Mentor Texts for Writers: Mentor Text Help with Pacing in Picture Book Manuscripts by Pamela Brunskill

 

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog

 

Please join me in welcoming in the “week of Pam.” Pam Brunskill is both an author and educator, so she will be here this week for our writer and educator posts. If you’re like me, you could always use a brush-up on pacing, so I will definitely be implementing Pam’s exercise. Come back on Thursday for her Mentor Texts for the Classroom post. 


 

For me, mentor texts are resources that writers, illustrators, or anyone in the book-making business can turn to for examples of well-executed literary techniques. These techniques may include page turns, plot twists, and use of figurative language, among others. In my own craft, I have turned to mentor texts at all stages of the writing process, however, I have found them to be particularly useful when revising pacing.

After drafting one of my picture books about a real-life flood and figuring out what I was trying to say with it (a chronic problem for me in the early writing stages), I was yielding a hefty 1,500 word manuscript. This was far more than the recommended 500 word limit for picture books, so I sought out Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness because its mood, narrative arc, and style were similar to what I desired for my story. Each Kindness clocked in at 865 words, still on the higher end for picture books, but it never dragged.

each Kindness

How did Woodson tell her beautiful, poignant story so succinctly?

To answer this question, I typed Woodson’s prose from Each Kindness, printed it out, and cut it up into chunks of text according to what was written on each page. I then divided a large sheet of paper into 32 numbered sections for each page in a picture book, and taped Woodson’s prose—page 1 in Each Kindness matched page 1 on my chart, and so on—until the entire book could be visualized on one large chart.

On the chart, I labeled the points at which Woodson established and developed character, setting, problem, climax, and resolution, along with other noteworthy techniques she employed to keep the story moving.

Next, I printed my manuscript in a different color ink and cut the story into segments according to where I introduced and developed my own story elements, and placed the segments on the paper chart underneath Woodson’s prose. This enabled me to effectively scrutinize my writing and visually determine where I was verbose. Comparing my manuscript to a mentor text like Woodson’s allowed me to determine where I really needed to develop a plot or character motivation, and to cut ineffective descriptions.

storyboard

A few drafts later, I was down to 1,000 words. Although my manuscript was still long for a picture book, Each Kindness helped me to pace my story better. The mentor text had provided a framework for improvement, and it gave me the confidence I needed to send that draft to my critique group and agent—the real-life mentors.


pam_brunskill_photo-2

 

Pamela Brunskill began her career teaching 3rd and 6th graders in Clarence, NY, focusing mainly on language arts and social studies. Over the past ten years she has been writing, teaching as an adjunct instructor in the education departments at Bloomsburg University and Bucknell University, and raising her three children. She has been published in Highlights for Children and is represented by Louise Fury from the Bent Agency. Pamela also helps authors create educational resources for their books at Authors and Educators. You can find Pamela at her website, http://www.authorsandeducators.com, or on Twitter under the handle @PamBrunskill.

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Picture Book Refrains

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I wrote a guest post at Meg Miller’s ReviMo site over the weekend. If you are interested in picture book refrains, be sure to check out that post. I touch on nonfiction and fiction picture book refrains.

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Fiction and Nonfiction Tips by Suzy Leopold

 

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Suzy Leopold is back talking about using mentor texts in the classroom. If you missed her post on Tuesday, go back and read about how she uses mentor texts as a writer too. 


 

Mentor Text Definition

Mentor texts are books and literature that students can read, relate to, study, and reread again for a variety of instructional purposes.

 

Why Do I Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom?

Mentor texts:

  1. Provide models for students to make the reading-writing connection.
  2. Have the power to help a student grow as a writer.
  3. Encourage students to connect to new reading and writing strategies.
  4. Provide models for students to imitate.
  5. Demonstrate the importance of choosing words wisely in their writing.
  6. Stimulate creativity and interest

 

A Favorite Mentor Text

oak tree grows

As An Oak Tree Grows

Author and Illustrator G. Brian Karas

 

From a single perspective, the life of a magnificent oak tree is shared from 1775 to the present. Not only does the oak tree change and grow throughout the many seasons, the surroundings change and grow throughout the life of this oak tree. Progress with transportation and communication become new and modern, while other things hardly change at all.

