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

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Ned the Knitting Pirate image

Ned the Knitting Pirate

by Diana Murray

Illustrated by Leslie Lammle

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Honor Book

Grimelda

By Diana Murray

Illustrated by Heather Ross

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Diana!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Revise Like a Pirate!

By Diana Murray

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

Remember the Arrrrrr’s of a good story:

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

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

PIRATES

Avast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PIRATES 2

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

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Diana Murray image

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

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 16 ~ Helen Docherty ~ Rhyme Schemes

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The Storybook Knight

The Story Book Knight

Written and Illustrated by

Helen and Thomas Docherty

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Helen and Thomas!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Rhyme Schemes

By Helen Docherty, author of The Snatchabook

and The Storybook Knight

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

Helen 1

One dark, dark night in Burrow Down,

A rabbit called Eliza Brown

Found a book and settled down…

When a Snatchabook flew into town.

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

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

Helen 2

In every house, in every bed,

A bedtime book was being read.

Tales of dragons, spitting flames;

Witches, playing spooky games;

Pirates, on the seven seas;

Princesses, trying to sleep on peas.

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

Helen 3

She threw the window open wide

And shouted to the Thing outside:

“Stop stealing all our books, right now!

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

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

[And so, the Snatchabook began]

To give back all the books he’d picked.

Eliza Brown was very strict.

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

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

Helen 4

Leo was a gentle knight

In thought and word and deed.

While other knights liked fighting,

Leo liked to sit and read.

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

Helen 5

One morning, Leo’s parents said

They’d like to have a chat.

There was nothing wrong with reading,

But he couldn’t just do that!

They’d seen an ad that morning

In their favorite magazine.

A dragon needed taming!

Leo wasn’t very keen.

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

Helen 6

Abracazebra? I smell a rat.

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

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

So he started to whisper in people’s ears,

Conjuring up their darkest fears:

“Abracazebra? I smell a rat.

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

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

…So why should we welcome stripes here now?”

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

Helen 7

You can run out of time.

You can run out money.

You can run out of patience,

When things don’t seem funny.

BUT…

You can never (no never, not ever)

You can never run out of LOVE.

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

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

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Helen Docherty Head shot

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

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

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

Twitter: @docherty_helen

Facebook: @HelenDochertyAuthor

 

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Congratulations

Week 3 Prize Winners

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for these generous book donations!!

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 15 ~ Eric Ode ~ Repetition

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Too Many Tomatoes

By Eric Ode

Ilustrated by Kent Culotta

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

by Author Eric Ode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a dirty dinosaur

with a dirty snout.

I never wipe it clean.

I just sniff and snuff about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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leonards-beard.jpg

Leonard’s Beard

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Cote

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Nancy!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Birth of a Story

by Nancy Cote

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

nancy-5.jpg

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.

nancy-1.jpg

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.

nancy-2.jpg

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.

nancy-4.jpg

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

nancy-headshot.jpg

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

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

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

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

www.nancycote.com

nancycote@blogspot.com

twitter @nancycote31

Facebook: Nancy Cote

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

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Today we are celebrating

NED, THE KNITTING PIRATE

by Diana Murray

Ned the Knitting Pirate image

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read

NED, THE KNITTING PIRATE

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

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Click HERE to hear 

NED, THE KITTING PIRATE

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Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make your own pirate eye patch!

Skull and Crossbones

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

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

 

Want to purchase a few of Diana’s books? 

Ned the Knitting Pirate image

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Grimelda

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Grimelda 2

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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

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

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Ninja Chicks image

Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Illustrated by Dan Santat

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Honor Book

Congratulations Corey and Rebecca!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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More Than Rhyme: Using Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

by Rebecca J. Gomez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brothers tumbled, bumble-jumble,

as they stumbled for the door.

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

Off the seven toadies tore.

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

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

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

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

The fox said, “Surrender?

No way, chicken tender!”

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

He spotted and jotted down

all imperfections

while marching around

doing careful inspections.

