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Editor and Author Frances Gilbert on Rhyming Picture Books

 

A GUEST POST

ON THE CRAFT OF RHYMING PICTURE BOOKS

BY EDITOR

&

GO, GIRLS, GO! AUTHOR

FRANCES GILBERT

 

 

Today I’m happy to share an enlightening post on craft by Doubleday Books for Young Readers Editor-in-Chief, and Go, Girls, Go! author, Frances Gilbert. Many picture book authors face a challenge when writing in rhyme. Does the meter work? Does the rhyme feel forced? Is the story best told in rhyme? Frances offers helpful insights into her approach from both sides of the editor’s desk so please read on.

 

ON RHYMING PICTURE BOOKS BY FRANCES GILBERT

I’ve been a children’s book editor for over 25 years and one of the most common reasons I reject picture book manuscripts is that they rhyme badly. So why, for my first foray into writing a picture book myself, would I choose to write Go, Girls, Go! in rhyme??! Rhyming, we’re so often told – by editors, by agents, by fellow writers – is not encouraged. Bound to fail, hard to translate. But I love rhyming books. I love reading them, and I love publishing them. Turns out, I love writing them too.

The number one mistake in rhyming texts is when the rhyme overwhelms the story rather than serving the story. The monotony of a 32-page story all told in the same rhythm can wear a reader down after a few pages. As an editor, I often start these submissions thinking, “Okay, let’s see if this can be sustained . . .” and after a few stanzas say, “Oh please stop. I can’t do this anymore.” The sing-song-y-ness of “dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh, dah-dah” in line after line pummels a reader with sameness. It also encourages authors to make terrible word choices: odd or forced descriptions or line endings because that last word HAS. TO. RHYME. My test: Extract a line out of your rhyming text and ask yourself if you’d write it the same way if it DIDN’T have to rhyme. If the answer is no, it’s a bad line. The rhyming has to feel effortless.

Effortless AND creative. Listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack. I know it’s a high bar, but learn from how Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an entire musical in tight, creative rhyme full of variety and rhythm changes and surprises and cleverness and word-play delights. Internal rhymes, humorous rhymes, break-outs into a different rhythm altogether. A surprise around every corner. Now imagine if all two hours and forty-five minutes of “Hamilton” had been “dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh, dah-dah.” That’s not a ticket you’d have paid $300 for.

 

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Interior artwork from Go, Girls, Go! written by Frances Gilbert and illustrated by Allison Black, Simon & Schuster BYR ©2019.

 

I broke “Go, Girls, Go!” into four primary sections, each one showcasing three girls, their vehicles, and the sound of their vehicles. It starts: “Emma drives a fire engine, / Meg conducts a train, / Jayla steers a big red tractor hauling loads of grain.” Those lines alone are not breaking any creativing writing boundaries. It’s a pretty standard A-B-B rhyme scheme. Had the rest of my text been in the same rhythm and rhyme scheme, it could have gotten old quickly. But my next two scenes actually don’t rhyme at all; they introduce the sound words and, after another page turn, end in a rallying cheer: “Vroom! goes Emma. / Hoot! goes Meg. / Clank! goes Jayla! / Go, girls, go!” The break from rhyming in these scenes, while still maintaining a bouncy rhythm, gives the reader a different reading experience for a few pages before launching into the next set of girls.

 

GoGirlsGoIntArtPg4

Interior artwork from Go, Girls, Go! written by Frances Gilbert and illustrated by Allison Black, Simon & Schuster BYR ©2019.

 

This is the pattern for four sets of girls, and then for the finale we break into a different rhythm and rhyme scheme, A-A-A-B this time: “Girls can race and girls can fly. / Girls can rocket way up high. / What about you? Give it try! / Go, girl, go!” It gives the reader an indication that the book is approaching a crescendo, and then it lands on one final cheer on the last page (which doesn’t rhyme with anything).

 

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Interior artwork from Go, Girls, Go! written by Frances Gilbert and illustrated by Allison Black, Simon & Schuster BYR ©2019.

