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.)