Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ReFoReMo Day 9: Ariel Bernstein Projects Voice through Dialogue

By Ariel Bernstein


Voice, that important but sometimes hard to define quality that agents, editors, and readers often look for in a story. There are many ways that a writer can convey a compelling voice in a manuscript. My favorite avenue to develop voice is with dialogue, which is why my book I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon, is written completely in dialogue between the characters Owl and Monkey. The following books are great examples of showing voice (personality, tone, and even character development) through dialogue.

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK by Julie Segal-Walters, illustrated by Brian Biggs

If voice is used correctly, you don’t even need to see the characters saying the words to understand which one is speaking! The unseen author and illustrator go back and forth over how to tell this story, and even though each character’s dialogue is shown in different fonts, it’s obvious who is speaking each line based on their distinct voices.





STARRING CARMEN! By Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gomez

There is only one character in this book who would say, “The show must go on.” It’s easy for a reader to guess who as the previous dialogue used already shows which character loves to use Broadway lingo.






WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE by Jason Gallaher, illustrated by Jess Pauwels

Repetitive phrases such as “Who, who done it?” are useful in establishing consistency in a character’s voice throughout a story.







BOB AND JOSS GET LOST! by Peter McCleery, illustrated by Vin Vogel

Odd couple pairings can lead to hilarious results in picture books. Bob is focused and nervous. Joss is laid back and dreamy. McCleery of course never tells the reader about Bob and Joss’s opposing personality traits. Instead, he shows their distinct voices through every line spoken.


WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zacharia OHora

A writer doesn’t need to use dialogue on every page to show a character’s voice. Dot’s dialogue in WOLFIE THE BUNNY is shown on less than half the pages of the full manuscript. But her deadpan delivery is all that’s needed to convey Dot’s voice of reason, as well as her gradual and believable character development.






Ariel is giving away a signed copy of I Have a Balloon. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must comment on each post, be registered by March 4, and consistently read picture books throughout the challenge.













Ariel Bernstein is a children's book author. Her debut picture book, I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon and Schuster/ Paula Wiseman Books), is available now. Her upcoming chapter book series, WARREN AND DRAGON, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking Children's) will be released August 28, 2018. You can find more about Ariel at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com, and on Twitter and Instagram at @ArielBBooks.

212 comments:

  1. I wish I was better at voice. I love this post and am happy to have read 4 out of 6 books. Will still try to find the others.

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    1. I hope the post helps with voice, Kaye! Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I love strong voices, especially when they grab you in the first sentence and won't let go, even after you've closed the book. Thanks for some terrific examples!

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    1. Yes, that first sentence can be so important!

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  3. I find dialog tricky to write-these books are super helpful at seeing some different ways it's executed!

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  4. Thank you for this fantastic post, Ariel! I'm super excited to read today's selections. I hope my debut picture book is as charming as yours!!!

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    1. Thanks, Virginia! And congrats on your book - I look forward to reading it!

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  5. What a great selection of books. I find dialogue to be tricky, excited to dive int and see how other authors tackle this approach.

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  6. Thanks Ariel for the great selection. I love Dot's voice!

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  7. Thank you for this fun selection of books and great look at dialog. Wolfie the Bunny and I Have a Balloon are two of my favorites.

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    1. So happy to heard BALLOON is one of your favs, Gail!

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  8. Voice is a tough skill to master. Thank you Ariel for shedding some light on the subject!

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  9. Thanks, Ariel, for your selections of books for us to study. Congratulations on your own books!!!

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  10. Wonderful post, Ariel! Great selection of books. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic!

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  11. Loved reading these books and thinking more about purposeful dialogue to create voice. Thanks!

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  12. I've been looking for a different way to tell one of my stories and I think I'll try using dialogue after seeing these mentor texts. Thanks for a great list.

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    1. I hope you enjoy using more dialogue in your story, Tanya!

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  13. Good morning Ariel! Thanks for this wonderful post on voice. Can't wait to read Whobert Whover. The title makes me laugh. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

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    1. Good morning, Rita! WHOBERT WHOVER is such a fun book!

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  14. Voice is my biggest struggle--thanks for this post!

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  15. Very helpful - need to work on this. Thank you.

