I recently watched Maleficent and I loved it BUT…there was a period during the movie where I grew worried, panicked, actually…when I heard, “The princess can be woken from her death sleep, but only by…true love’s kiss. This curse will last till the end of time! No power on Earth can change it!”
I heard, “True Love’s kiss” and all I could think was , Oh no, here we go again. – another Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Enchanted movie that ends with the prince saving the princess with (yet another) true love’s kiss. Of course, that’s not how it ends (sorry, if I spoiled that for you). Disney, is smarter than that, creating an unexpected ending that redefines (their) typical true love and I applaud them for it.
As writers, we owe our readers that as well, a magical, unexpected ending….An ending that makes the reader say wow! Whether it’s a heartfelt wow, a giggly wow or a surprising wow – a wow, just the same.
I love when I find a picture book with a fabulous finish, a brilliant ending. I recently read
This book just ate my dog!
Not only is the story fresh and fun but the ending is clever and funny.
When the Bella who is taking a stroll with her dog loses him to the crease in the book, she declares,“This book just ate my dog!” which is hilarious and then she loses friends and help to the book and soon Bella disappears as well. But then a note appears to help the reader get them all out of the book. After a bit of turning, shaking and wiggling (interactive fun) the characters reappear, “…and things got back to normal.”
If the book had ended there it still would have been a great read – clever, fun, fresh and engaging, but it doesn’t end there. It ends well…unexpectedly.
Why is it that some of my favorite films are animated? Because so many times, their writers throw in lines with the most brilliant adult humor (and by that I don’t mean, inappropriate – I mean humor that adults will get and appreciate) that I can’t help but want to see the movie and hear those lines over and over and over again.
Mr. Potato Head: “Oh, really? I’m from Playskool.”
Rex: “And I’m from Mattel. Well, I’m not really from Mattel, I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout.”
Buzz: “I’m setting my laser from stun to kill”
Woody: “Oh great, great. Now if anyone attacks us, we can blink ‘em to death”
Mr. Potato Head: “Oh my little sweet potato”
Mrs. Potato Head: “….. oh it’s so nice to have a big strong spud around the house.”
Toy Story 3
Hamm: “Let’s go see how much we’re going for on Ebay!”
Helen: “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.”
Bob: “It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.”
Helen: “It’s a ceremony!”
Bob: “It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”
I found myself saying “It’s not a graduation” when our kids “graduated from kindergarten.”
Some of these funny, adults-will-appreciate lines exist in picture books too. Here are a few:
In The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
The Wolf looked quite shaken,
But hollered, “Yo, Bacon. I’m not at all scared of your tricks.”
The “Yo, bacon” part of this line is so funny and clever that I just want to read it over and over and over again.
In Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zeitlow Miller,
Sophie says, “I’ll call her Bernice.” In response, Sophie’s mother says, “I’ll call for pizza.”
Ha! When dinner plans go awry, doesn’t someone always call for pizza?
Sophie’s mother tells Sophie’s father, “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables.”
So, be careful what you ask for when you wish for your kids to love vegetables…
Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Mama shows them how to prance.
And how to do the chicken dance.
Which makes any mom that ever did the chicken dance smile and of course relive those moments with the song then engrained her mind. (pointing at self)
One last kiss for each dear child.
She leaves the room…
and Mama runs wild!
Which means of course, doing her nails, reading a book and watching TV – exactly how a mom of 5 would go wild.
Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer
“The stuff on that poster isn’t true,” said Nugget. “My best friend is a shark!”
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GILLS?
SHARKS AND MINNOWS CAN’T BE FRIENDS!
HELLO – SHARKS EAT MINNOWS!
Nugget was shocked . (And apparently delicious.)
Ok, maybe finding that last line funny is a bit sick, but I do. It’s funny!
On Wednesday, Fang tried a different approach.
“Holy mackerel!” said Nugget.
So how funny is it that a fish is saying Holy mackerel?
When my kids were PB age (way back when) I recall reading the same book over and over and over again and I appreciated it when it was a book I enjoyed, one that was clever, and made me chuckle. When writing see if you can throw a brilliantly funny line in for your adult reader and gain a fan for life!
I love Disney movies – the old and the new. And I’m thrilled to see that over the years Disney female characters such as Mulan, Jasmine and Elsa have become much stronger. They’re all still beautiful, (and of course, unfortunately, ridiculously skinny) but now they’re much more independent female role models.
