Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Frankenstien, Mummy, and Goons, Oh, My! Parody Challenge

By Janie Reinart

Embed from Getty Images

Trick or treat! It's almost Halloween. Here's a neat trick to try. Treat yourself to writing a parody. A parody is a humorous imitation of an original classic:

1.  Song 

                                    Let It Go Parody, Teachers of Coosa Christian
                                                       for school talent show

2.  Poem

Parodies of poems by Karen Jo Shapiro

Karen Jo Shapiro rewrites John Masefield's poem Sea-Fever.

"I must go down to the beach again, where there's water, sand, and sky,
And all I ask is my red toy boat with a string to pull it by…,"

John Masefield's Sea-Fever
"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;"

3.  Story

By Margaret Wise Brown

"If you run away," said his mother, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny."

"If you run after me," said the little bunny, "I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you."

"If you become a fish in a trout stream," said his mother, "I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you."

Change one word in the title and run with it. Change the first line just enough to make it recognizable. Check out this petrifying parody. 

By Michael Rex

"If you run away," said Mother Mummy, "I will get you! For you are my rotten little mummy."

"If you try to get me," said the little mummy, "I will turn into a serpent that lurks at the bottom of the sea."

"If you turn into a serpent," said Mother Mummy, "I will become a sea monster that will wrap around you and never let go."

Ready for another spooky take on a famous story. Keep the same rhyme and rhythm as the original.

By Margaret Wise Brown

"In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of--

The cow jumping over the moon
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs"

There's that one word title change again.

By Michael Rex
"In the cold gray tomb
There was a gravestone
And a black lagoon
And a picture of --

Martians taking over the moon
And there were three little mummies rubbing their tummies"

This time also look at the pen name of this monstrous parody.

By Ludwig Bemelmans
"In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines.

In two straight lines
They broke their bread
And brushed their teeth
And went to bed."

"In a creepy old castle
all covered with spines
lived twelve ugly monsters
in two crooked lines

In two crooked lines,
they bonked their heads
pulled out their teeth
and wet their beds."

 Here is your challenge. Write a parody. Share your parodies with us in the comments.

1. Select a song, poem, or story.
2. Change the first line just enough to make it recognizable.
3. Keep the same rhyme and rhythm as the original.
4. Have fun playing with words.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Author Sue Lowell Gallion Talks Mentor Texts (Plus Giveaway!)

I love picture books that feature unlikely friends. Author Sue Lowell Gallion introduced Pug and Pig in September 2016 and they earned a starred review from Kirkus. Now they are back just in time for Halloween and they've earned starred reviews from BOTH Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. Hooray Pug and Pig! 

Welcome, Sue! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts? 

I request a ton of picture books from the library. My local branch, bless them, stacks them all on one bottom shelf. I read a picture book both aloud and silently. If a book’s pacing particularly intrigues me, I handwrite the text with the page breaks in a notebook or type it out. I look for the heart of the book and try to evaluate what made that manuscript stand out.

When I’m wrestling with a certain element in a manuscript—such as a character searching for a meaningful plot—I study books for that specific element. I also have a healthy fear of rhyme and a great deal of respect for writers who do it well. I’m working on some rhyming manuscripts, so I study a lot of rhyming books.

Mentor texts are helpful in terms of positioning a manuscript as well. For example, if I’m working on a text with a hippo as a main character, it’s useful to search out and study other recent hippo picture books to be aware of the market.

Perhaps most importantly, when I get together with critique partners, we always bring books to share or trade. Some we simply read aloud together, admire, and enjoy. Others we discuss in depth.

And from the looks of the picture, you studied the character of pig with hands-on research! How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

I’ve been a volunteer reader with first and second-graders through a local literacy program, Lead to Read, for a number of years now. We’re paired one-on-one for the school year and are together with our student (and sometimes extras) for 30 minutes each week. A lot of these kids are struggling readers and so frustrated. A humorous picture book like MOO! by David LaRochelle, ill. by Mike Wohnoutka – which only uses five words—can get them reading and laughing and give them confidence.

