Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mentor Text Author Study: Deborah Underwood


New York Times bestselling author Deborah Underwood didn’t always write children’s books. She wrote greeting cards, screenplays, worked as a typist, and a street musician. Perhaps it’s no coincidence Underwood created a main character with so many different occupational interests in her Here Comes Cat series.

A look inside her books explains why Underwood's stories are so well loved. 

Character Development, Escalation, Resolution

Cat is a lovable, grumpy childlike protagonist. Those of us who share our lives with a fickle feline friend are especially amused by how well Underwood captures a cat’s distinctive personality. The idea of giving Cat a sign with pictures to communicate with the narrator is unique and hilarious. The resolution in each story not only makes readers laugh, but beg to know more of what Cat will do next. The latest in this series, Here Comes Teacher Cat, releases next month. 



Character, Conflict, Obstacles 

In a story, the author creates a character and gives them a problem to overcome.  Obstacles are thrown in to create tension. The right mix makes a story meaningful to a child. In A Balloon for Isabel, a porcupine + balloons in school = trouble

In Underwood’s latest release Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten, a new student + first day in kindergarten = anxiety  


Concept Books, Emotional Resonance, Re-readability

When a quiet book sells in market overflowing with non-quiet books, and it becomes a New York Times bestseller, there has to be something extra special about it. In The Quiet Book, Underwood and illustrator Renata Liwska tap into all the feels. In this book, you can find all kinds of quiet that evoke emotion, from serious to funny, and for all ages such as “Lollipop quiet”, Right before you yell “SURPRISE!” quiet,” “Best friends don’t need to talk quiet”, “What flashlight? quiet” .

The Loud Book and The Christmas Quiet Book that followed are also packed with a range of emotions. 

Bad Bye, Good Bye takes the reader on an emotional journey with a child who is moving to another town. "Bad truck/Bad guy", "Bad wave/Bad bye"




Theme, Rhyme, Word Choice

Interstellar Cinderella is an old fairy tale retold into a new modern fairy tale. This Cinderella is decisive and determined and a heroine. Well done! Underwood created fun words like zoombroom, and godrobot for her story set in space. Good Night, Baddies is a bedtime story. Through gentle lyrical rhyme Underwood explores the softer side of baddies, villains from numerous folk and fairy tales, after a day of causing mayhem. "Sun dips down; the day has gone. / Witches, wolves, and giants yawn. / Queen and dragon, troll and gnome: / tired baddies head for home." 

In addition to fiction picture books, Underwood writes non-fiction books, content for educational publishers, chapter books, and has published articles, poems, and stories in magazines such as National Geographic, Pockets, Ladybug and Spider.


When looking for mentor texts to study, there's a lot for writers to learn from Deborah Underwood's diverse and extensive body of work.

Happy reading!

21 comments:

  1. I love Deborah's work! She has a unique viewpoint that always seems to shine through her stories. Cat is one of my favorite characters.

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    1. Love that cat character! I have a feline friend and Deborah nails that personality. LOL!

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  2. Hey, Keila, what a great study. I guess I was u aware of how vast her "library" of books is. Love the CAT series & INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA. Going to dig in and read the whole swath when I return. TY for a great post.

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    1. Welcome Kathy! Isn't it amazing how versatile a writer Deborah is? Must to study, much to learn indeed.

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  3. Deborah's books are on my bookshelf. Thank you for sharing her diverse work with us.

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    1. She has quite a collection. I didn't know she had a chapter book series with Whoopi Goldberg!

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  4. I love all of Deborah's books! Great post. Sharing!

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  5. Deborah's books are wonderful. I'm heading to the library in a few to look for more.
    Thanks!

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    1. I can wait to read Teacher Cat...it's on the way. :)

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  6. She is a wizard with words. And I am a big cat lover, so the CAT books are some of my favorites. Informative post. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I have a feline friend too and she nails that cat personality, doesn't she?

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  7. Great summary on Deborah's pbs. Thank you!

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  8. Thanks so much to Keila for featuring my work, and to all of you for your lovely comments!

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  9. Deborah's books are amazing mentor texts--love them too!

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  10. Many of my favorite picture books!

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