2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

2017 TOP 10 List

Doris cover


by Diana Murray

Illustrated by Yuyi Chen

1 star

“We shouldn’t have to beg or plead

To make our brothers want to read.”

Doris the Bookasaurus finds a way

to make reading fun for Max and TJ.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Doris 1

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


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

Doris 2


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


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


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


What advice do you have for rhyming writers?


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


Diana Murray - Headshot


Buy it HERE


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


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



Congratulations Diana on DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS

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

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


No rest for the weary rhymers!!!

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

TOP 10 List



by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrated by Deborah Marcero



Many thanks to 2017 Best in Rhyme Committee Member

Gayle C. Krause for interviewing Corey Rosen Schwartz

about her fabulous new book TWINDERELLA.

1 star





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


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

 Corey - spread 1


GAYLE:  How long have you been writing?


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

Corey - spread 2


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

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


Corey - spread 3

GAYLE: Where do you get your ideas?

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


Grandkids cannot come soon enough!    


GAYLE: How many rhyming picture books have you written?

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


GAYLE: How did you find the inspiration for Twinderella?

Corey - spread 4

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


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


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




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


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


From Kirkus Reviews:

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


Corey Author Photo


Congratulations Corey on TWINDERELLA

and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

Buy it HERE

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City.

KidLitTV Logo - NEW 2017







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


Top 10 List


Flashlight Night



by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrated by Fred Koehler



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

1 star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flashlight Night spread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Top 10 Blogs - Mat Forrest


Congratulations Matt on FLASHLIGHT NIGHT

and making the 2017 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List!

Buy it HERE

1 star

Watch for the live, streaming

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Announcement

on February 4th at 7:00 pm ET

from the KidLitTV Studio in New York City. 

KidLit TV logo - new

2017 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

2017 Best in Rhyme Award logo

Please take time to read these wonderful rhyming picture books!

Congratulations to the all the authors and illustrators!

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

starting November 17th. 

Best in Rhyme 2017 Top 10

Here’s the official 2017 

Best in Rhyme Top 10 List

in no particular order


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

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

KidLit TV blk-white logo

Thank you to Julie Gribble at KidLit TV

Take a peek at the Best in Rhyme Rubric

used for scoring.

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

Many thanks to this wonderful committee!! ❤



The 2017 Best in Rhyme Award Committee:

Manju Howard

Debbie Vidovich

Sherri Rivers

Cathy C. Hall

Kenda Henthorn

Annie Bailey

Gayle C. Krause

Deb Williams

Darlene Ivy

Suzy Leopold

Jill Richards


Angie Karcher – Award Founder


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