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  16. Thanks for the post. I love Wolfie the Bunny!

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  17. Great examples, Ariel! Wolfie the Bunny is a personal favorite of mine.

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  18. Great post about Voice and dialogue! Thank you.

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  19. Thank you, Ariel! Wonderful selection of books with great dialogue!! Looking forward to digging in.

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    1. It was fun to write, Judy! The books are even more fun to read :)

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  20. A fun bunch of books - each with a different approach to using dialog. I loved Whobert's repetitive phrase (as well as his total obliviousness) - and the argument between illustrator and writer (Not a Normal Animal Book) was totally fun. Wolfie the Bunny is still my fave, gotta say.

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  21. I HAVE A BALLOON is my two nephews' favorite book :) ! Thanks for this post on voice and the various ways to create a distinct one. On another note, your list--while wonderful--is 56% male and 44% female in an industry where the actual demographics are about 20/80. Kindly making you aware in case you'd like to create more female-friendly lists in the future!

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    1. Excellent observation, Brianna.

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    2. So cool to hear BALLOON is their favorite book!! And thank you for voicing concern over representation. I worry I'm missing something with your statistics though. The books have 3 female authors and 2 male authors. Also, the characters are equally represented - I focus on boy characters in 2 books, I focus on girl characters in 2 books (I talk about Dot specifically in WOLFIE THE BUNNY, not Wolfie himself), and the author & illustrator in THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK are not gendered. These still do not reflect your quoted 20/80 number, but I'm not sure where 56% male and 44% female numbers come from. Again, I might be missing something!

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    3. I also want to add that I appreciate the conversation of representation in these types of lists! It's always good to push ourselves to be more aware of what books we're promoting, especially ones that don't get enough attention elsewhere.

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  22. reading Bob And Joss Get Lost is truly a great example of dialogue. I realized while I was reading it I can tell who is speaking without the he said, her said. good examples.

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    1. Thanks, Terri! I love reading the dialogue aloud in BOB AND JOSS GET LOST!

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  23. Had lots of fun reading these some of these stories. Took some good notes today on voice thanks to you!

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  24. I'm working on a dialogue only manuscript right now. Thank you for these great examples!

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    1. You're welcome, Erin! Wishing you the best with your manuscript!

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  25. These (including yours) are all great examples of voice. Thanks for the mentor text suggestions!

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  26. Such great examples today. Thank you!

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  27. What fun books with so much personality! Thanks for sharing, Ariel.

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    1. Using dialogue to show voice can be very fun in picture books!

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  28. I am working on voice right now in my manuscript. Thank you for these great examples. It has really helped me.

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    1. So great to hear the books have been helpful, Laurie!

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  29. LOVE all of your suggestions, Ariel! Thnks for making reforemo great this year!!!

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    1. Thanks, Kirsti! It's awesome to write a reforemo post this year!

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  30. Thank you for sharing these examples of voice as seen in dialog.

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  31. Brilliant post and thank you for sharing voice/dialogue examples. Inspiring.

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  32. Voice is my Achilles heal. Thanks for these great examples of voice done well, Ariel. I was happy to see three Picture the Books 2017 titles on the list!

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    1. There are always great examples in the PTB 2017 canon! Thanks, Michelle!

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  33. Voice is a tough topic since it's hard to describe. I know I'm getting close to executing voice well when the character feels so incredibly real to me, and as you pointed out, dialog tags are not needed to guide the reader.

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    1. Voice is hard but can be a great part of the story! Thanks for commenting, Leah!

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  34. Terrific, Ariel. You've found some great examples. Dialogue is difficult to write well, but well worth the effort.

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    1. It's definitely worth the effort, David!

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  35. Creating distinct voices for characters can be a challenge. Thank you, Ariel, for sharing your tips & thoughts.
    Suzy Leopold

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  36. I find dialog so tricky. Thanks for suggesting these titles!

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    1. It is a tricky thing, but fun to work with!

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  37. Thanks for a great post with excellent examples, Ariel! I love I HAVE A BALLOON and am so excited to read your chapter book series!

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  38. Alice Carty FulgioneMarch 13, 2018 at 10:25 AM

    Love your insight on creating voice through dialogue! I especially loved reading "Wolfie he Bunny", & "Whobert Whoever".

