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

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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 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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Debra headsot
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.

Website

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Twitter (infrequently used): @lindaashman2

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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

Hensel

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!

 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 7 ~ Author Sue Fliess ~ It’s NOT About the Rhyme!

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A Fairy Friend

by Sue Fliess

Illustrated by Claire Keane

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Sue!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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It’s NOT About the Rhyme!

By Sue Fliess

It’s not about the rhyme. It never is. Well, at least, it never should be.  But what it always is about is the story. Or at a very basic level, it’s about the idea you’re trying to convey with words. Writers should think of rhyme as a mechanism or tool—just as illustrations, free verse, graphics, photography, or prose are all ways of telling a story.

My readers ask me all the time, why do you like writing in rhyme? or why do you write in rhyme? And what I tell them is that I always first have an idea or concept for a story. I jot down those ideas, characters, or fragments. When I think there is enough to move forward with, only then do I decide on the best way to put that idea on the page. For me, many times it seems that rhyme fits, but other times, rhyme is not the answer. I’ve written many stories in prose that haven’t sold. Twenty out of my twenty-two picture books are written in rhyme. Which may only mean that I’m simply better at writing in rhyme than prose!

One reason this is true is that rhyme forces me to boil the story to its essence more effectively and keeps me from getting too wordy. I like the challenge. It’s like a puzzle and I find it both fun and satisfying. Some find it constraining, and I can certainly vouch for that during revisions! When a critique group member or an editor requests a plot change—I am suddenly a prisoner to my rhyme scheme. Eventually l figure it out, but only because at this point I’m very comfortable writing in rhyme and have grown accustomed to the challenges it poses during revisions.

Another reason I like writing in rhyme is that I’m a very musical person (you may have seen my song parodies about writing), and I think that’s why my brain gravitates towards rhyme. A rhyming picture book is like a song. And just like song lyrics must tell a story in 3 minutes or less, picture book writers must be able to tell their story in as few words as necessary. Rhyme helps me do that.

So, when you are ruminating about a story, figure out all the parts of that story first. If you think it has staying power and you love the idea, pursue it. But I recommend writing it in prose first. Then once you have your story down, ask yourself if rhyme—or another writing mechanism—will serve the story better. If not, stay the course. If you think rhyme will make it more playful or fun or engaging, without giving you a migraine, by all means, give it a shot. You may have to play around a bit with the tools in your toolbox—and I encourage that. You will discover which way is the best way for you. But no matter how you choose to tell it, always keep your eye on the story.

HOW TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN, Sky Pony Press Watch the trailer.

FROM HERE TO THERE, Albert Whitman & Co. Watch the trailer.

Here is a teacher’s guide that may be of interest:

http://www.suefliess.com/a-fairy-friend

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Sue Fliess (“fleece”) is the author of over 20 children’s books including From Here to There, A Fairy Friend, Tons of Trucks, Shoes for Me!, Calling All Cars, and many Little Golden Books. Fliess has also written for The Walt Disney Company. Her background is in copywriting, PR, and marketing, and her articles have appeared in O the Oprah Magazine, Huffington Post, Writer’s Digest, Education.com, and more. Her picture books have received honors from the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, have been used in school curriculums, museum educational programs, and have even been translated into French. She’s a member of SCBWI, Children’s Book Guild of DC, and does book signings, school visits, and speaking engagements. Sue lives with her family and their dog Charlie in No. Virginia. Visit her at www.suefliess.com.
Instagram: suefliess

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Rhyme Revolution Day 6 ~ Tammi Sauer ~ Writing a Rhyming Picture Book Well

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Mary Had a Little Glam

by Tammi Sauer

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 10

Congratulations Tammi!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Writing A Rhyming Picture Book Well

by Tammi Sauer

My first book, COWBOY CAMP, debuted in 2005. Since then, I’ve had sixteen other books hit the shelves, and I have another twelve under contract. Do you know how many of those books are written in rhyme? One.

I never planned to write a rhymer. This book snuck up on me and demanded to be written. I blame Linda Ashman.