 

Many nonfiction books are written with facts and information. The newly published nonfiction books that guide my students with their writing are fresh and engaging. Sometimes referred to as creative nonfiction, these books capture and hook the reader telling a story. Back matter is a special feature: Author Notes, Resources, Facts, and Bibliographies. This fresh look is based on education reforms known as Common Core.

 

An Oak Tree Grows models a timeline for students, as they too, create their own stories using timelines.

 

A timeline is an excellent graphic organizer that represents chronological events in time. There are many types of timelines that can be used based on the grade level and the subject of study.

 

A Timeline Graphic Organizer

 seed timeline

Documenting a timeline for a seed.

plants

Growing a seed takes time and care for it to become a healthy plant.

  1. Pour warm water on a small peat pellet and watch the pellet expand.
  2. Plant one or two seeds inside the opening of the peat pellet.
  3. For best results, create a green house using a tray that has a dome shaped plastic lid. Plastic wrap loosely placed over a seed tray can also be used.
  4. Once the seed has sprouted transfer the entire peat pellet and the growing seedling into a peat pot, adding some rich potting soil.
  5. Water the plant gently and place in a location with indirect sunlight.
  6. Observe and watch the growth of the plant.
  7. Document the information on a timeline for the plant.

 

NOTE:

Using a timeline as a visual can support a reader and a writer to be a better reader and a writer.

 

A timeline can be used for short periods of time or for many years depicting change, growth and facts from the past to the present.

 

A Quick Tip on How to Use a Mentor Text for a Fiction Picture Book

boomer goes to school

Boomer Goes to School

By Constance W. Mc George

Illustrator Mary Whyte

boomer's big day

Boomers Big Day

By Constance W. Mc George

Illustrator Mary Whyte

 

Whole Pizza or a Slice of Pizza Metaphor

Writing is like a pizza.

Writing is a process, without one-size fits-all answers, evolving and changing as we write.

pizza

  1. Draw a circle on a piece of paper depicting a pizza.
  2. Write My dog Boomer on top of the circle.
  3. The entire pizza represents My dog Boomer.
  4. If I begin writing, my focus will be on the whole pizza focus. That means I will  write everything about Boomer.
  5. Writers take one more step. They write about one slice of the pizza.
  6. Writing a slice is about one event about Boomer. A slice of pizza might be about the day Boomer snuck into the house during a thunderstorm or the day Boomer ran away.
  7. Write about the one event in time. The story can be fiction or nonfiction. Writing about one action or experience is writing like a pizza; one slice of pizza at a time.

 

NOTE:

Sometimes we begin writing or researching and realize our focus may still be too wide. It may be time to narrow it some more. Time to write about a smaller slice of pizza.

Sometimes we may need to widen the scope. Time to write about a larger slice of pizza.

Sometimes we have to change our focus completely.


headshotI am a wife who is adored by my husband, Perry. We are proud parents of five boys and three daughters in law. Pa Perry and Oma Sue [grandparents] enjoy spending time with their seven sweet, smart grandkids, who reside in Texas.

I am an educator of hundreds of students, throughout the years in San Antonio, Texas, from preschool through eighth grade. I also taught at the college level at The University of Incarnate Word College. Additionally, I planned and presented many workshops for administrators and co teachers on staff development days. The highlight of my career was reading and writing with ELLs [English Language Learners] from various countries, including Sweden, Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Columbia, Mexico and many more. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, a Bilingual certification, Reading Recovery certificate, and a Master’s of Science in Reading.

Currently, I read and write with kids in our community. I provide after school and summer school lessons with Mrs. Sue for six elementary aged students.

I am on The Write Team for a local newspaper, Carlinville~Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat. The articles I write are about the importance of literacy. For example, two articles published were, Reading Should Not Take a Summer Vacation and Make this School Year the Best Ever by Planning Ahead.

My husband and I are organic gardeners on the Illinois prairie, who enjoy cooking and baking for family and friends. I am a reader and a writer. I am a painter of acrylics & watercolors and a creative crafter. I am a cyclist on a pink Marin Portofina. I am a walker and an occasional 5K jogger. Leaving the world a better place is important to me, so I read, write and create every day.