But more needs to be done to advance the image of female characters, especially in this highly technological day in age. I often ask myself where are the films with the STEM-smart girls. I can find plenty of STEM-smart characters that are males, like genius Lewis in Meet the Robinsons, scientist Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and inventor Hiccup in How to Train your Dragon. Sure, Sam Sparks, played a meteorologist in Cloudy but she wasn’t the star of the movie. And then when Disney had their chance with Gabriella in High School Musical, Gabrielle called herself “the freaky math girl”…really? Although she did later go on to compete in the scholastic decathlon, those words, “the freaky math girl” were still stuck in my mind
Smart, beautiful, talented and socially savvy, she ‘s an ideal STEM role model for young girls. But, put “freaky” in the equation and all is lost….
Even in the television series, Phineas and Ferb, Phineas and Ferb are the geniuses while Candace is portrayed as annoying, weak and whiny. Thankfully, Doc McStuffins came along giving kids not only a cute and smart female main character (and role model), but one that also represents diversity.
But now, finally hitting the big screen is Big Hero 6, where girls are portrayed as cute and super-smart, techy smart – and in the case of Honey Lemon, fashionable too, which will hopefully inspire young girls to view the STEM fields as inviting, exciting and cool!.
Click the link below to catch the interview with Big Hero 6’s Jamie Chung, voice of Superheroine GoGo Tomago, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering Student, and Genesis Rodriguez, voice of Superheroine Honey Lemon, Chemical Engineering student, and find out how they feel about the amazing characters they play.
It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 4th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!
The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.
THE SQUEAK, THE CREAK & THE CAT by Dawn Young
In a haunted old house, a small mouse that went squeak
scurried about on a floor that went creak.
That creak woke the cat, all scraggly and black,
who wanted that mouse for his Halloween snack.
He chased that small mouse, while his claws sliced and slashed,
leaving the pumpkins all gutted and gashed.
That small harmless mouse, now ravenous too,
escaped up a broomstick and into some brew.
After a fizzle, a sizzle and BOOM,
out popped a mouse-monster as big as the room.
That beastly-like creature, eyeballing the cat,
swiped and then kitty just vanished…
With Halloween only weeks away, I thought I’d share a fun, sorta –spooky, a tad bit kooky, tale from the grave.
It’s Skelton Cat
by Kristyn Crow
This book is clever on so many levels. And of course, I can’t resist Kristyn Crow’s fabulous rhyme.
It’s filled with onomatopoeia, alliteration and word play. Here are just a few of my favorite lines from the story:
“He went: Rattle, rattle. Clink, clink.
Rattle, rattle, clink.
Tip, tap. Clickety-clack.
Ka-plink, ka-plink, ka-plink.”
These lines are just fun for the tongue!
And these with alliteration and consonance, add to the rollicking rhythm:
“He rocked and he rollicked
and he clunked around,
and the kids in the playground
heard the rattlin’ sound.”
And this line, just makes me smile:
“He reached the audition and he stood in line
and they taped number 20 on his feline spine.”
which is funny since his spine is exposed and I love the internal rhyme in feline spine.
And the word play in these lines:
“when the band members saw him, well, they called him nuts.
“Cause ‘You’re not gonna make it if you don’t have guts!’”
I love the play on words with guts…
And along those same line:
“ ‘Sure you’ve got rhythm, but have you got soul?’ So the skeleton cat went on a roll…”
Everyone that knows me, knows I’m all about girl empowerment, and not just talking about it. I know that nothing happens if all we do is talk about something. Change rarely results from a statement. Change requires action. And although there are many areas where I feel change is well-overdue, one that is near and dear to my heart is changing the stereotypes that math is for boys and that smart girls are socially awkward. Why? Because as a female engineer who worked for years in highly technical industry, sadly, I know that these paradigms can affect a girl’s choices.
If we can change those prehistoric misconceptions and get girls to believe that they too have a place in the world of STEM then we can power this country by tapping into some of the brightest and innovative minds in the world – the minds of our girls!
So, when it comes to doing math, we really need to stop the “That’s ok, girls are better at other things” and/or “I was never good at math either” messages. Those messages are a hall passes to the road too well-traveled, the road that is keeping girls away from STEM careers, away from math and away from science. Instead, encourage girls and challenge them with math. Point girls down the the road less traveled – the road to STEM! Visit A Mighty Girl for stories about incredible women in STEM and check out their recommendations for girl empowering books and toys.
