour with some whacky rhymers in a little trivia game about this week’s blog posts? It all takes place in our Facebook group. I type in questions and the first to answer correctly gets a point. The one with the most points wins a prize.

Oh, and did I mention that you MUST type in rhyme? Well that’s the fun of it all. You may see things like, “I forgot, her name is Susan, Now I’m really, really Losin'” or “That answer was mine, now I must drink some wine!” or “I can’t type fast enough, this game is really tough!” or “Monday’s blogger was Penny Parker Kloster-MANN, I am her biggest rhyming FAN!” (notice i forced the stress on the last syllable…terrible meter, terrible…) See what I mean? Crazy, silly, laugh-out-loud fun. And band width is your friend!

What are the prizes you ask?

Well, I have a few rhyming picture books to give away, a critique or two, a scholarship for my Writing in Rhyme Class and an awesome digital graphic organizer of what needs to be in a good RPB.

See you this Friday, April 8th at 8:00 PM CST (Chicago Time) 

Be there or be square!

Antique Truck

Hold on to your rhyming hats folks because today’s guest blogger

brings an Antique Chevy Truck full of friends with her!

Not to say the guests are antiques, but their works are certainly

treasured heirlooms of words!  We are blessed to have

the wisdom of so many talented writers,

so enjoy and take notes!



 I’m pleased to introduce

Author Sylvia Vardell

Sylvia Vardell photo

Author Sylvia Vardell

Rhyme Scheme: Stick with It

By Sylvia Vardell plus 8 Poets


Sylvia Vardell Image 5

As I considered the power of rhyme scheme in the appeal of rhyming picture books, I decided to ask poets themselves for advice and input. I invited eight poets who create rhyming picture books: Charles Ghigna, Nikki Grimes, J. Patrick Lewis, Kenn Nesbitt, Eric Ode, Marilyn Singer, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and Jane Yolen. I asked them to offer insight in three key areas:

  1. Any nugget of advice about writing in rhyme

  2. Pet peeve about (violations of) rhyme scheme

  3. A favorite rhyming picture book or favorite writer of rhyming picture books

I found their responses really interesting, enlightening, and entertaining and I think you will too!


From Kenn Nesbitt: A) Learn about meter. Rhyme without solid meter isn’t as pleasurable to read. www.writingrhymeandmeter.com is a great resource for beginners. B) Avoid forced rhymes. If you aren’t sure what forced rhymes are, I’ve written an article about them here: http://www.poetry4kids.com/blog/news/forced-rhymes-and-how-to-avoid-them/


From Eric Ode: Understand and get comfortable with meter and rhythm. When a rhyming text doesn’t scan well and sort of hiccups along, it’s often because the writer doesn’t have a good sense of meter. Inversely, when those blocks of stressed and unstressed syllables are well-polished, the text is so much more satisfying to the reader.


From Jane Yolen: If you begin with a rhyme scheme, stick with it. Don’t swap in midstream. It confuses the reader. Or remember my caution this way:

Begin with a rhyme–

Stick to it.

Or else you will find–

You rue it.

Don’t suddenly add a lot of other stuff because you think it works.

You’ll screw it.

Be sure to read your lines out loud. Over. Over. Over again.


From Charles Ghigna: I like to think of rhymes as the ebb and flow of the poem, the melodic waves that pull the reader and listener into the poem by the ear and carry the meaning and narrative along like a gentle flowing river.  As a rule of thumb, I like rhymes that are original and unexpected, yet so just-right they go unnoticed as simply a part of the flow.

I also like rhymes whose spellings do not look like they rhyme when you see them, but offer a subtle little ah-ha moment when you say them. An example of that kind of rhyme are the words “trees” and “please” and the words “one” and “begun” as I used in my poem “A Poem is a Little Path.”


From Amy Ludwig VanDerwater: Rhyme and meter often go together, so I often count out syllables, writing the number of syllables in each line at the beginning of each line. This allows me to see patterns and to see where things hold together and where they fall apart. I find it helpful to tap the side of my face or a table, feeling the rhythms in my body. Too, my rhyming dictionary is a reliable pal.


