Fabulous Finishes



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!

Picture books here, there and everywhere…

2014-02-10 19_48_34The view from my desk – in just one direction! I tell myself  ”enough already, just write” but I never listen and before you know it,  I’m back at the book store or the Scholastic warehouse buying books, or back to the library checking out everything I can get my hands on. Hmm…did someone say crazy?

Picture book crazy that is…in case you were wondering 😉

Go for it!

untitled chanceOn the heels of a incredibly inspirational month of PiBoIdMo posts that helped us generate all kinds of wonderful new PB ideas, I thought this quote from Anne Lamott was appropriate.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere ~Anne Lamott

Of those thirty ideas, some will be hits, some misses and some simply “what was I thinkings?”

Give them a chance, go for it, and write, write, write and make each month a PiBoIdMo.

Love that line


“I do not like that Sam-I-am!”

by Dr. Seuss

Beyond his amazing ability to tell a cohesive story in rhyme, Dr. Seuss penned lines that just stick with the reader. By including “that” into this line, Dr. Seuss clearly conveys stubbornness and the distain for Sam-I-am and anything new. Defiant!

To rhyme or not to rhyme?

Picture book idea in mind, where do you start? How do you tell your tale? Many writers assume they start in rhyme….

But…to rhyme or not to rhyme is a not a simple question. You must first know what it takes to write in rhyme before you begin.

Picture1questionWrite in rhyme, not just rhyme. Anyone can rhyme. People rhyme all the time. But remember as writers, we are storytellers first.

Sure, it’s fun to keep rhyming and see where the words take you, but that’s follow the leader, which leads to stories that are awkward, forced, difficult to read and even more difficult to understand.

Editors are typically not fans of rhyme, and frankly, (sometimes) I can’t blame them, especially when I go back and read the first drafts of some of my rhyming stores. I cringe! So rhymers, potential rhymers, study before you rhyme.


It’s true, many editors will flat out say they do not like rhyme, but don’t let that frighten you away. Rhyme is fun, useful and part of childhood. We, as writers, should rhyme only when we can do it beautifully and brilliantly – when we can do it justice. There are numerous benefits to reading rhyming stories to children and thus reason for writers to write in rhyme.

“Rhymers will be readers: it’s that simple.” – Mem Fox

The Common Core Standards specify rhyming as a competency under English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Foundational Skills » Kindergarten

Phonological Awareness

According to Scholastic:


“By emphasizing rhyming poems and games with your infant or toddler, you’re also helping his emerging literacy. The instinct to rhyme comes somewhat naturally. Researchers have overheard and reported that even young toddlers practice their own made-up rhymes, such as “Oogie, woogie, poogie” over and over. Infants and toddlers tack on the “-ee” sound as a diminutive to many words. Toddlers call out “doggie,” “kitty,” “horsey,” as they point and label the animals they see in a picture book.

Toddlers giggle at funny rhymes even when these involve nonsense words, as in many of the Dr. Seuss books. Becoming aware of rhyming sounds boosts brain activity and early literacy ability. Adding singsong rhyming words to requests for your child to listen or to stop an activity is a great way to get her attention. Rhymes and rhythms add zest and humor as well as increasing your child’s cooperation.”

And as published in Earlychildhood NEWS:


“Oral language and phonological sensitivity (sound discrimination) are not the only skills that are developed when children are exposed to songs, chants, and rhyme.  They can also develop listening and thinking skills. Oral language (vocabulary), phonological sensitivity and comprehension (thinking skills) are the building blocks of literacy. With conscious effort, songs, chants and rhymes become a perfect springboard for developing all three of these critical skill areas.”

And finally, according to Read to Me International:


“Rhyme is an easy introduction to literacy! Research shows that even young toddlers practice their own made-up rhymes such as “oogie, woogie, poogie” over and over. It’s an easy, pleasant starting point for learning word and language structure.

Rhyme builds vocabulary! It introduces words not necessarily found in daily conversation, and creates simple ways to remember them. It’s also an easy way to learn the sounds of letters and words.

Rhyming words develop strong pathways in the brain. According to Alice Sterling Honig, PhD, “Becoming aware of rhyming sounds boosts brain activity and a child’s early literacy ability.” Conversely, children who enter kindergarten unable to recognize rhymes have a harder time with early literacy experiences.”


So, if you feel the need to rhyme – put the time in and study it.


Rhyming is an art, not just a start.