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Mentor Texts for Writers: How Suzy Leopold Uses Mentor Texts

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I’m proud to announce that this is Suzy Leopold week. She is sharing a post about how to use mentor texts as a writer today. Then come back on Thursday when she’ll share how she uses mentor texts in the classroom. Suzy is also a fellow GROGGER. Check out a recent post she wrote about mentor texts over there. 


Mentor Text Definition

Mentor texts are books that writers can read, relate to, study, and reread again. The literature can be used as models to help a writer to grow.

 

Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for someone learning an art or craft. Bach and Picasso didnt spring full-blown as Bach and Picasso; they needed models. This is especially true of writing.

~William Zinsser

 

How I Use Mentor Texts in My Writing

Studying mentor texts is reading with a purpose and helps me to write stronger pieces of writing.

I study a mentor text by examining and looking closely at the:

  1. Title
  2. Illustrations
  3. Word count and page numbers
  4. Layouts and page turns
  5. Structure including the beginning, middle and the ending
  6. Back matter if applicable

 

The Mentor Text that I am Currently Using

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty!

How a German Baker Helped with the American Revolution

By Mara Rockliff

Pictures by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

This is a story of an unsung hero, Christopher Ludwick. During the American Revolution, Ludwick not only baked gingerbread for the soldiers, he risked his life on a secret mission crossing enemy lines.

 

My WIP [Writing in Progress] is a nonfiction story about a Polish-born American patriot and hero, Casimir Pulaski. A soldier on horseback, Pulaski came to America to help the colonists win the American Revolution.

 

I Find Mentor Texts By:

* Searching at the library and in bookstores

* By asking for book recommendations from writerly friends

 

Mentor Texts:

  1. Provide models for me to examine and study stellar books that exemplify quality.
  2. Have the power to help me grow as a better writer.
  3. Demonstrate the importance of choosing the right words to depict believable characters and showcase outstanding beginnings, middles and ends.
  4. Stimulate creativity and interest.

headshot

I am a wife who is adored by my husband, Perry. We are proud parents of five boys and three daughters in law. Pa Perry and Oma Sue [grandparents] enjoy spending time with their seven sweet, smart grandkids, who reside in Texas.

I am an educator of hundreds of students, throughout the years in San Antonio, Texas, from preschool through eighth grade. I also taught at the college level at The University of Incarnate Word College. Additionally, I planned and presented many workshops for administrators and co teachers on staff development days. The highlight of my career was reading and writing with ELLs [English Language Learners] from various countries, including Sweden, Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Columbia, Mexico and many more. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, a Bilingual certification, Reading Recovery certificate, and a Master’s of Science in Reading.

Currently, I read and write with kids in our community. I provide after school and summer school lessons with Mrs. Sue for six elementary aged students.

I am on The Write Team for a local newspaper, Carlinville~Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat. The articles I write are about the importance of literacy. For example, two articles published were, Reading Should Not Take a Summer Vacation and Make this School Year the Best Ever by Planning Ahead.

My husband and I are organic gardeners on the Illinois prairie, who enjoy cooking and baking for family and friends. I am a reader and a writer. I am a painter of acrylics & watercolors and a creative crafter. I am a cyclist on a pink Marin Portofina. I am a walker and an occasional 5K jogger. Leaving the world a better place is important to me, so I read, write and create every day.

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Pet Projects by Lynne Marie

Please welcome author Lynne Marie to our Mentor Texts in the Classroom series. Teachers are always looking for new ways to help kids tell their own stories. Pet stories often make their way into student writing. What better way to help students become better writers than to introduce them to some mentor texts about pets. 

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hedgehogA growing number of authors/writers rely on “Mentor Texts” as research for their current writing projects, whether fiction or non-fiction. Mentor texts can inspire a new or different idea, illuminate a genre, exhibit a style, teach facts, demonstrate the way a theme is handled, express the ways a story can be told or show what has been done before and need not be redone. The same is true for using Mentor texts in the classroom.

There are many ways that I have used picture books to teach students of all ages about writing. Picture Books work well because you can get a complete point across, completely from beginning to end, in a fairly short amount of time. However, the best way to teach about writing is to begin at the beginning.

