“Variety in our narrative is important. Sometimes we might worry that using a character’s name or even a pronoun over and over again will grow repetitious in readers’ minds. But, frankly, this is not a concern. Character names and pronouns are invisible to readers. They’ll never fault you for overusing them. If you’re struggling with monotonous sentences, the problem is not that you’re using Sienna’s name in every sentence. The problem is that you’re not varying your sentence structures.”
I am going to add that I agree with this statement because the same blogger has also written statements that contradict this one.
Value in Repetition
“Off again! On again! In again! Out again!” -Dr. Suess (The Sneetches and Other Stories)
Picture Books love repetition, and so do readers.
Young readers thrive on predictable sequences because they are easier to read and understand.
It also helps maintain a rhythm and, if done right, can add interest to the otherwise boring text.
LeWhile searching for books to read this month, I ran across an article by Olivia Heinbaugh on Romper that recommended a picture book with no pronouns, What Riley Wore.
It is unique because it substitutes “Riley” for pronouns where you would typically expect them.
Pronouns are not always useful. So, I have tinkered around with the idea of leaving them out altogether. This example gave me the courage to put it to practice.
I did not notice the missing pronouns, at least not in a casual reading.
What Riley Wore succeeded because the author varied sentence structure to avoid monotony and carefully applied repetition where it suited the text.
The repetition did not grate on my ears; it did the opposite. It added interest to the text.
You can omit pronouns from picture books with:
This post was proofread by Grammarly
I hope this helps build your library!
Are there any picture books you think adults will enjoy? Let me know in the comments!
Setting goals is like creating a road map to your destination.
Your journey is from one end of a picture book to the other.
Set SMART Goals
In this context, setting SMART goals looks something like below.
Set Your Milestones
Here are mine:
I visualize this process like a funnel. For every 50 ideas, you may fall in love with 20. 10 of those may develop into a story. Of the 10 that are developed enough to write, you may settle into 5. Of those, you may only show 3 to your critique group.
Make each of these goals attainable by preparing the tools you need to complete them before hand. For example, you can use my free Picture Book Writing Cheat Sheet to evaluate your drafts.
Set a Schedule for Your Milestones
For example, you may participate in Tara Lazar’s Story Storm. You will set a goal to write down 1 idea for every day in January. There is daily inspiration from a collection of creators and if you choose to check in every day then there is added accountability.
Storystorm is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time based.
Set Up a Backup Plan
For when things don't go the way you’ve planned, which inevitably they don't.
What happens if you can't come up with an idea on January 15th? Maybe you were stressed, busy with work, or home life.
When I am feeling extra hyped or I have spare time, I come up with multiple ideas and put them in the bank. That way I do not feel bad when things happen.
Set Yourself Up For Success
When you accomplish a goal: celebrate! When things don't work out, go back and take a closet look at what happened.
When revising your goals look for micro-adjustments that you can make throughout your day to make a goal more attainable. Often, little changes can make a big difference.
In Picture Books, the text and illustrations will have varying degrees of responsibility.
Wordless Picture Books rely entirely on the illustrations to carry the story.
Other books, like BJ Novak’s The Book With No Pictures, rely entirely on text.
Most picture books marry the two extremes and use both vehicles to appeal to all the senses of the adult and child audiences.
Often, a writer creates a story with text and then publishers find an illustrator who can tell the same story with pictures.
“I don't think of myself as an illustrator. I think of myself as a cartoonist. I write the story with pictures - I don't illustrate the story with the pictures.” -Chris Ware
But the role of the illustrator is not simply to elaborate.
“When you make illustrations, you're supposed to have a subtext; you're not just communicating words - you're actually adding another story altogether.” -Peggy Rachmaninov
Storytelling is multidisciplinary.
Illustration and text are only two vehicles used to tell a story. There is also:
Exploring different vehicles to tell your story may help you flesh it out completely, or you may land on a vehicle that suits the story you are trying to tell better than others.
A Universal Message
Freedom to Tell the Story in Different Ways
All Other Storytelling Guidelines Apply
What Makes a Good Wordless Picture Book?
Shawna J. C. Tenney is an author and illustrator with a passion for picture books. Shawna graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Illustration from Brigham Young University and loves telling stories through color, composition, and whimsical characters. She is the author and illustrator of Brunhilda's Backwards Day.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
“We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time…” -Neil Gaiman
One of the best ways to teach a child to read well is to teach them to read expressively. And the best way to teach them is to read expressively is to lead by example.
And it does not stop there.
Tips For Reading Out Loud
- Look at the book flaps or read about the author. Ask Predictive Questions such as: What do you think the story will be? What other books have you read by the same author?
- Take moments during the story to ask Attention Questions. These are usually specific to the book but could include counting objects, clarifying pictures, asking your child what might happen, or what has happened.
- Answer questions. Undoubtedly your child will have questions throughout the story too. Pause and answer. Questions should be encouraged!
- Enunciate each word and speak clearly.
- Don't read too quickly. Pause slightly for commas, periods and to add emphasis.
- Read expressively. You can find an outstanding, detailed article on expressive reading and the importance of prosody here.
- Show enthusiasm and exaggerate emotions. People, especially children, respond best to exaggeration.
- Display emotions through facial expressions, actions, and tone; be a good actor/actress.
- Read together. Even if your child can't read, they can usually pick up on patterns and remember parts of stories that you read frequently. They can contribute as little as one word, supplying animal noises or names.
- Follow up with discussion. Talk about what happened, what might happen next, and what stories are similar that you've read together.
- Ask Predictive Questions.
- Ask Attention Questions.
- Answer Questions.
- Don't Read too Quickly.
- Read Expressively.
- Show Enthusiasm and Exaggerate.
- Display Emotion.
- Read Together.
- Follow Up With Discussion.
"Even in front of nature, one must compose." -Edgar Degas
Good composition is merely the strongest way of seeing. -Edward Weston
I can think of no better example of composition with a purpose than Lubnaand Pebble by Wendy Meddour, Illustrated by Daniel Egneus. It is truly one of the richest picture books out there. The story is endearing, well-written, and unique.
The illustrations are soft, simple, and engaging. The perspectives, in particular, are diverse and daring. The picture below has had more pins on my Pinterest feed than any other; I think primarily due to composition.
The composition in this scene contrasts Lubna’s small world, where a pebble is her friend, and the large world around her that is filled with adult concerns.
I hope you’ll check out Lubna and Pebble if you haven't already. See if you can spot how Daniel uses color to tell a story.
“If the animal is small, they can easily tag along and participate in fights without solving the hero’s problems for them. As long as they help out, it’s okay if they cause trouble or need rescuing occasionally. A good animal companion has a distinctive personality that plays well with the hero and creates fun or touching scenes for the audience to enjoy.”
Small companions are also "underpowered." There is room for small things to grow, to succeed despite terrible odds, and also to fail.
"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of."
"The only purpose of the first line, is to get the reader to the second line."
"A writer needs to lead the reader by the hand."
"[The opening line] might have:
brought an immediate smile (or stab) of recognition
struck me as poignant
painted a really cool word picture
set up an intriguing mystery
introduced a character I want to know better
made me laugh
drawn me into an unfamiliar world
used words in a beautiful way"
Let's take a look at some examples that I pulled from my favorite picture books at random (Spoilers Ahead).
"When Lena woke up, everything was quiet."
“Quiet is the tenth way to hear snow.”
"Lubna's best friend was a pebble. It was shiny smooth and gray."
"Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up." - The Wolf, The Duck, and The Mouse, written by Mac Barnett
"The purpose of the opening line is to get readers to the end."
Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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