Love that line


“Everyone from the class guinea pig to the principal had magnificent memories of the older Gratch girls.”


by Alan Madison

This line says it all – Velma lives in the shadow of her sisters. The word magnificent depicts the extent to which Velma feels that, leaving the reader to wonder if she’ll ever measure up to her older sisters. Including the guinea pig in this line further exacerbates the feeling that Velma’s sisters left quite an impression on everyone. Underdog!



fish hook in water_b&w

Hooks…do we really need one?

Hmmm….good question.

From what I’ve seen and learned from reading thousands of picture books, hooks help! If you can make your reader curious early on (the hook) and make him wonder what’s going to happen and how in the world things will end, then you’ve hooked your reader. Of course, you’ll still need to reel him in…a good story and a fabulous ending will do that. So, put some bait on your line, create an interesting story and go “catch” yourself a reader!

Some books with good hooks:

The hook: It was almost Christmas , and the forest was a flurry of activity. The animals were bustling here and there – putting up the Christmas tree, wrapping presents, making tasty cakes and cookies – while the young ones scampered about, squeaking with excitement.

Everybody was looking forward to Christmas.

Well, almost everybody.

The book: Grumpy Badger’s Christmas by Paul Bright

The hook: One Monday morning in September, Mrs. Barrington rolled out a big poster with all of the presidents’ pictures on it. Grace Campbell could not believe her eyes.

“Where are all the girls?”

The book: Grace for President  by Kelly DiPucchio

The hook: To any outsider, Gilbert had everything a goldfish could ever want.

A magnificent stone castle.

A treasure chest full of gold.

And a feast of tasty flakes that fell from the sky just in time for breakfast each day.

But one thing Gilbert did not have was the very thing that he most desperately wanted:

A pet.

The book: Gilbert Goldfish wants a Pet  by Kelly DiPucchio

The hook: Things were quiet on the Tuckers’ farm.

The cows chewed their cud.

The hens clucked and pecked and laid their eggs.

The old hound stretched out on the porch, watching and listening.

Once in a while someone would stop to buy tomatoes or corn, perhaps a quart of milk.

Nothing unusual happened there.


The book: Three Hens and a Peacock  by Lester L. Laminack

The hook: Ozzie was a very lazy owl.

“It’s time you learned how to fly,” said Mother Owl one day.

But Ozzie said, “Oh, do I have to?”

He didn’t want to learn how to fly. All that wing-flapping looked like too much hard work. Ozzie’s favorite thing to do was to sit around.

“I’m practicing being wise,“ he said.

“Well, I want you to fly,” said his mother sternly.

“Now, I’m going out to look for some food. And if you are wise, you will be on the ground by the time I come back!”

The book: Lazy Ozzie by Michael Coleman


Love that Line


“Time to Cook? I’m too tired. I am so-o-o uninspired – ‘cause my plan to catch monkeys completely backfired.”



by Judy Sierra

With its frolicking rhyme and fast paced tempo, this story moves Mr. Crocodile’s day along quickly, until, this line brings it to a halt. The way you breathe and pause when you read this line signals the change in the direction of the story. Game-changing!


Word count…

When my kids were toddlers and I was reading to them, I didn’t select wordy, lengthy picture books that took too long to read. My children lost interest when a book was too long. But for $17.99, I did expect some words, quite a few in fact. And…I expected a story .

As a writer, I know editors are looking for sparse, but as a parent and a consumer, I did and still do expect some words for my money.  I love that the $17.99 I spent on a PB started out as a book that I read to my kids when they were 2, 3, and 4 years old. Then morphed into a book that we read together when they were 5 and 6. And finally culminated into something they read by themselves from 6 on. That’s what I consider a good Return on my Investment. My kids are 10 and 11 and they still enjoy reading picture books.

As a writer, this is something I struggle with. Yes, I’m a picture book writer, attempting to keep the word count down, but I’m also a book buying, book reading mom and I can’t help but think that the other book buying, book reading moms (and dads and grandmas and grandpas) want more for their money too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating adding words so the buyer gets more words for their dollar. I know that every word must count. But there are plenty of fabulous picture books with a <600 word count that get read well after the toddler years. Maybe, if picture books had a few more words, consumers would look at them as an investment and maybe, just maybe sales would increase. $17.99 over 8 years – that’s ~ $2.25 a year and in my mind, that’s a bargain!


Love that Line


“When she was a baby her first words were “Four score and seven years ago.’”

ImognesLastStandIMOGENE’S LAST STAND by Candace Fleming

Knowing that for most kids their first words are “momma” or “dada”, you immediately get the sense that Imogene is going to do something big and as a result, make her own bit of history. Genius!