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  39. Great mentor texts on voice, Ariel, including I Have a Balloon! I look forward to reading the ones I haven't yet!

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    1. Thanks, Martin! They're all wonderful reads!

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  40. This is such a helpful post on a much talked about topic-voice. Fun and engaging books. I Have a Balloon is a delight, as well.

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  41. Great mentor text suggestions. Thank you.

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  42. I LOVE "I Have a Balloon"!!! Thank you, Ariel, for tackling the difficult subject of voice. These are excellent examples of how to do it well.

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  43. Loved Whobert Hover! Can't wait to read the other examples.

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  44. Thank you, Ariel! My kids love I Have A Ballon. I’m working on a manuscript that is mostly dialogue now, too. These books are all great examples of voice done very well. I look forward to reading your upcoming releases.

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  45. Can't wait to read all these! Thanks!

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  46. When you get into the rhythm of the character's voice when you read, it's such a pleasure. I hope my writing gives the reader the same feeling.

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  47. I love dialogue, Ariel! Thanks for sharing some examples of character development and voice through dialogue for us to study!

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  48. Love dialogue and what it brings to voice! TY for the mentor text examples, Ariel. Would love to win BALLOON.

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  49. I'm looking forward to reading I HAVE A BALLOON. Thanks you for this great selection of mentor texts about voice.

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  50. Rebecca Gardyn LevingtonMarch 13, 2018 at 11:23 AM

    Hi Ariel! Thanks so much for this great post! I really LOVED reading both Wolfie the Bunny and Bob and Joss -- so much fun! I have to hunt down the others. :)

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  51. I will definitely have to check out this list of books on voice! I wasn't able to get them all in time from the library. I have Wolfie the Bunny - so cute!

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  52. Thank you for this list. I enjoy story telling through dialogue and these will be a great help as mentor texts.

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  53. "Voice = Personality + Character Development + Tone" Thanks for such a succinct and clear definition, Ariel. Looking forward to reading I HAVE A BALLOON, as well as your chapter book series.

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  54. Great post! Dialogue is so hard to nail. Thanks for the mentor texts! Very helpful suggestions.

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  55. Thanks for this great selection of books!

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  56. WOLFIE THE BUNNY is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing your mentor texts for effective dialogue use. Can't wait to read I HAVE A BALLOON!

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  57. Ariel, thank you for your informative post!

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  59. Thank you for sharing these books. I especially enjoyed the voice in WOLFIE THE BUNNY. The twist at the end was unexpected! :)

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  60. These were such fun to read with your guidance. Thank you, Ariel!

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  61. Thanks, Ariel! Voice is so wonderful if done right. Your examples for mentor texts will be very helpful. Carole Calladine

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  62. Ariel, thanks for "voicing" such a clear and clean explanation of something that feels rather complex to achieve! Your post was the perfect thing for me to read today, and these mentor texts, while I am in revising mode! Great post and wonderful books:) Congrats on your success, too!

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  63. I struggle with voice! These are great examples. Thank you for your insight and suggestions:)

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  64. I love the dialogue in Starring Carmen as well as the character herself. I think this is a great example. Also, the characters of Bob and Joss are really well developed through dialogue. This is definitely something to strive for so you don't have to tell too much about the character.

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  65. Thanks for great examples of 'dialogue' voice.

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  66. Thanks, Ariel! Dialogue is something I tend to use a lot of in my stories. I very much enjoyed I Have a Balloon!

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  67. Mastering voice takes hard work and heart - and it looks like you nailed it in your new picture book! congrats!

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  68. Ariel, great post. My newest book, YOU KNOW WHAT? is also completely in dialogue between Oliver and his mom. I keep a Pinterest board of books in dialogue and I HAVE A BALLOON is getting pinned there right now! Wishing you much success with this title and your upcoming series.

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  69. Thanks for sharing! I HAVE A BALLOON is a wonderful mentor text to show voice.

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  70. So many things to understand about writing.

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  71. I love writing picture books with lots of dialogue! Thanks for the great mentor texts. Bob and Joss are a hoot!

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  72. Thank you Ariel for the book selection and also making a note of what makes each book a successful example of voice.

