Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"How To" Picture Books-Monthly Challenge

By Janie Reinart
Embed from Getty Images

Don't you wish everything came with a user manual? 

Here are tips for writing a "How to". Sounds like these tips could apply to picture books. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a "How to" story.

1. Define who your user is.

2. Write in a way all users can understand.

3. Detail the problem the user is trying to solve.

4. Present instructions step-by-step.

5.  Use graphic images as needed to support the text.

by Jean Reagan 

The directions for How To Raise a Mom start:

"First of all, help your mom ease into the day. 
How to start her morning:
-Let her sleep in, just a little longer.
-Then kiss, kiss, kiss her awake.
-Fling open the curtains and say, "Rise and shine! Your breakfast is ready."

At the end of the day, this story gives directions for bedtime: How to Put Your Parents to Bed by Mylisa Larsen

Pearl has been trying to build the perfect sandcastle all summer. Today is her last chance. She brings her robot pal to help.

By Josh Funk
"Hello, world I'm Pearl. It's the last day of summer vacation. Which means today is my very last chance to build a sandcastle. I've tried every single day, but something ruins it... But today, I've got the perfect plan. I've brought my trust rust-proof robot, Pascal. He'll do whatever I tell him-- as long as I tell him in CODE.

You'll never know when you will need this book: How to Trick the Tooth Fairy by Erin Danielle Russell. 

Have fun creating user manuals to help solve some of the trickiest problems little kids come up against.  Share some of your favorite "how to" picture books in the comments. This post will self-destruct in five, four, three...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Author Kristin L. Gray

We're excited for Kristin L. Gray's debut picture book, KOALA IS NOT A BEAR! The story is delightful and we're excited to feature you on ReFoReMo, Kristin!  

How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?

I study the author’s pacing and page turns. For fiction, I like to see how they leave room for the illustrator. Often, the artist completes a thought in hilarious and surprising ways! For nonfiction, I pore over picture book bios to see what pieces and themes of an individual’s life the author chose to highlight. What is the universal thread and kid-appeal? I also examine back matter. Lots of good nuggets can be found there. 

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of KOALA IS NOT A BEAR?

No texts per se, but authors, sure: Ame Dyckman, Tammi Sauer, Sergio Ruzzier, Dev Petty, 
and more.

How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

Goodness, I’ve been reading picture books for eighteen years. (My oldest just graduated high school.) Picture books are what I set out to write when I really got serious about writing as a career. It took me a little longer than most. My novel, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge, was the first project picked up. But studying picture books—their plot, their wit, their economy of language—certainly helped shape all of my writing. To be a picture book writer, you must write clearly and succinctly while still engaging the reader. You have a handful of words to tell a compelling story.

What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

In whatever way works best for them! I always read mentor texts aloud. I will read them over and over again, until the rhythm seeps in. (My dogs are great listeners, by the way.) Sometimes, I even type the text out in spreads. This helps me visualize the pacing, and I can take what I’ve learned and liked to my next project and make it my own.

Thanks so much for having me!

We're glad to learn from your mentor text journey, Kristin!

Kristin L. Gray is the author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge, a 2018 Bank Street Best Children’s Book. She lives in Arkansas with her family, two dogs, and alert bearded dragon, who is clearly NOT a dragon as he has never once breathed fire. Koala Is Not A Bear is her first picture book. Visit her at kristinlgray.com.