While reading Linda’s writing resource, THE NUTS & BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS, one of the writing exercises caught my attention. It suggested writing a fresh take on a familiar song or rhyme such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Out of nowhere, the words MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM popped into my head. I knew I had to write Mary’s story. And, of course, since “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is written in rhyme, I knew my manuscript needed to follow suit.

This situation was equal parts exciting and flat-out scary.

Sure, I’d read hundreds and hundreds of rhyming picture books, but I’d never considered writing one. I knew a rhyming picture book needed to have all of the other important picture book components, plus it had to actually, you know, RHYME.

First and foremost, I knew I had to give Mary a story. That’s key. The manuscript couldn’t just be one cute and bouncy stanza after another. Each stanza needed to serve a purpose in pushing the story forward.

Once I uncovered Mary’s story, I read—and analyzed!—even more rhyming picture books. I also did a lot of research on writing rhyme. The best resource I have found for this, by the way, is Lane Fredrickson’s site rhymeweaver.com. I seriously cannot believe that goldmine of information is free.

Another thing that I did was go over the manuscript again and again in my head during my morning walks. I pounded out the story’s rhythm with each step. This helped me to make sure I had my accented syllables in the right spots.

Once I felt I had a solid draft that was full of story and fun language and void of inverted syntax and near rhymes, I shared it with my critique group as well as with a few of my other author friends who write in rhyme. I knew that if I was going to send a rhymer Out There, I wanted every word, phrase, and stanza to be as strong as possible.

All of that hard work paid off. MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM, illustrated by the oh-so-fabulous Vanessa Brantley-Newton, received a star from Kirkus. My favorite words in the review? “Sauer’s rhythm never falters.” Yes! My little rhymer also made the 2016 Best in Rhyme Top 10 List.

At the present time, I don’t have plans to write another rhymer, but, if I do, I will blame Linda Ashman.

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Tammi Sauer is a full time children’s book author who also presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 29 picture books to major publishing houses including Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. In addition to winning awards, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. CHICKEN DANCE:  THE MUSICAL is currently on a national tour, NUGGET & FANG was a featured book at the 2015 Scholastic Book Fair, and YOUR ALIEN, an NPR Best Book of 2015, was recently released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, and French which makes her feel extra fancy. You can learn more about Tammi at www.tammisauer.com and can follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

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Congratulations

Week 1 Prize Winners

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Monday – Maria Bostian – Copy of A FAIRY FRIEND by Sue Fliess

Tuesday – Judy Sobanski – Copy of TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum

Wednesday – Elizabeth Saba – Copy of HENRY WANTS MORE by Linda Ashman

Thursday – Arin Wensley – Copy of TRAINBOTS by Miranda Paul

Friday – Maria Oka – Copy of RACE CAR DREAMS and swag – Sharon Chriscoe

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

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

Thank you to the authors and publishers

for the generous book donations!!

 

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

 

Registration ends tonight at midnight so register if you haven’t already!

 

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Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 5 ~ Sharon Chriscoe ~ Writers, Start your Engines!

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Race Car Dreams

Race Car Dreams

by Sharon Chriscoe

Illustrated by Dave Mottram

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Sharon!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Writers, Start Your Engines!

By Sharon Chriscoe

In many ways writing is like racing. There’s the starting line (the beginning), the race (the middle), and the finish line (the end). If we’ve done our jobs well as a storytellers, our books will zoom right into the victory lane of our readers’ hearts.

One of the most important ways to achieve this goal is with a strong story arc. For us rhymers, there is no difference between a story arc for rhyme versus prose. Story ALWAYS comes first. The rhymes should feel natural, and they should work to enhance your story arc.

Here’s a nice visual I like to use when working on my story arc:

Chart

 

All story arcs begin at the starting line (the beginning), otherwise known as the ‘introduction’ or ‘exposition’. This is where your character, setting, and conflict (or main issue) are introduced.

In my picture book, RACE CAR DREAMS, an adorable little race car is the character, the setting is at the race track where it’s almost nighttime, and his conflict (or main issue) is that he’s tired and ready for bed. Yes, a lot of important details are a wrapped up in these four short lines.

The zooming has stopped.

The sun’s almost set.

