RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 13 Author Linda Sue Park


Did you read and comment on all the blog posts last week?

These folks did! Congratulations!

Week 2 Prize Winners

Day 8-Winner: Deirdre Englehart

Monday: Autographed Copy of BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S by Anika Denise

Day 9-Winner: Aimee Haburjak

Tuesday: Autographed Copy of MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz

Day 10-Winner: Anne Iverson

Wednesday: Copy of WOULD A WORM GO ON A WALK by Hannah C. Hall Donated by Sally Apokedak


Day 11- Winner: Debbie Vidovich

Thursday: Autographed Copy of OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE by Rob Sanders


Day 12-Winner: Anne Bielby

Friday: RPB Revolution Conference Recording ($50.00 value)

Prize winners, please email (Angie.karcher@yahoo.com) or message me with your contact information. Typically, the books will be mailed directly from the author, so please allow a few weeks. If you haven’t received your prize by the end of April, please let me know. 


Rhyming Critique Groups

If you expressed interest in a critique group by the deadline and are registered for RhyPiBoMo 2016, then you have been assigned to a specific group.

PLEASE find your assigned group, click on the link to the FB page for that group and Dawn Young will approve you to join. Dawn is available for any questions.

We have several critique groups with members that have not joined in. Your group members are waiting on you so they can begin. If you have not joined your assigned group by Tuesday, April 19th at noon CST, you may be removed to allow space for another writer, as we have a waiting list for critique groups.

Thanks so much, Dawn Young, for organizing and keeping these groups running!

I know everyone participating will benefit from them!


I’m pleased to introduce

Author Linda Sue Park

 Linda Sue Park headshotAuthor Linda Sue Park


GENTLY: tension in rhyming picture books

by Linda Sue Park

The word ‘tension’ can be defined in a couple of different ways when discussing rhyming picture books. The first applies to any story: narrative tension. The stakes rise for the protagonist. Drama deepens. Word choice becomes sharper and more focused. (Bloated language can so easily dull a climactic moment.)

A writer must consider all of the above in a narrative picture book, and accomplish it in a few hundred words, at most. On top of that, you want to write it in rhyme?

Well, yes. As RhyPiBoMoers know, there are many wonderful reasons for writing in rhyme (because it’s fun, because it makes the text much more memorable, and for me, what is perhaps most important, because limitations can be liberating). For the purposes of this post, rhyme is a terrific tool for maintaining the second kind of tension, which I’ll call unifying tension. (I actually want to call it ‘integral tension,’ but that sounds lumpy.)

Because just as tension can cause things to fall apart—for our protagonist—it can also hold things together. The choice of a verse form combined with good rhyme and meter establishes a pattern that the reader can rely on, which unifies the text and thus aids the reading experience.

Good rhyme also enhances that experience by creating a subtle tension of its own. What rhyming word is coming next? What will the next set of rhymes be? As the story moves along and its narrative tension increases, how will the writer use the unity established by rhyme to create a climactic surprise or punch line?

Xander's Panda Party

There are as many ways to accomplish these goals as there are good rhyming picture books! One of the most popular is the cumulative story. (The classic example is ‘The House that Jack Built’. ) My book XANDER’S PANDA PARTY uses a cumulative story structure for narrative tension. The unifying tension is provided by unexpected rhymes, both end rhymes—‘invitation / conversation’—and internally—‘Koala hollered’—with the additional surprise of a non-stanzaic layout.

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks

Many rhyming stories are linear narratives. In HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS?, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, a little duck goes searching for his lost footwear. First he looks in his box. Then he asks Mr. Fox, who tells him to seek out the ox.

See the two kinds of tension at work here? The poor little duck is getting more desperate at each step (narrative tension). The rhymes are both pulling the story together (unifying tension), and creating their own interest (what will the next rhyming word be?).

Spoiler alert: The duck finally visits the peacocks. I love this choice for its surprise and illustrative possibilities (terrifically fulfilled by the illustrator). In an ideal world, I would have wished for a word in which the accent falls on the second syllable, as the metrics of ‘peacock’ are slightly off within the verses. But the overall package works so well that this small bump can be skated over.

What does bunny see

By contrast, most concept books lack a narrative arc. But writers of such books should still strive for some kind of narrative tension. In my own book WHAT DOES BUNNY SEE?, illustrated by Maggie Smith, a bunny hops through a garden learning colors and the names of flowers. Where will the bunny go next? When will I see my favorite color?

Although there’s no ‘story’, rhyme is used to create the tension that causes the reader to turn the page—literally.

In a cottage garden

Ears and whiskers clean

Bunny finds a patch of lawn

What she sees is . . . (page turn)


Once they’ve figured out the rhyme scheme, young readers can guess the upcoming color. The rhyming word is always a color (with one exception), which provides both unifying and narrative tension.