So I’m always on the lookout for picture books that work as early readers but offer more, whether it’s intriguing illustrations (Brendan Wenzel’s THEY ALL SAW A CAT), an unusual perspective (ABC: THE ALPHABET FROM THE SKY by Benedikt Grob and Joey Lee) or humor (McTOAD MOWS TINY ISLAND by Tom Angleberger and John Hendrix, THE WATERMELON SEED by Greg Pizzoli, or QUACKERS by Liz Wong are some of my favorites.) I hope some of my work will meet this need, too.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT?

A mentor text that I used for PUG MEETS PIG, which came first, was Marla Frazee’s BOOT & SHOE. Both books have two main characters, no dialogue, and a straightforward voice.

I hadn’t planned to write a second Pug and Pig book, but a Halloween encounter with my dog and the dog next door inspired me to write PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT. As a companion book, the structure of the narrative was already established as well as the voice. I looked for mentor texts to study how others further developed characters. The CLICK, CLACK series by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, are great examples. Each book successfully stands alone, too.

Thanks for talking mentor texts with us, Sue!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat! (U.S. addresses; one entry per person.)

Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books). She has two grown-up kids, one grandson, and a black lab mix named Tucker, who all provide writing inspiration. As a printer's daughter, she has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She lives in Kansas City, KS. Visit Sue at suegallion.com, follow @SueLGallion on Twitter, and check out her kids' book recommendations at Goodreads.

Be sure to download the fun activity kit, complete with masks, cupcake toppers, a coloring sheet, and more! (The link also takes you to a Common Core-aligned discussion guide.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mentor Text Author Study: Shutta Crum

Born in the mountains of Kentucky, Shutta Crum grew up listening to stories. Spinning tales is a big part of her Appalachian heritage and she carries on that tradition today. Her award winning books earn starred reviews and appear in the New York Times. She is a retired librarian, publishes about writing in professional journals and is a public speaker.

Below are a few of many things a writer learns studying stories by Shutta Crum.


Shutta’s voice is heard through dialogue, lyrical language, word choice, the way her character’s interact with each other, point of view and subject matter.

In her books written in first person, a reader feels like they are in the mountains or in the middle of a storm listening to the protagonists tell their tales. Writers will find excellent examples of how to keep voice authentic and immediate in Shutta’s stories.

“In the mountains down south, morning is musical.
Moses the rooster wakes us with his cry from the top of Munson’s Rock. My great-grandparents, Big Ma and Gran Pap, clink about the kitchen, whispering.”

“The day is hot.
Dad plows, his tractor glinting in the sun.
Tom slaps his feet against the surface of the pond.
I sprawl in the shade of the chestnut tree.
Scooter pants with his tongue hanging out.”


Folklore has its roots in the oral storytelling tradition dating back centuries. In Who Took My Hairy Toe?, Shutta used the structure of an old tale and made it her own. 

This retelling is about a grumpy old man who finds a toe when stealing from his neighbor’s garden. It uses a classic structure, i.e., exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement. Tension builds in in every spread with the repetition of “Who took my hairy toe?” It is as scary as any of the original tales from the Brothers Grimm and a great one to read aloud for Halloween!

Parallel Plot

Shutta used a parallel story structure in Click! to illustrate the similarities between a polar bear cub and his mother and a boy and his mother on an adventurous day. The bear went out to learn how to hunt, and the boy went out to learn how to use a camera. In A Family for Old Mill Farm, human and animal realtors take families to look for a new place to live. Readers learn about different habitats in this lyrical text that lead to all of the families living in Old Mill Farm.


The Bravest of the Brave is a counting book with a narrative arc. It tells the story of a skunk who must go through the woods alone to get home. But is he? Shutta uses classic plot structure and storytelling techniques (conflict, rising tension in each page turn, a memorable character) to tell this charming story of what it means to be brave.