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  73. Thank you, Ariel, for sharing this post about voice with excellent examples. I've enjoyed reading them :)

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  74. Such an important subject, voice can be hard to grasp, but it's easier with good examples. Thanks for this post!

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  75. Excellent examples of voice, one of the most difficult things we create in our PBs. Thanks, Ariel!

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  76. Voice is difficult in writing. Great mentor texts help! Thanks for your post, Ariel!

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  77. Me: I own two of these. Woo-hoo!

    Voice in my head: DUMMY! You should own them ALL!

    Me: okay, okay, jeez, just don't yell at me.

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  78. Ariel, thank you for introducing me to some great examples of how to create voice through the usage of dialogue. Wolford the Bunny is a prime mentor text on this topic.
    I also checked out your website and look forward to reading your books. I was interested in how you are reaching out to schools for school visits.
    P.S. When I press Publish for my comment, you may notice the word “delete” automatically appears by the reply button. (Not sure why) I think you still can reply though.
    It has been fun reading the comments by the other authors and your encouraging replies. Thanks for your thoughtful words to inspire us all!

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  79. Thank you, Ariel! I am really focusing on voice in my current manuscript and this list of yours is invaluable.

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  80. Voice is tricky. Dialogue is a helpful way to address it. Thank you, Ariel!

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  81. I love Wolfie the Bunny! Thank you for sharing this list of great voices!

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  82. Very unique examples of ways to use voice that goes deeper than character. Thanks!

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  83. These books were so fun! I especially loved the pitch-perfect distracted dreamer in Bob and Joss Get Lost. Thanks, Ariel!

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  84. Great selection of books! I love how the distinctive voices make each book so fun and memorable!

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  85. Voice is what makes a story. Great selection of books to study. Thanks, Ariel!

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  86. So true, so true! The voice transports so much of the message that it's not to be underestimated or neglected. Just what I needed to remember! Many thanks for sharing!

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  87. Love the unreliable narrator in THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK. A refreshing opportunity for children to ask questions, and question, or discuss if you prefer that word, facts and who is presenting the facts.

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  88. I want to study more books written completely in dialogue, so this is a great post for me. Love the humor in I HAVE A BALLOON. Continued success to you!

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  89. Ahh, the elusive VOICE . . . so hard to describe, but we know it when we see it. Thanks for these suggestions, Ariel!

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  90. Thanks for the list of great mentor texts on voice and dialogue, Ariel. I have a story that is primarily dialogue between a kid & his mom but have been told it needs more action.

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  91. Great post, Ariel! WOLFIE THE BUNNY is one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for helping me understand one of the ways in which it works so well. I agree -- Dot's deadpan delivery is perfect and so funny!

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  92. I'm looking for some mentor texts that show voice through dialog and these examples are just right!

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  93. Thanks for the terrific selections- great dialogue does so much!

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  94. Great post. Thank you. I love Whobert Whoever and how you broke down the voice for each book. I've enjoyed working through them.

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  95. Time to pull out my dialog only ms, dust it off and give it a voice! Thanx for the inspiration.

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  96. Wolfie the Bunny is definitely a great example of this.

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  97. Good idea to use dialogue only books to look at voice. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  98. Thankyou Ariel. I use dialogues commonly in my stories so these examples including your own book would really help me.

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  99. These texts were FAB! This is a skill I will need to work on. I haven't attempted it yet!

    Ariel, "I Have A Balloon" is so lovely. The use of dialogue & repetition, and Scott Magoon's illustrations really bring it to life. I love the upside down text with the upside down monkey!

    I read "Bob and Joss Get Lost with my 4 year old son. THREE TIMES! He loved it. As did I. Skillful humor, and a wonderful dynamic between the characters. I felt like I was watching an SNL sketch!

    Great blog Ariel - thank you!

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  100. I actually never really honed in on dialogue only to examine voice. I've always got the sense that voice is something you hear in the very first line, undeniably. And then, of course, a great voice is carried throughout the story.
    This post encouraged me to focus more on the dialogue, and then compare it to the dialogue I coincidentally have going on heavy right now in my current WIP. Thanks for the stories :)

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  101. Thank you for sharing these examples of voice. I like the way you used some books with two main characters and some with one character that is stronger than the rest.