From Marilyn Singer: Don’t get stuck on a particular rhyme–on trying to make a certain word rhyme.  If it isn’t working, look for synonyms or another way to phrase what you’re trying to say. You may have better luck that way!


From Nikki Grimes: The single most important thing I advise is to remember to tell a story. Novice writers often get so caught up in rhyming that they forget to paint a picture, or to tell a story, which is the whole point. Unless a poem is about something, it doesn’t matter whether or not it rhymes.


From J. Patrick Lewis: Advice about children writing in rhyme? Don’t. Good rhymes are too difficult for children, who lack the vocabulary and the time. They will invariably choose the easy (contrived) rhyme. If children are trying to write poetry, encourage them to write free verse.


PET PEEVES (about writing in rhyme)

  1. Every new rhymster thinks that since Dr. Seuss made up words to rhyme, that gives him/her license to do the same. This is NOT poetic license. It is sloppy writing. Dr. Seuss was sui generis. That doesn’t mean he was generous with his words. It means he was one of a kind. You are not. I am not. We are not Dr. Seuss. (Jane Yolen)

  2. When you establish a rhyme scheme, you give the reader an expectation. If you then break the rhyme scheme, you upset that expectation. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t do it, but if you’re going to break your rhyme scheme you should be doing it intentionally, with the awareness that it may be a bit of a speed bump for the reader. (Kenn Nesbitt)

  3. Pet peeve? Rhymes that aren’t. I don’t cotton to half-rhymes as end rhymes–unless you’re Emily Dickinson (“Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul, /And sings the tune without the words, /And never stops at all.”) or unless you lived at a time when words were pronounced differently (Shakespeare’s, for example). And some rap poets can get away with it, too, but I don’t think the rest of us can or should. (Marilyn Singer)

  4. As long as the meter is tight, I don’t mind a few liberties being taken with the rhyme scheme. In fact, sometimes this seems to help break up the sing-song nature of some rhyming texts. I recently wrapped up a rhyming picture book text where the lion’s share of the stanzas were a typical A-B-C-B pattern. But I included a couple of A-B-C-B-D-B stanzas just to break things up a bit. (Eric Ode)

  5. I think my only pet peeve is to read poems whose rhymes are obvious and whose end rhymes sound like the bell of an old typewriter coming to the end of its carriage. (You’re probably too young to remember that sound.) (Charles Ghigna)

  6. Readers should not be distracted by rhyme. Strong rhyme and meter should require nothing extra from a reader: no work to figure out the rhythm, no strange pronunciations of words to make the rhyme or meter work.  Rather, a reader should be internally delighted by both meaning and sound as they sing a story or book along. (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater)

  7.  Though they rarely rhyme, diamantes do not deserve to be called a verse form. They are devices for listing adjectives, a bad habit for any poet. (J. Patrick Lewis)

  8. My pet peeve? When writers treat rhyme as if it were synonymous with poetry. Rhyme is not poetry. It is simply one element of some forms of poetry. (Nikki Grimes)


  • A Children’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (Charles Ghigna)

  • Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka, a “perfect evocation of jazz” (Marilyn Singer)

  • Jamberry by Bruce Degen (Eric Ode noted, “The language of that story is nothing but a word-party and an absolute joy to read” and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater admitted she loves “its rollicking playfulness and hope(s) to one day write something with such a joyful sound and spirit.”)

  • Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, Lullaby Raft by Naomi Shihab Nye (a “loving and whimsical lullaby book), and Laura Purdie Salas’s “… Can Be” books (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater)

  • My Little Sister Ate One Hare and My Little Sister Hugged an Ape, both by Bill Grossman (Kenn Nesbitt)

  • Alice Schertle and Mary Ann Hoberman are “tops” with Jane Yolen

  • Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Elinor Wylie, Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Myra Cohn Livingston, and Rachel Field are other favorite rhyming poets chosen by Charles Ghigna

  • Edward Lear and X.J. Kennedy are favorite rhyming writers of J. Patrick Lewis

  • Jane Yolen and Jack Prelutsky are “all-time best for rhyme” in the opinion of Nikki Grimes