Every story starts with an idea. If a writer or student is stumped about what to write about, all he/she needs to do is pick up a book. Any book can be used as an example for potential methods of finding their own ideas OR taking an old idea and freshening it up to make it appear new. For the purposes of this post, we will assume our writer wants to write about wanting a pet – a story that has been told time and time again, and is perhaps old and overdone.

Take a look at these “Pet Projects” and see how pairing an idea that has been done with something that is different, new, or unusual, turns into a whole NEW idea!

me want pet1. ME WANT PET by Tammi Sauer. Pictures by Bob Shea.

This author takes the universal problem of a child’s desire to own a pet, and shakes it up by adding a main character who is a Cave Boy, which opens up a stone age of new and exciting pet possibilities! Can you say Saber-toothed Tiger?

snow dog

2. SNOW DOG SAND DOG by Linda Joy Singleton. Illustrations by Jess Golden.

This author takes on a similar problem, but her Main Character is allergic to dogs, so must find creative ways to “make the best of a sneezy situation.

princess peepers

3. PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET by Pam Calvert. Illustrations by Tuesday Mourning.

Again, here we have the usual dilemma of our Main Character wanting a pet. However, combine that problem with a Princess who is nearsighted and loses her glasses, and we have medieval mayhem and lots of fun illustrations!

 

But those are just a few successful TWISTS on what have might have seemed like an overdone story line of a Main Character wanting a pet – here are some more….

 

gilbert goldfish i wanna iguana

 

 

 

 

 

 


my pet book
prudence wants a pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

jacob oreilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you’re done reading this post, challenge yourself to pair an overdone plot or subject with something unusual or rare and see what you or your students come up with!

Of course, using a picture book to teach idea inspiration is just one item at the top of the list of how Mentor Texts can be used in the classroom. Be sure and check back here for more ways!

 

 

Lynne MarieLynne Marie is a New York Girl living in a Florida World. She loves anything any everything Disney, Broadway, European History and the Everglades. She’s an avid picture book reader and the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, published by Scholastic, and a Travel Agent. Please visit her on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-Author-Lynne-Marie/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hedgehog-Goes-to-Kindergarten-by-Lynne-Marie/

https://www.facebook.com/PixieVacationsByLynneMarie

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Studying Lyrical Language for Prose by Renée M. LaTulippe

Words can not express how much I have learned from Renée. I have loved reading and writing poetry for many years, but when I took Renée’s The Lyrical Language Lab class, I loved poetry even more. She is an amazing teacher and she gives such valuable feedback. I continue to learn from her in the class’s Facebook group. I’m so happy to have her here sharing her knowledge with you. 

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog


 

 

When I began developing my online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry, I knew I’d need to provide a lot of examples of how poetic techniques can be used in prose.

 

The first place I turned to was MG and YA novels, particularly Newbery Medal and Honor winners. There are so many rich examples in the genre! What I specifically look for in mentor texts is not just lovely language that sounds pretty, but language that strengthens and supports every single story element, including mood, tone, setting, and character. And, since I am using these texts to teach, I want to be able to pinpoint the poetic techniques being used and show how they support the story elements.

 

My favorite example, and one that I use in my course, is from Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. (This is printed in other blog posts around the Internet, but it really bears repeating!) (Click to enlarge.)

Lesson17-WalkTwoMoons-1

 

 

In these few pages, Creech uses several poetic techniques that support other story elements, including:

 

  • Figurative language and imagery (red)
  • Diction (fuchsia)
  • Repetition (purple)
  • Sound devices (green)
  • Hyperbole (blue)

 

What I particularly love about this example is that 1) it is so full of poetic techniques that I can use this text for multiple purposes, and 2) these are the opening pages to the novel, which is so important for me when I search for mentor texts. I want to see that magic from the moment I open the book, so I can then show students how important it is to pay attention to every word, starting with the very first one.