A race car is tired.

He’s wringing with sweat.

Once you have your starting lineup set and ready to vroom      it’s time for the race (the middle) to heat up! This is the part of your story where most of the action will take place. Here, you’ll include a rise in your action and the climax.

Sound hard? Don’t worry, it isn’t if you think of it this way: When you watch a race, most of those zip-zooming, heart pumping, sitting on the edge of your seat action usually takes place during the actual race. Those exciting moments will carry you all the way up until that checkered flag is just about to drop.

From the moment the cars get their green light, the rise in action develops the conflict through Why and How.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, the Why is that His day has been filled with high octane fun. The how, is He hugged all the curves. He’s had a good run. See, a rise in action develops the idea that he’s tired from racing.

Once your character is speeding around the track, spend a little time there. Make several laps, give your audience (readers) an exciting race! Like any good race, problems arise, detours are needed, and roads get bumpy. But the trick is, don’t linger there too long.

Keep up the excitement without letting it go on endlessly. The rule of thumb is there are usually three obstacles to overcome during the race (the middle). As in all rules, sometimes they can be broken       but the ‘Rule of Three’ is a wonderful balance to try to achieve.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, my little race car is tired and ready for bed. But in order to get to that sleeping point, he must first wash his rims, fill his tummy with oil, and choose a book that’s all about speed. See, ‘Rule of Three’ even in a bedtime story.

With all three of these goals achieved, it’s time for the most exciting part of the book. The climax! This is where your turning point will take place. You know, like when that trailing race car vrooms past car after car near the end of the race, putting the crowd on their feet as he’s about to zip past the finish line! Or in the case of a bedtime book, a little one’s heavy eyes are finally ready to close.

In RACE CAR DREAMS, with his heater warming his grill, his book closed, and his wrench snuggled, the little race car’s turn of events is that now he’s finally ready to drift off to sleep.

This shifts our gears directly into the finish line (the end). ‘The end’ comes in two parts and happens very quickly. The first part is the falling action, where any conflicts, questions, and further character development is wrapped up.

This provides a relaxing, soothing moment for the reader to take a break from all the action. In a race, this would be the moment when no matter how fast other cars throttle their gas, it’s clear that the winner is literally inches away from the checkered flag, and the finish line.

Or in RACE CAR DREAM’S falling action, he’s ready to cross the finish line  . . .straight into dreamland! His engine now hums. He lets out a snore. His bumpers relax and sprawl on the floor.

The final part of the finish line (the end) is the resolution, which is well, where the story ENDS.

The resolution should always leave the reader satisfied. Much like a race, not every reader has to be happy with the outcome. Some may wish that Race Car had never went to sleep and instead he vroomed into town to zip and zoom down the streets all night long.

The point is, the story concludes with a satisfying ending where:

He zips and he zooms

sweet dreams of the race.

He vrooms to the front . . .

 . . . and takes home first place!

race-car-dreams-2.jpg

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Sharon Chriscoe may not vroom around a race track, but she does zip and zoom around in a bread truck with her husband, Ricky. Fueled with fresh bread, snacks, and writing tools, Sharon has made this her mobile office! She and her husband live in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. They have three adult children and one adorable grandchild, as well as an assortment of dogs, cats, bunnies and occasionally a groundhog. In addition to RACE CAR DREAMS, she is the author of BULLDOZER DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2017), FIRE TRUCK DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2018), and THE SPARROW AND THE TREES (Arbordale Publishing, 2015). She is also a contributor to several magazines such as Highlights High Five, Highlights Hello, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. To learn more about Sharon, her books, and future events, visit her website: www.sharonchriscoebooks.com

RACE CAR DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2016

BULLDOZER DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2017

FIRE TRUCK DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2018

THE SPARROW AND THE TREES, Arbordale Publishing, 2015

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 4 ~Miranda Paul ~ Spot the Plot

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Trainbots

by Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Shane McG

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Miranda!

2016-best-in-rhyme-logo

See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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Spot the Plot! An Exercise for Revising your Rhyming Picture Book

By Miranda Paul

Poetry is oodles of fun. Writing in rhyme takes creative problem solving skills—like puzzles or brain games. Therefore, it’s easy to get engrossed in the process of selecting a perfect pair of like-sounding words or a wacky character description.