 

Frances Gilbert photo courtesy of Lance Ehlers

Photo of Frances Gilbert by ©Lance Ehlers

Did I plan this structure deliberately ahead of time? No, I just wrote it. But I followed this mantra the entire time: “Don’t bore your reader. Don’t wear your reader down. Let the rhyme serve the story.”

I was grateful that reviewers picked up on this: Booklist called the rhyming “propulsive”, which is the best descriptor I could have hoped for, with the style of the rhyme matching the forward-moving vehicles in the book. And Kirkus said, “With repeated readings, pre-readers will be reciting the words on their own,” which thrilled me, because rhyming can help kids quickly get the hang of reading along if the rhythm grabs them. And that leads to repeated readings, which is the test of any good picture book.

So don’t be afraid of writing in rhyme, but please remember: “Don’t bore your reader. Don’t wear your reader down. Let the rhyme serve the story.”

 

Follow Frances Gilbert on Twitter: @GoGirlsGoBooks 

Click here to read more about Frances in an SCBWI Kite Tales interview by Christine Van Zandt.

Come back tomorrow (Wednesday) for my review of Go, Girls, Go!

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The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

 

THE DIGGER AND THE FLOWER
Written and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler
(Balzer & Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8) 

 

 

 

Starred Review – Kirkus, School Library Journal

 

The Digger and the Flower  by Joseph Kuefler adds a welcome new dimension to the popular construction trucks theme: thoughtfulness about the area being destroyed. When Digger finds a flower, watching over it becomes his hobby. His level of involvement escalates when the flower’s land is surrounded; eventually, it succumbs to new building.

Digitally created images contrast Digger’s sunny yellow with the muted black, gray, and white urban surroundings. The bright blue and green of the small flower imbues this cityscape, awakening something within Digger and compelling him to act. Even without the text, this vivid story is delightful.

 

Int. artwork 16_17 from The Digger and the Flower Art copyright 2018 © by Joseph Kuefler

Int. spread The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler, Balzer & Bray. Art copyright 2018 © by Joseph Kuefler.

 

In Joseph Kuefler’s 48-page picture book, we are shown humanity and kindness—a powerful message that addresses our need to care for the environment and one another. Yet, the book can also be read simply as another cool story about big machines.

 

 

  •  Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Looking for another great book on kindness?
Check out Christine’s review of Wolf in the Snow.

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Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad

IRON RAILS, IRON MEN, AND THE RACE TO LINK THE NATION
The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad
Written by Martin W. Sandler
(Candlewick Press; $22.99, Ages 10 and up)

 

iron-rails-iron-men

Prepare to not want to put down this fascinating nonfiction book called Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation by Emmy Award and Pulitzer prize winning historian, Martin W. Sandler.

In the early nineteenth century it took six months to travel coast to coast by horse and wagon. Rugged terrain and violent weather made the journey difficult and dangerous. The alternative, sailing around Cape Horn, took at least six months and was equally dangerous.

Dreams of a transcontinental railroad had great promise: quicker travel time, new communities, and improved opportunities for trade and commerce. It took years to advocate and raise money for this massive project. When President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, two companies, the Central Pacific, laying tracks eastward, and the Union Pacific, laying tracks westwards, raced to complete the job.

The work required staggering feats of engineering, which award-winning historian MartinW. Sandler effectively demonstrates using period photos and weaving mind-blowing facts into the narrative. Workers had to blast through mountains to build tunnels and erected some of the highest bridges known. Supplies had to be hauled over mountains on horseback or cart to the workers. Conditions were grueling: prairie fires, cattle stampedes, severe weather, and Native American attacks. Each job had its physical challenges: imagine graders who hauled tons of dirt away or track layers who lifted and placed rails that weighed 500 to 700 pounds!

Sandler critically examines more controversial issues such as corruption, discrimination against the highly efficient Chinese workers, and the severe impact on the life and culture of the Plains Indians.

When the two rails finally met, tens of thousands of workers had laid over 18,000 miles of track and joined the two coasts of a rugged continent. Travel time, coast to coast, was reduced to one week.

