Today is Picture Book Wednesday and since I’m teaching a class tonight on writing for children, it made me think about the differences in children’s books.
Writers who are new to the world of writing for children usually think of picture books when they hear “children’s book.” But if you’ve been around for awhile, you know that books for kids go far beyond the picture book.
That said, what makes a picture book a picture book? Is it just the pictures? Or are there other elements that make it unique from other stories written for children?
For my classes, I created a handout that describes the differences between a picture book and a short story for a magazine. Two main differences are:
- Illustrations help tell the story. In a picture book, the illustrations are key to understanding what’s going on in the story and often provide fun or surprising elements not directly stated in the text. They often provide a punch line or key story element. In magazine stories, the illustrations usually highlight or emphasize a scene that is depicted in the story.
- Multiple-read factor. Good picture books provide something fun or enticing that encourages the listener to shout, “Read it again!” This could be a twist or surprise ending, a poignant universal theme, or elements of humor or interactivity that engage the listener on different levels.
I include other differences in my handout, but this is a good start. What other differences can you identify?
Yesterday I suggested we take a broader look at our stories and identify the main theme. I usually have a sense of my theme before I start a novel; with picture books it often comes after I’ve written the first draft.
The theme for my work-in-progress is that we are not alone, we have a purpose and it’s okay to reach out to others to help us with both.
What about your theme?
INTRO: Every Monday is Jumpstart Monday so I will be trying out things to help me get into my writing for the week; hopefully these will help you too.
Today we’ll take a broader look at our stories to make sure we have a sense of our theme. If you are in the early stages of a draft, you may not know your theme yet; you may be waiting for it to arise organically from your story. But give it some thought because identifying your theme early can help guide your story and help structure it.
What is your story about? This is not about plot–this happened, and then this happened–but what is the theme readers will take from your story? Overcoming loss, making a friend, facing a fear…You may even have more than one if you are writing a novel (though one probably dominates).
I’ll post the theme(s) for my work-in-progress tomorrow!
Today we’ll be looking at Kelsey Green, Reading Queen by author Claudia Mills.
Let’s look at what Claudia does to hook us on the first page of this novel.
Kelsey Green no longer heard any of the voices in her third-grade classroom. All her attention was focused on the book spread open beneath her desk.
Would the old key that had been buried in the earth for the last ten years open the locked door to the hidden garden?
Drawing her breath, Kelsey waited as the key fitted into the keyhole.
The key turned.
Then with a squeak, the door opened slowly… slowly.
Why It Works
Claudia is one of the best authors of chapter books writing today and Kelsey’s opening page shows her mastery not only of this age group, but also how to grab our attention immediately. We know Kelsey loves to read (even if we didn’t know the title)– “All her attention was focused on the book…”–and who among us book lovers hasn’t sneaked a book into our laps to read during class?
But then the clincher–A key turning, a door squeaking open in the book within a book. What will happen next? I can’t wait to find out when I get my copy!
Writing on vacation always sounds like something I can do. I love to write and I love to be on vacation. I always think that being relaxed and having fun will free my mind to work on my stories. And that’s true. I do find myself less stressed and my mind starts playing with story ideas when I decide to drift in that direction. In fact, some of my best ideas come when I’m on vacation (or running or in the shower or reading a book) and I’m quick to jot them down before I forget them.
But I also want to spend time with my family and explore the area.
On my recent trip to Kaua’i, I actually wrote a scene for my novel. I had planned to write two so getting one done was pretty good. I wrote in the morning, before the kids had woken up (we have three teens so sleeping in is one of the things they do best) and it was nice. But then I was happy to put it away and jump into the day.
What about you? Do you write on vacation? If so, do you set goals or just write as the mood strikes you?