Dream Hop

Yet another way to create tension in a non-narrative book is the single rhyme. Julia Durango’s DREAM HOP emphasizes one rhyming sound—“-op”—which again unifies the text while also making the reader wonder what ‘op’ word will be next. Coincidentally, my book BEE-BIM BOP! uses the same end rhyme and many of the exact same words as Durango’s book—in a very different story!

Bee Bim Bopp

The rhyming picture book for young children might appear on the surface less probing or profound than novels written for middle-grade or YA audiences. But its concerns are no less important to its audience, who deserve your best effort to engage by using tension, rhyme, and meter effectively.



Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.

This is the first thing she ever published—a haiku in a children’s magazine when she was nine years old:

In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.

For this poem she was paid one whole dollar. She gave the check to her dad for Christmas. About a year later the company wrote to her asking her to cash the check! Linda Sue wrote back explaining that it was now framed and hung above her dad’s desk and was it okay if he kept it? The magazine said it was fine, and her dad still has that check.

During elementary school and high school, Linda Sue had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject …).

In 1983, after two years with the oil company, Linda Sue left her job and moved to Dublin when a handsome Irishman swept her off her feet. She studied literature, moved to London, worked for an advertising agency, married that Irishman, had a baby, taught English as a second language to college students, worked as a food journalist, and had another baby. It was a busy time, and she never even thought about writing children’s books.

Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, including A Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newberry Medal.

A single shard

She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.

Bee Bim Bopp


Xander's Panda Party


What does bunny see




Twitter @LindaSuePark


Thank You Linda Sue!

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!!


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The drawings will be done daily and announced on Saturday of each week.




99 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 13 Author Linda Sue Park

  1. Laura Renauld –
    Love Xander’s Panda Party! Thank you for all of the terrific examples about tension. Very helpful!

  2. Linda Sue thank you for sharing your helpful suggestions. You showed how important tension is in s story. I will memorize your quote that ‘limitations are liberating.”

  3. Finally back to Precious the Laptop and my reliable internet and just in time for this great post on creating tension. (Though it got pretty tense last week when I didn’t have the internet! 🙂

  4. Julie Schuh

    I enjoyed your comments. I think you nailed it when you talked about the “tension” created over what the next rhyme would be.

    I love your book, A Single Shard. I used it for a novel study many times with my 5th graders!

  5. Ingrid Boydston- Thank you for the unifying message about rhyme and tension. I have been trying to clarify the tension in one of my WIPS. I think this will help! I look forward to reading your books as well. :)!

  6. One of the problems with my rhyming stories is that I try to get too complicated…your post is a breath of fresh air, Linda…I will give it a try to see if I can write more simply…and appeal to the younger rhymer who delights in figuring out the next word. 🙂 Vivian Kirkfield

  7. NATALIE LYNN TANNER: Hi Linda Sue! As your BIGGEST FAN, my hands are shaking across the keyboard as I write this post. THANK YOU for your WONDERFUL stories! A Single Shard especially touched my heart and has continued to help me develop my own writing skills. THANK YOU!!!! And THANK YOU for today’s post, reminding us that a rhyming picture book is just as “probing [and] profound” as novels, and readers deserve writers who take their craft seriously, putting forth their “best effort to engage by using tension, rhyme, and meter effectively.” THANK YOU!!!!

  8. Anita Jones
    So much to think about!! I REALLY plan to re-read your post Linda…I also plan on looking for the book list so I can really understand all the amazing information you provided! What an interesting and full life you’ve led so far!! Thanks Linda…..

    • Ellen Pridmore
      Linda, I love that your dad framed your one dollar check!
      You make it look so easy…tension, rhyme, meter…putting it all together.
      Thank you…this was a great post!

  9. Randi Sonenshine
    Linda Sue,
    Thank you for sharing your insights, especially about creating tension in concept books. I love the idea that powerful rhyme can create the tension needed to propel the all-important page turn. A SINGLE SHARD and A LONG WALK TO WATER are two of my favorite MG novels, and now I can’t wait to read your picture books!

  10. Patricia Toht — Excellent post, Linda Sue. I’d never viewed rhyme as adding another type of tension to a story. Bonus!

  11. Chris Clayson-Thank you Linda Sue Park for not growing up yet (sorry elephants). Sounds like you have a few more stories to tell before you mature. There’s tension even in your bio. I like the one dollar story best.

  12. Ann Magee
    Thanks, Linda Sue, for your interesting post. I also liked reading your bio too–I have family in Ireland and love it there. Did you know A SINGLE SHARD’s adaptation is playing at the People’s Light Theater in Malvern, PA April 27-May 29th? Congrats on your success!

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