The author has made dramatic use of archival photographs to enhance the engaging and informative text, all accompanied by easy to follow maps. A fascinating final chapter discusses what happened to the main personalities. Educators and parents should check out the publisher’s great teacher’s guide and audio excerpt. Highly recommended for teachers and librarians serving grades 5 and up and a great resource for 19th century United States history and train enthusiasts.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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Best Board Books For Ages 1-5

THIS YEAR’S BEST BOARD BOOKS 
FOR AGES 1-5

Making a List and Checking it Twice
courtesy of bookseller and reviewer Hilary Taber – 

GRWRCoveted Bookseller Award
Looking for a great book for a young child in your life? Still have that hard to buy for niece, nephew or grandchild on your list? No worries! As a children’s bookseller I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see a lot of children’s books all year long. So, I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite board books from the 2015 publishing year to help you with your last minute shopping.

For Ages 1-5

StarWarsEpicYarnsEmpireStar Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi by Jack  & Holman Wang
(Chronicle Books; $9.95, Ages 1-4)

With the new Star Wars movie coming out soon what better way to indoctrinate or err…teach a new generation. Each soft, needle felted scene is a recreation appropriate for learning first words. Princess Leia teaches the word “princess,” Luke Skywalker is our example of the word “learn,” and so on. Each scene is so lovingly recreated that every page is of the utmost quality.

WhenIGrowUpcvrWhen I Grow Up by Tad Carpenter
(Sterling Children’s Books; $7.95, Ages 1-3)

This gem of a board book takes toddlers through several occupations from firefighter to teacher that they might aspire to in the future in a lift-the-flap format. By listening closely to the text, your little one may be able to guess the job of the person behind the flap. These are all people in your community as well, so it’s a nice roundup of all the people who help us!

Color Dogcolor-dog-cvr.jpg by Matthew Van Fleet with photographs by Brian Stanton
(Paula Wiseman Books; $19.99, Ages 1 and up)

This is an adorable book! Perfect for a one-year-old or early two this lift-the-flap, tactile book uses pictures of pups to teach colors. Pull out tabs through out the book make the dogs move (even the dog on the cover pulls on the shoe string in his mouth if you pull the red tab). Rhyming text, and a chunky, durable cover make this a great gift.

SharkvsTrainShark vs Train by Chris Barton with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld
(Little Brown Books for Young Readers; $6.99, Ages 2-5)

The ultimate battle! Two boys meet. One has a shark toy and the other has a toy train. A hilarious imaginative battle ensues Of course if the battle is underwater then Shark is going to win, but if it’s on land then Train is going to have the upper hand! What about a visit to a library? Right, neither of them would win that one! Witty, funny, and it combines sharks and trains in one book. That’s a sure winner right there.

Red Light, Green Light by Yumi HeoRedLightGreenLightcvr
(Cartwheel Books/Scholastic; $6.99, Ages 3-5 )

Yumi Heo writes and illustrates such wonderful books! Red Light, Green Light is no exception. This board book has been one of my favorites to recommend this year because it’s both interesting and straightforward. Lift-the-flap elements combine with rhyming text about all the signs that youngsters can see on the road in the car while being driven around town. This book is perfect for the little transportation enthusiast in your life, and great for both girls and boys.

  • Reviewed by Hilary Taber

 

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Little Explorers: My Amazing Body and Little Explorers: On the Move

NEW FROM …

LBB Logo Primary Blue Wings

Little Explorers: My Amazing Body and Little Explorers: On the Move & A Giveaway!

Little Explorers My Amazing BodyGood Reads With Ronna is excited to be one of the first bloggers working with little bee books to help spread the word of their new publishing venture. Today we’re busy buzzing about their line of Little Explorers books so read on! We’ve also got a great giveaway to enter when you’re done reading about little bee books’ two new nonfiction books below. Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter. Good luck!

“Introducing little bee books, a new US division of Bonnier Publishing! We are a small and passionate team dedicated to making beautiful and innovative books for children ages 0-12. Our debut list is now available, in bookstores and online. You can view all of our upcoming books by clicking here.