 

Because I rely heavily on first pages, I have found Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to be a big help in my search for mentor texts. It’s the first place I go when I discover a new possibility, and often use this feature to find more models for lyrical language. Some first pages that I am adding to my growing list of texts are from

 

cover-holesHoles by Louis Sachar for its amusing and effective use of repetition to create and support the narrator’s voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-winndixieBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo for its rhythm and pacing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-calpurniaThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly for its imagery and use of similes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-barnBarn by Debbie Atwell (picture book) for the lyrical language that paints a picture of the book’s setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because each lesson in my course is focused on one concept, I don’t really use whole texts; rather, I use short excerpts to illustrate and analyze the specific concept being covered. From there, students complete a writing exercise using the excerpt as a model for their own work.

 

Mentor texts play a huge part in my teaching, and I’m always delighted by the “a-ha” moments students can experience when they’ve read a really great example of a particular concept – and can then apply it to their own writing.

 

I highly recommend that writers start a collection of their own “snippets” – those wonderful words and phrases and sentences that stop us in our tracks when we read – to refer to again and again as guides and inspiration.

 

*************

Renée M. LaTulippe has co-authored nine early readers and a volume of poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new (Moonbeam Children’s Book Award) for All About Learning Press, where she is also the editor, and has poems in several editions of The Poetry Friday Anthology series as well as the upcoming anthologies The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry and One Minute Till Bedtime. She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and blogs on children’s poetry at NoWaterRiver.com..

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Renée M. LaTulippe.

 

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Poetry Mentor Texts: Snoozefest by Samantha Berger

snoozefest

Snoozefest

By Samantha Berger

Illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Dial, 2015

Snoozefest is a delight! Berger had me at the title: Snoozefest! I think the thing that delighted me (and would delight younger readers) is the word combinations. Snoozefest, Nuzzledome, naptacular, even the character’s name, Snuggleford Cuddlebun, play with sleepy language. There are also fun words in the illustrations. Snuggleford is a sloth who attends a sleeping contest, or Snoozefest, and it’s quite a celebration of sleep. This book is full of sleepy, snoozy language. The rhythm and rhyme makes it fun to read.

This book would be good a mentor text for:

* Word Play (especially puns)

* Alliteration

* Descriptive language

I’d highly recommend listening to Matthew Winner’s podcast episode with Samantha Berger, where she gives lots of inside scoop on Snoozefest and her process.

Other Poetry Month Posts

Some Bugs

Raindrops Roll

A Rock Can Be…

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Guest Post: Platform Building

As many of you know, I write mostly about mentor texts (both for teachers and for writers) and I also write occasionally about organization and time management. All of that is part of my “platform.” I’m over at Alayne Kay Christian’s blog talking about platform. Check out my post called “A Case of the Why Nots: How I Built (and am still building) My Platform.” 

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Poetry Mentor Texts: A Rock Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas

a rock can be

A Rock Can Be…

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Millbrook, 2015

On Tuesday, my students and I had a Skype visit with Laura Purdie Salas. Just hearing her talk about her process was so encouraging to all of us. In preparation for her Skype visit, we studied Laura Purdie Salas’ work. We wrote poems using her books  A Rock Can Be, A Leaf Can Be, and Water Can Be as our mentor texts. We’d been studying weather, so students wrote their poems as “A Cloud Can Be…”

One of the things I love about Laura’s series of books is that she captures the beauty of poetry, nuance in language, and still manages to teach facts in a subtle way. The back matter in each of her books can be used to connect the poem to standards in Science.

Each spread follows the pattern, “A rock can be…”

My favorite spread is:

“Lake skimmer

Building trimmer”

This book would be good a mentor text for:

* Word Choice

* Rhyming words

* Specificity

* Word Play


Here is my poem using Laura’s form as a mentor text. 

A Cloud Can Be…

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Inspired by Laura Purdie Salas’ Can Be … books

A cloud is a cloud—

It’s water, air, dust

When weather starts changing

It’s the clouds that we trust.

A cloud can be a…

Sleet maker

Snow shaker

Sun shader

Star fader

Shaper shifter

Dust lifter

Drizzle downer

Garden drowner

Storm grumbler

Tornado rumbler

Sky crawler

Rain hauler

A cloud is a cloud

Droplets above sea

When clouds tumble-bumble

A cloud can be a…

Rainbow revealer

Moon concealer

Hail pelter

Thunder belter

Swimming spoiler

Plan foiler

Lightning dasher

Party crasher

Balloon catcher

Dream hatcher

A cloud is a cloud—

Look up and see

Now go and discover

What else it can be.


