Mentor Texts for Writers: How Suzy Leopold Uses Mentor Texts

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog

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.


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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  1. Thanks for sharing, Suzy and Marcie. I added this book to my wishlist.

  2. It is so helpful to break it all down! Great job, Suzy! Your students are lucky to have you and so are we!

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I love this book! It sounds like a perfect mentor text for your work. It’s interesting that you don’t mention that you study the voice of a mentor text. Do you find that it gets in the way of your own voice?

    • The element of voice is excellent to study and examine in stellar mentor book texts. There are times when I hear and write about my voice and then there are times when I consider the model of an author’s voice. As you know, Mara Rockliff, the author of Gingerbread for Liberty, uses a cheerful, lyrical voice in this story.

  4. I loved Gingerbread for Liberty–it was very heart-warming, and those gingerbready illustrations were just spot on!

    It sounds like the perfect mentor text for what you’re writing!

    • Perhaps you know that the author, Mara Rockliff, enjoys baking treats, Maria. I enjoy baking gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. However, I just may have to reconsider the once a year gingerbread treat and pull out my rolling pin and cookie cutters.

  5. Effectively analyzing and learning from mentor texts is crucial (and fun)! I love how you broke down the elements you look for in each book. This sounds like a perfect mentor text for anyone interested pb biography. Look forward to reading your book someday as well.

    • Sometimes I feel like I am a book detective as I analyze outstanding mentor book texts. You know I love your book, Goodnight Ark, Laura. It too provides excellent elements of what a picture book is all about. Thank you for your thoughts. I too, look forward to sharing a published book with you and many readers, as I continue to hone the craft of writing for kids.

  6. Great post. I like that you are specific in what you are looking for. Finding the right mentor text is heaven.

    • Studying great mentor texts, as you well know, Sherri, provide much inspiration and encouragement for me as a “writer under construction.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Author, writing coach, William Zinsser passed away at the age of 92. Such an amazing writer who encourage his students to write with passion. I am thankful for his quote that I shared in this post, “Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for someone learning an art or craft. Bach and Picasso didn’t spring full-blown as Bach and Picasso; they needed models. This is especially true of writing.” ~William Zinsser