Little Explorers On the Move CoverIn honor of the release of our very first books, we’re running three exclusive giveaways (GRWR, readertotz and Geo Librarian). The giveaway you’ll find here runs from January 14th to February 4th, 2015: Good Reads with Ronna was kind enough to host our giveaway for one copy each of Little Explorers: My Amazing Body by Ruth Martin and Allan Sanders Little Explorers: On the Move. Both books are part of Little Explorers, a new, interactive nonfiction series for curious youngsters (recommended for ages 4-8). With more than 50 and 30 flaps respectively to lift, each book provides little ones with hands-on fun and fab facts.”

Book Summaries:

Little Explorers - My Amazing Body Spread 4.IN01Little Explorers: My Amazing Body – Featured in this book are eight spreads that teach children all about the human body in an easy-to-understand,  sometimes humorous way. First there’s Why Are We All So Different? But are we really? These pages explore what makes us unique individuals and what we all have in common. The second spread covers that age old question Where Did I Come From? but honestly covers more about how a baby grows inside his/her mom’s tummy and how youngsters grow after they’re born. I was fascinated to learn in this section that each day we lose between 50-100 hairs on our head though new ones soon grow in their place. Kind of makes me want to vacuum more often!

Other questions addressed are: How Does My Body Work?, Where Does My Food Go?, What Does My Brain Do?, How Do I See and Hear?, Why Don’t I Feel Well? – I got a kick out of the castle image used to help youngsters understand being healthy versus getting ill. “Just like a castle, your body is built to defend itself against attack and fight off sickness.” After a bad germ invasion, cartoon-like healthy knight germs have a duel. Under one flap labeled Attack! it says, “Germs can get inside your body through the air, from sneezes and coughs. They also spread in blood, sweat, or spit. Touching something dirty can spread germs to your hands.” Under the Defend! labeled flap it says, “Your body makes special germ-fighting cells every day. Some of these eat up the invading germs. Others remember the germs (LOVE THIS!) so that they can fight back harder next time.” The last section, and the perfect place to end the book, poses this important question: How Can I Take Care of My Body?

Little Explorers - On the Move Spread 1.IN01Little Explorers: On the Move – This interactive book will keep youngsters engaged for hours on end as they explore the fascinating world of transportation. They’ll pour over colorful spreads and lift a multitude of flaps while learning about Bikes & Scooters, Cars, Buses, Trains & Trolleys, Boats, Aircrafts, Trucks & Vans and last, but certainly not least, Busy Workers (vehicles such as ambulances, garbages trucks and snowplows). In Bikes & Scooters kids can absorb important info like “Be Safe! A strong helmet and elbow pads can prevent you from getting hurt if you fall off.” And what parent or caregiver doesn’t appreciate that lesson being shared? Readers can see the many shapes and sizes of bikes, the parts of a bike and find their personal faves: from racing to recumbent, tandem to unicycle. In cars they’ll look at limos, convertibles, police cars and lots more. Then, lifting the flaps, they can have a peek inside the limo to see who’s getting a ride. Maybe your child prefers to look under a car’s hood to check out the engine or guess what the interior of a vacation caravan/trailer looks like. And is that the comic duo of Laurel and Hardy I spy on the tandem bike?

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Find out more:
Click here for little bee books’ website.
Like little bee books on Facebook
Follow little bee books on Twitter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