Check out my other posts about Laura Purdie Salas’ work:

Water Can Be.. and A Leaf Can Be…

Laura also has new poetry collections available. I had the privilege to write the teachers’ guide for RIDDLE-KU.

RiddleKu Cover

Other Poetry Month Friday posts:

Raindrops Roll

Some Bugs

For more poetry resources, check out this page.

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Mentor Texts for Writers: The Sum and Parts of Picture Books by Patricia Toht

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog

 Fellow GROGger, Patricia Toht, always delights me with her posts. I always learn new things from her and how she analyzes texts. I hope you enjoy this analysis of how to dig into picture books. 


 

 

It’s suggested that, as writers, we should read 100 books in the genre we’d like to write. Having hosted story times at both a bookstore and a preschool program, I’ve happily read more than ten times that many picture books. What a joy!

Storytime_Drawing

Now that I’m writing picture books myself, I’ve discovered that my brain has a pretty good feel for the general rhythm found in most picture books – the rise and fall of action, three-part movements, melodious sentences, etc. This is invaluable when I’m working on pacing and page turns.

But using mentor texts doesn’t stop with that overarching rhythm. With each new book I write, I find challenges that would benefit from a narrower study. My current WIP has rhyming text, as well as a suggestion for a wordless spread, so I have two specifics to look into:

 

Challenge #1 – Rhyming Text

Stack of Rhyming Books

 

Sources for texts: My own library, industry reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book), blog reviews, and a list developed during last year’s RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month).

 

Analysis:

  • How many stanzas in the book?
  • What is the type of stanza (e.g. couplet, quatrain, free verse, etc.)?
  • What is the rhyme scheme?
  • Are there any variations in the rhyme?

 

Findings: Julia Donaldson’s books proved to be terrific mentor texts for me. Often written in quatrains with an ABCB rhyme scheme, they often had smaller embedded refrains. I typed up several of them to get a feel for the rhythm, nuances and page breaks.

Julia_Donaldson_books

For more specific findings about rhyming picture books, see my blog post about it here. 

 

Challenge #2 – the Wordless Spread

Books with Wordless Spreads

 

Sources for texts: It turns out that there’s no easy way to search for picture books that contain wordless spreads! Luck for me, a blog post at PictureBookBuilders gave me a few titles to begin my search with. A question posed to Facebook friends from PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) added more.

 

Analysis:

  • Where in the book does the spread occur?
  • What is the use of the spread? (Is it a visual punch line? Does it slow or quicken the pace? Does it compress time? )
  • What emotion is conveyed?

 

Findings: I gathered all of my findings in a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot Wordless Spreads excel sheet

You can find a written summary on the GROG.

As before, the perfect mentor text for me floated to the top – QUEEEN VICTORIA’S BATHING MACHINE. Again, I typed it up, noting page breaks, location of the wordless spread and its function, which gave me insights for my own book.

Queen_Victorias_Bathing_Machine_book

 

From my experience of looking at mentor texts, I can offer a few suggestions for picture book writers:

 

  • Read picture books for the sum (the whole book) as well as its parts (individual elements).

 

  • Reviews in trade magazines and blog sites (including this very one!) are helpful sources for mentor texts.

 

  • Join writing groups. Fellow authors will amaze you with their knowledge!

 

  • Develop a systematic way of comparing titles. I often use an Excel spread sheet, adding columns as I notice more helpful comparisons.

 

  • Remember that it’s good to learn the “rules,” but it’s also okay to break them sometimes.

 


 

Patty_headshot_small

 

Patricia Toht is a Chicagoland native who was also lucky enough to live in England for several years. She owned a children’s bookshop, Never Never Land, before turning her hand to writing. She is the author of two upcoming picture books by Walker Books, PICK A PUMPKIN and PICK A PINE TREE (Autumn, 2017). Her poetry appears in AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!: A GLOBAL GATHERING OF SPORTS POEMS (Friesen Press) and THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS (Pomelo Books).

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