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

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

An itty-bitty mouse

pitter-pat, tip-toe,

creep-crawls in the cave

from the fluff-cold snow.

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

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

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Rebecca headshot

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

 

twitter (@gomezwrites)

website www.rebeccajgomez.com

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

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Goodnight

Goodnight, Baddies

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Juli Kangas

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Deborah!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Musicality of Words

by Deborah Underwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caused great dismay throughout the land!

For young and old

And shy and bold

Were equally affected.

The youth who winked a roving eye,

Or breathed a non-connubial sigh,

Was thereupon condemned to die –

He usually objected.

 

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

For Ill Wind click here

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

 

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

For Lullaby click here   

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

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

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

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Congratulations

Week 2 Prize Winners

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

Tuesday – David McMullinCopy of A FAIRY FRIEND by Sue Fliess

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

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

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

 

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

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

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for these generous book donations!!

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

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Monster Trucks

by Anika Denise

Illustrated by Nate Wragg

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Anika!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Scanners vs. Scribblers

by Anika Denise

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

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

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

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

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

So what the heck is scansion, anyway?

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

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

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

Meter: An arrangement of words in patterned units

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

Monometer: one foot

Dimeter: two feet

Trimeter: three feet

Tetrameter: four feet

Pentameter: five feet

Hexameter: six feet

Some common poetic patterns of syllabic stress:  

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

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

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

 

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

One berry, two berry, pick me a Blueberry.

 

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

 

            A Fool might once himself alone expose,

            Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.

 

Spondee: two accented syllables (stressed/stressed)

 

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

 

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

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

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

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

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

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

Here’s a sample stanza:

Crispy carrots, onions, peas.

            Fresh produce is plucked with ease.

            No need to tug, or yank or pull.

            Just dig and SNIP!

            Now my basket’s full.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write on!

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

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

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Hey Coach

by Linda Ashman

Illustrated by Kim Smith

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Linda!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

by Linda Ashman

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

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

The story begins with the first practice:

Hey, Coach!

Guess what?

I’m on your team.

Can we be blue?

No, red!

No green!

 

Let’s be the Tigers.

No, the Sharks.

The Unicorns.

The Bears.

The Sparks!

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

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

Ouch!

My nose.

My knee.

I’m stung.

I bumped my head.

I bit my tongue.

 

I’m sick.

I slipped.

I stubbed my toe.

Uh, Coach—

I really have to go.

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

Hey, Coach—

I’m sad.

Our season’s done.

I love this game.

It’s so much fun.

 

I’ll play next year.

Can’t wait till then—

 

Can I be on your team again?

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

And now, on to that other topic . . .

Meter

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

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

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

Iamb (rising)

One unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.

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

I Hatched

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

A patch of light!         

One final peck.           

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

Then—CRACK!

Ta-da!

My head pokes through.

At last, I’m hatched!

Hello, what’s new?

Anapest (rising)

Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.

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

Before

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

In the deep woolen dark,

as we slumber unknowing,

let the sky fill with flurry and flight.

 

Let the air turn to feathers,

the earth turn to sugar,

and all that is heavy turn light.

Trochee (falling)

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

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

Goodnight

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

Sun dips down; the day has gone.

Witches, wolves, and giants yawn.

Queen and dragon, troll and gnome:

tired baddies head for home.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Writing!

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

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

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Rhyme Time with Angie ~ Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks

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Today we are celebrating

HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

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Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read

HENSEL AND GRETAL

NINJA CHICKS.

Then…learn how to make your own Ninja Chick!

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RT Ninja Chicks

Click HERE to hear 

HENSEL AND GRETEL

NINJA CHICKS

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RT Ninja Chicks Craft

Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make your own Ninja Chick!

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

Want to purchase these books? 

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Watch for more Rhyme Time

every Wednesday in April.

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RR Classroom Challenge 2017

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

Librarians, teachers, parents and kids…please comment below

to be eligible to win a prize.

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

There are lots and lots of donated goodies left!

Click HERE for a peek!