LITTLE BEE BOOKS GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS
OFFICIAL RULES Little Explorers Sweepstakes The Little Explorers Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by little bee books, a Bonnier Company (the “Sponsor”). ONE (1) GRAND PRIZE: 1 Copy of Little Explorers: My Amazing Body and 1 Copy of Little Explorers: On the Move approx. retail value $17.98 All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply; void where prohibited. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY; A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received. PRIZES MAY BE SUBJECT TO TAX; ALL APPLICABLE TAXES ARE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WINNER. ELIGIBILITY: The Sweepstakes is open only to individuals, eighteen (18) years or older at time of entry, who are legal residents of the United States. Employees of Bonnier Corporation and its parent companies, subsidiaries or agents, their immediate families (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse and grandparents), and those domiciled with any of the foregoing are not eligible. Website pages and advertisements relating to the Sweepstakes are intended for viewing only within the eligible Sweepstakes territory, and entrants must be present in the eligible Sweepstakes territory at the time of entry. TIMING: The Sweepstakes entry period begins at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time (“ET”) on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. Sponsor’s computer system is the official timekeeping device for the Sweepstakes. TO ENTER: To enter electronically, visit our website at https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d57357305/. All information provided by entrant must be complete, true and correct. Submissions to the Sweepstakes must be received by Wednesday, February 4, 2015 in order to be eligible; entries received after the deadline will be deemed ineligible to win. All submitted entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned; Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, inaccurate, incomplete, damaged, illegible, or misdirected entries. Entry is not limited to one entry per household; no automated, photocopied or reproduced entries will be accepted. Online entries will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the email address submitted at time of entry. By entering, you agree to be bound by these Official Rules. WINNER SELECTION: On or about Monday, February 9, 2015, a random drawing from among all eligible entries will be conducted under Sponsor’s supervision. Potential winners will be notified by email on or before Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Prizes will be awarded within sixty (60) days after winner verification. No prize substitution or transfer is permitted, except that Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value (including cash, at Sponsor’s sole discretion) for any reason. Sponsor is required by law to report prize values to taxing authorities; all taxes and any other incidental expenses on prizes are the sole responsibility of each winner. GENERAL RULES & LIMITATIONS: By participating in the Sweepstakes, each entrant fully and unconditionally agrees to be bound by and accepts these Official Rules and the decisions of Sponsor (including, without limitation, decisions regarding eligibility of entries, the selection of entrants and the winner, and the awarding of any prize), which are final and binding in all respects. Entry and acceptance of a prize constitute permission to use each winner’s name, prize won, hometown and likeness for print publication, online posting, and any other promotional purposes without further compensation, except where prohibited by law. By participating in the Sweepstakes, you agree to release Sponsor and its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, directors, officers, and agents from any and all liability, claims or actions of any kind whatsoever for injuries, damages or losses to persons and property which may be sustained in connection with the receipt, ownership, possession, use, or misuse of any prize. Sponsor is not responsible for technical, hardware or software failures, or other errors or problems which may occur in connection with the Sweepstakes, whether computer, network, technical, mechanical, typographical, printing, human or otherwise, including, without limitation, errors or problems which may occur in connection with the administration of the Sweepstakes, the processing of entries, the announcement of the prizes, in any Sweepstakes-related materials, or that may limit prize fulfillment or a participant’s ability to enter the Sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right to amend these Official Rules. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes if, in Sponsor’s opinion, there is any suspected or actual evidence of electronic or non-electronic tampering with any portion of the Sweepstakes, or if viruses, bugs, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical difficulties or failures or any other factor beyond Sponsor’s reasonable control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In such event, Sponsor reserves the right (but does not have the obligation) in its sole discretion to award prizes at random from among eligible, non-suspect entries received up to the time of suspected impairment. Sponsor may permanently disqualify from the Sweepstakes any person it believes has tampered with the entry process or intentionally violated these official rules. PRIVACY: Sponsor collects personal information from entrants when they enter the Sweepstakes. Information collected by Sponsor online is subject to Sponsor’s Privacy Policy, located at http://littlebeebooks.com/. In accordance with applicable law and with Sponsor’s Privacy Policy, the information you provide may be sent to affiliates and marketing partners of the Sponsor; you may be contacted by the Sponsor and/or promotional partners with future promotional offers. DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Except where prohibited by law, by entering you agree that: (i) all issues and questions concerning the interpretation, validity, and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of participants and Sponsor and its agents shall be governed by and construed exclusively in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to its rules on conflicts of law; (ii) any action at law or in equity arising out of or relating to this Sweepstakes, or awarding of any prize), shall be filed only in the state or federal courts located in the State of New York, and entrant hereby consents and submits to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action; (iii) any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, or awarding of the prizes, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action; (iv) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with participating in this Sweepstakes but in no event attorneys’ fees; and (iv) you hereby waive all rights to claim punitive, incidental and consequential damages and any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses, and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased. WINNER IDENTITY: For the identity of the winner(s), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope after Wednesday, February 11, 2015 to Little Explorers Sweepstakes Winner, 853 Broadway, Suite 2014, New York, NY, 10003.
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