Even though this is old news, it’s not that old, and it bears repeating…
Back in May President Obama hosted and actively engaged in the White Houses’ fourth annual Science Fair, “where more than 100 students exhibited their science projects and experiments from previously won technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions across the country.”
“The White House chose to highlight girls and their inventions at the fair because Obama had stressed the importance of more females majoring in STEM fields in college and working in these industries after they graduate. Among Tuesday’s displays were a “concussion cushion” designed by Maria Hanes, 19, of Santa Cruz, Calif. Hanes, who wants to be the first female collegiate head football coach, invented a football helmet with gel and memory foam inserts that can better prevent concussions.”
At the Science Fair, “Obama also focused on the importance of girls taking STEM classes and women pursuing science and math in college. According to a study by the American Association of University Women, girls and boys take STEM classes at the same rates in high school. But that changes drastically when women enroll in college and start their careers. Only 25 percent of women in college major in STEM classes, and 24 percent of the STEM workforce is women.”
Read the whole story here:
The White House is doing their part.
And by writing girl empowering picture books, sharing girl empowering stories (online and in real life) and providing math tutoring to girls who find themselves struggling (or better yet, working ahead), I’m doing my part. (Although I continually strive to do more in this area.)
See what part you can play, see what you can do to empower a girl…
I’ve always been a fan of figurative language. Ahh…the alliteration, assonance, consonance….I just can’t get enough of it.
One of my all-time favorite picture books is Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf by Judy Sierra and when I finally broke it down and analyzed its poetic techniques, I realized why.
Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf
by Judy Sierra
The story begins with Miss Wonderly inviting the Big Bad Wolf to the library to tell the story of how he met the three little pigs. But, when he does, not everyone agrees with his version of the story.
Judy Sierra uses figurative language, repetition, and rhyme to enhance the story and even includes references other stories to add humor. The lines in this book are so fun to read and so clever – making Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf a poetic playground!
Here are just a few of the great lines filled with alliteration, assonance, consonance, and a bit of rhyme. (there were too many examples to feature, so I skipped a few)
“At the library, Miss Wonderly led B.B. Wolf to a cozy chair in the story corner. B.B. started off with a song.”
“Wrong!” squeaked a little voice. Your middle name is B-A-D”
Song, and Wrong and little and middle add a nice rhythm through rhyme.
Later the wolf says,
“All of a sudden, I smelled smoke. I followed my nose and found another little piggy playing with matches next to a pile of sticks.”
Then to add some humor (especially for the adult reader) Pinocchio remarks,
“Isn’t that wolf’s snout getting longer?” which is funny since the wolf is obviously lying.
And even more humor, when the Little Engine exclaims, “I think it is. I think it is.”
And there’s repetition, where the pigs repeatedly oink, “Tell the Truth B.B. Wolf!”
After the wolf tells the truth he vows to change his name,
“ ’Goodness gracious!’ exclaimed B.B. Wolf. ‘I need a new middle name, don’t I?’ He snagged a dictionary from the library shelf and pawed through the pages.”
“ ‘That’s it! said the wolf. ‘From this day forward I am the one and only Big Bodacious Benevolent Bookish Wolf. In fact, I’ll borrow some books right now.”
And (in an awesome line) assonance..
“ ‘ Toodle-oo! He called to the three pigs.’ See you in a few weeks!’ “
And in the end,
“ ‘Friends,’ said the former menace, ‘it’s not enough for me to say I’m sorry. I have to prove it and repair my reputation. Here is your very own piggyback mansion.’ ”
I love this book more than I did before – the figurative language used in Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf is fabulous!!!!
FABULOUS FINISH #8
Just Another Morning
by Linda Ashman
Right away, this book starts out with “I find myself inside a zoo,” letting you know you’re in for some fun. From the moment the boy escapes the ape, then confronts a monster, wrestles a snake and joins the circus, he takes the reader on a non-stop adventure. In the end, when he’s captured by giants (parents) and given magic sleeping punch he finally takes a nap, only to wake up and once again declare “I find myself inside a zoo…”
I love the juxtaposition of the boy’s action-packed adventure and his peaceful rest and how the ending brings the reader back to the beginning– GREAT LOOP!