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.


VOICE

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.”



PLOT STRUCTURE

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.




Counting

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.



16 comments:

  1. Love Shutta's use of lyrical language! I've read Mine, but not her other ones...yet! Wonderful and very helpful author study - thank you!

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    1. Welcome. I know you will enjoy her other booKS too.

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  2. What a fun body of work! Unique, interesting, clever. Love them!

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  3. I am sadly not familiar with her work. Time for another trip to the library.

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    1. Indeed! I know you will enjoy her books.

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  4. Great mentor texts. Thank you for sharing one of my fav authors today :)

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    1. Welcome. Just love her stories. 😀

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  5. Saw Shutta at Northern OH SCBWI a few years ago. Have read both MINE and UH-OH! Will have to scout up those bet sheets she used . They were both masterful. She hs a way to get into the child's POV. TY, Keila for this study.

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    1. We signed books at the same table. Such a delightful and funny lady! She is quite a storyteller.

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  6. Thank you for this post. I've requested her books from the local library. *Shutta's website has a page for kidlit authors that's just wonderful!

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    1. Welcome! Isn't her website a goldmine of information? So generous of her to share her knowledge with others.

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  7. Great post! I've read some books, but now I see I need another library trip.

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  8. Wow! The only ones of these I've read are the toddler books, both quite funny and spot on with toddler behavior. So now you've introduced me to these others, filled with the kind of lyrical language I love. Thank you, Keila!

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    1. Welcome Jilanne! If you love lyrical language, you must read Shutta's books.

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