Writing Picture Books: Rhyme Well Done

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Picture Books, Writer Tips & Tools, Writing Stuff | 0 comments

Cats' Nght Out by Caroline Stutson illustrated by J. KlassenToday is Picture Book Wednesday and we’ll be talking about what good rhyme looks like. So often we hear that editors don’t want rhyme at all when what they really don’t want is bad rhyme. Because they get so much bad rhyme, they often say they don’t want rhyme at all. Studying good rhyme can help us when writing our own rhyme. I’ll be using Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson, illustrated┬áby J. (Jon) Klassen.

Perfect Rhythm

The rhymes in this book have wonderful meter and flow easily as a read-aloud. But more than that, Caroline sets a dance-like tone and an intriguing opening that are accessible to little listeners.

“From the alley, music drifts.
Shadows sway to a trumpet riff…”

This is a wonderful example of a rhyme that is not perfect, but works perfectly. There is no”t” at the end of “riff,” but the sound works well so we hardly notice. Similarly with “right/stripes” later in the book.

“Music drifting” lulls us, but “shadows sway” immediately raises a question–whose shadows? We immediately want to turn the page, where we are introduced to the first pair of cats.

Hidden Counting

Caroline continues to maintain a rhythmic, musical quality with her word choices and lilting rhyme while slipping in counting by twos. Children may not even be aware of it, but will have fun counting the cats as they multiply page after page.

Sophisticated, yet fun, Illustrations

The illustrations convey the mystery and magic of the night, while giving listeners plenty to point out and find. What’s that in the window? (A record player the first time, other items in other spreads) Which cats wear capes? Tip their hats?

Cats’ Night Out is a wonderful book and a great tool for those writing in rhyme. Study this book and others like it to immerse yourself in the flow of effective rhythm and rhyme.

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