Thank you to these poets for their tips and insights. Be sure to check out their stellar rhymes and other works too:


Charles Ghigna 

A Carnival of Cats (Orca, 2015)

A Parade of Puppies (Orca, 2016)

 Sylvia Vardell Ghigna

Nikki Grimes  

Meet Danitra Brown (HarperCollins, 1994) and all the Danitra Brown books

Come Sunday (Eerdmans, 1996)

C is For City (Boyds Mills Press, 2002)

Sylvia Vardell Grimes

Patrick Lewis 

Big is Big (Holiday House, 2007)

Tulip at the Bat (Little, Brown, 2007)

 Sylvia Vardell Lewis

Kenn Nesbitt 

More Bears! (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010)

Sylvia Vardell Nesbitt

Eric Ode 

Dan, the Taxi Man (Kane Miller Books, 2012)

Too Many Tomatoes (Kane Miller Books, 2016)

Sylvia Vardell Ode

Marilyn Singer 

What Is Your Dog Doing? (Atheneum, 2011)

I’m Gonna Climb a Mountain in My Patent Leather Shoes (Abrams, 2014)

What’s an Apple? (Abrams, 2016)

What’s a Banana? (Abrams, 2016)

Sylvia Vardell Singer

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater  

Every Day Birds (Orchard, 2016)

 Sylvia Vardell Vanderwater

Jane Yolen

How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends? (Scholastic, 2016)

On Bird Hill (Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2016)

What to Do with a Box (Creative Editions, 2016)

Sylvia Vardell Image Yolen


Sylvia Vardell is Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in literature for children and young adults. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 published articles, more than 25 book chapters and given more than 150 presentations at national and international conferences. Sheauthored Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide, Poetry Aloud Here!, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists,and co-edited The Poetry Friday Anthology series (with Janet Wong) and maintains the PoetryForChildren blog and poetry column for Book Links magazine.

My blog: http://poetryforchildren.blogspot.com


Twitter: @SylviaVardell

Thank You Sylvia,

Jane, Kenn, Pat, Marilyn,

Amy, Eric, Nikki and Charles!


PLEASE like our guest bloggers on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, go to their websites and express your appreciation for their time and wisdom! Many have generously donated multiple prizes and this event would not be successful without their support, so please support them! Oh…and buy their books too!!


To be eligible for today’s prize drawing by Random.org you must comment at the bottom of the page where it says “Leave A Reply” AND add your FIRST and LAST name in the comment. If I don’t have your name or how to contact you via email, you can’t win.

You must be a member of the RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group and if you haven’t officially registered, you are not eligible to win.

Please follow the pledge rules daily to get the most out of this challenge!


The drawings will be done daily and announced on Saturday or Sunday

of each week.




86 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 5 Author Sylvia Vardell

  1. Stephanie Salkin
    I love all these poets/. Glad to read their thoughts. And I must get the picture books they recommended!

  2. NATALIE LYNN TANNER: Hi Sylvia and Rhyming Crew! I TRULY APPRECIATE all the different POVs from you. I feel like we were blessed with not only ONE blog today, but MANY!!! I learned SO MUCH!!! THANK YOU for taking the time meet with us, to offer your suggestions, creative energy, and inspiration!

  3. I love this post. Not only is it full of great advice but comes directly from some of the greats. Thank you, Sylvia, Jane, Kenn, Pat, Marilyn,Amy, Eric, Nikki and Charles for sharing with us.

    And regarding the Friday rhymning party… I wish I could be there. I took part in one last year and had a blast. Unfortunately, this one is scheduled for 2 am my time so I doubt I’ll make it. 😦 Maybe I’ll make the next one.

    Linda Hofke

  4. What a tower of treats😊 A terrific compilation of wonderful insight and knowledge. Looking forward to learning from some of the resources and books.
    Aimee Haburjak

  5. Ingrid Boydston As much as I enjoyed this collection of suggestions, my favorite part was the Partridge Family style montage at the beginning! I saw it and burst into song. Some things never change. 🙂

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