Art Notes

When an author submits a book with 9 ½ repetitions of the same word (mine) and one other (woof), without a dummy, there will be art notes! Shutta described how she wrote the manuscript, MINE!. In this almost wordless picture book, she wrote in detail the physical action and emotional reactions in "beats" used in script writing. She showed how the story would unfold in the illustrations. She didn’t dictate what the illustrations should look like, just the sequence of what was happening from scene to scene. That adorable duo, Shutta and illustrator Patrice Barton, teamed up again to create another nearly wordless book, Uh-Oh! Both are fun books about toddlers, Mine! is about sharing, and Uh-Oh! is about mishaps at the beach.

Go to Shutta’s website to find articles she’s written, handouts from her workshop presentations and other resources for teachers and writers.

Look for her new book, Mouseling’s Words, in December 2017 about how a mouse and a cat appreciate the power of words. From her distinguished work writing picture books and novels, that's something Shutta Crum knows a lot about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

THINK QUICK with author Penny Parker Klostermann

Hi Penny! Congrats on the release of A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE.  I love how this story unites many different fairy tales through food. That’s a winning recipe! All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On practice:
Practice makes perfect or throw it together in a pinch?
Throw it together in a pinch. Which rarely works J

On Following your Dreams:
Fortify with failure or stop while you can?
Fortify with failure. Fortifying with failure can lead to fantastic things.

On Making Mistakes:
Embrace or Fix?
Embrace mistakes. Or go crazy.

On Happily Ever After:
Tried and true or too good to be true?
Too good to be true. We will have “happily” times but not “ever after” because life is life. So I try to embrace the “happily”, get through the “not-so-happily” times, and know life will bring both.

On Fairy Tales:
Cinderella or Snow White?
Cinderella. At least she got to know her prince before he returned her slipper and asked for her hand in marriage. If she hadn’t of liked him she had the chance to exchange her glass slippers for tennis shoes and sprint like the wind in the other direction. But Snow White is awakened by a kiss from a passing stranger and that’s that!

On Fairy Tale Food:
Apples or pumpkin?
Pumpkin. But only if it’s in a fairy tale and becomes a beautiful coach in which I can take an afternoon drive. And if that isn’t possible then a nice, warm loaf of pumpkin bread with oodles of butter would work too.

On Recipes:
Baked or boiled?
Baked all the way. I have a sweet tooth and what better way to feed it than baked goods?

On Cooking:
Love it or leave it?
Leave it…unless it’s baking!

Alone or together?
Together. They say too many cooks spoil the broth but cooking together can be fun and tasty. Especially if “together” is with my three sisters. The four of us never spoil the broth. In fact when we gather in a kitchen, everyone eats happily-ever-after!

On Books: (obvious answer just for fun)
A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale or A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale?
Very tough choice here. But I’m going to have to go with A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

Thanks for THINKing QUICK with us, Penny! I've whipped up a review for A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale:

(Review by Carrie Charley Brown)

Children's minds are filled with ideas about who they might like to "be" when they grow up. Sometimes those ideas change daily! It's fun for children to imagine themselves in different roles and one kiddy favorite is learning to bake or cook. Usually Mom or Dad or Grandma play a role in fostering this love as they work side by side to teach their children the secrets of a successful cook.

Kids will relate to author Penny Klostermann's main character, William, who has a long-time dream of being a chef. Although William produces delightful dishes that turn out just-right each time, he could not quite find the just-right place to work.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for the Three Little Pigs? How about The Three Bears or The Gingerbread Man? William has been there and done that, and despite his talent, he's faced more than a few challenges on the job. He makes a tough decision to do his own thing at home, but with no money to invest, he must tap into unexpected ingredients and new characters to make a difference.

Delightful tastes will surprise you at every turn of this clever tale. Additional tie-ins from Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella make this story a fairy tale mash-up unlike any other.  

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, both from Random House Children’s Books. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. You can learn more about Penny on her website at