When I’m drafting a story in rhyme, I sometimes turn my attention to the words rather than the bigger picture. This misdirected focus can lead to nice details but a fuzzy plot. After days or weeks of crafting clever lines, I must find ways to objectively self-edit or I could end up with six hilarious stanzas describing a single character action or scene. While that scene might be fun to listen to, it might not be right for a picture book that should deliver a full story.

Before I wrote Trainbots, I wrote two other train manuscripts. Both of these fell mostly into the “concept” book category—they focused on informing the reader about parts of a train, through loosely-told stories. Several nice rejections on the first story–a couple of which pointed out the lack of action—led to rewrites. But I wrestled with the same problem as I wrote the second story. By the time I drafted the third train manuscript, which became Trainbots, I had a system in place to spot the plot (and strengthen it).

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Trainbots by Miranda Paul illustrated by Shane McG. Published by little bee books, a division of Bonnier Publishing.

Here’s a method to check where your rhyming picture book manuscript is chugging forward or stalling out.

  • Format your picture book into stanzas. Generally, I break each line at the rhyming word. Depending on your style of poetry, these might be 2-6 lines each.

  • Print your story, double spaced, with plenty of room on the right side of the page.

  • Next to each stanza, write one prose sentence that describes only what happens in the text of those lines. (Leave it blank if nothing is happening in terms of action.)

Miranda 3Text for the first ~50 words (4 spreads / 8 pp.) of Trainbots, by Miranda Paul illustrated by Shane McG. Published by little bee books, a division of Bonnier Publishing.

  • Fold the manuscript so you can only see your prose sentences. Read your story in prose!

  • Using your prose, draw some sort of visual representation of your plot (e.g. story arc/story mountain or chart/graph).

  • Reflect on your drawing or graph. Questions to ask: How many stanzas are introduction or exposition, describing character or setting? Where does the conflict or action really begin? Is the conflict only internal, or is there external conflict? How many attempts are there to solve that problem, and how many stanzas do those scenes comprise? Are there new and interesting characters, actions, or settings to illustrate as the story moves along? Does the action rise to a climax? Are some stanzas redundant? Does the story reach a resolution?

  • Unfold the paper and revise the original! Cut or tighten redundant parts, add lines where there are gaps. Ideally, you’ll want between 12-15 “scenes” or spreads for a 32-page picture book. Don’t be afraid to rewrite an entire stanza and pick an entirely different rhyming word for the end.

This method won’t work with every rhyming picture book, but I hope it helps you learn to see your work with fresh eyes. Finding ways to approach our own work with an outsider lens

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Miranda Paul is an award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly and have been named to several award and state reading lists. Her three most recent releases—Whose Hands Are These?, 10 Little Ninjas, and Trainbots—are all written in rhyme. Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, serves as Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™, and is a regional advisor for the SCBWI (Wisconsin). She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.

Now Available:
10 Little Ninjas – illus. Nate Wragg – Currently #1 in Children’s Counting Books!
Trainbots – illus. Shane McG
One Plastic Bag – illus. Elizabeth Zunon
Water is Water – illus. Jason Chin
Whose Hands Are These? – illus. Luciana Navarro Powell
Coming in 2017
Blobfish Throws a Party – illus. Maggie Caton
Are We Pears Yet? – illus. Carin Berger

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To participate in Rhyme Revolution:

Read the blog post and comment below

to be eligible for a prize. 

Rhyme Time with Angie ~ Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

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Today we are celebrating

COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE

by Lori Mortensen!

Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

Spend a few minutes listening to Angie read Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range.

Then…learn how to make your own tiny bicycle!

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Reading

Click HERE for Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

“Clyde sure gits my southern twang a ‘goin’!”

 

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bicycle

Click HERE for the Rhyme Time craft

Make a tiny bicycle just like Clyde’s

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HERE are more ideas for fun with Clyde on Lori’s website.

 

Want to purchase these books? 

Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range

Buy it now

Dirty dog

Buy it now

 

 

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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