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  102. Thank you for the insightful post. Voice is so elusive, and your comments helped to clarify the role that dialogue can play in estabishing it. Loved This is Not a Normal Animal Book!

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  103. Wolfie the Bunny was a new one for me. I loved not only the voice, but the realistic and age-appropriate character development -- and those illustrations were so perfect for the story! Thanks.

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  104. Thanks for your post and fun book selections. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is new to me. It reminds me a bit of CHESTER by Melanie Watt, which my daughter and I always get a kick out of. Thanks for the reminder that dialogue can be so helpful in establishing voice and characterization.

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  105. Ariel, I love books with dialogue. Looking forward to your book and thank you for these suggestions. These are wonderful read alouds. Have a great day!

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  106. You gave us great examples of dialogue stories, Ariel. These mentor texts are helping me with a current revision. Thank you, thank you.

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  107. Thank you so much for addressing the topic of voice and providing such great examples! Very helpful.

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  108. Voice can be such a tough thing to pin down. Thank you for the reading suggestions. I especially liked Wolfie the Bunny and I think that I'll be able to approach voice in my own stories a bit better.

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  109. OH, HOW I LOVE THIS IDEA! I CAN'T WAIT to try just using dialogue to tell a story! THANK YOU for the GREAT examples; I haven't read most of these books, so I'm EXCITED!I AM TRULY INSPIRED!!!

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  110. OH, HOW I LOVE THIS IDEA! I CAN'T WAIT to try just using dialogue to tell a story! THANK YOU for the GREAT examples; I haven't read most of these books, so I'm EXCITED!I AM TRULY INSPIRED!!!

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  111. These titles are wonderful, Ariel! I love the value of the variety of voices shown in them. They are a great help in finding and developing the right voice in a picture book. Thank you! Becky Loescher

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  112. I think voice is one of the strongest PB characteristics that calls me to books. Great examples of dialogue and voice. Thank you!

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  113. Thanks for putting this list together for us and congratulations on I Have a Balloon! It is also an example of strong voice.

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  114. Great recommendations. Thanks!! I am learning so much from this :)

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  115. Yes- voice can be so hard! Thanks for your recommendations

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  116. What a great post! Congratulations on I HAVE A BALLOON!, its a great example of voice, now I must look for those mentor texts! Thanks!

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  117. Voice is always such an interesting discussion! Great examples! Thanks!

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  118. Thanks for the new pb recommendations.

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  119. Hey there, Ariel! Great to hear from you, on this important topic! Voice is one of my favorite layers to develop, in any new draft. This post that you shared is a reminder that it's more than ok to rely heavily on voice and dialogue, in order to develop our characters!

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  120. Such great examples of dialogue uses. Thank you Ariel for this post!

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  121. Congratulations on your upcoming books, Ariel, and thanks for this post. These are really fun titles, and you make an important point about how voice can shine through dialogue.

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  122. You definitely nailed voice with I Have a Balloon. So funny! It's on my list to try an all dialogue story this year.

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  123. I love great dialogue in a picture book. It looks so effortless, but it's SO hard.

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  124. I thought that dialogue was hard to write in picture books. You've given me a will to try it. Thanks, Ariel.

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  125. Thanks, Ariel. I need to think more about voice, so your post and these titles were really helpful.

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  126. Thank you Ariel. These examples will help with revising the bland dialogue and voice of my 7 year old character.

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  127. Without a strong voice, a terrific story is only so-so. I am working on dialogue in my own manuscripts and trying to make the voice sing through loud and clear. Thanks for sharing these mentor texts and your own, Ariel!

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  128. Thanks for your thoughts on achieving voice through dialogue and for the clear examples. A helpful post!

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  129. Thanks for your tips on developing voice through dialogue. Love these mentor texts.

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  130. Nailing strong voice is imperative. Thank you for the great examples.

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  131. I seem to like writing dialogue in my stories. Thanks for this post.

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  132. Wolfie the Bunny is one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, my library doesn't carry any of the other books you recommend. Perhaps they're too recent.

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  133. I need this post for one of my manuscripts. Dialogue is a fun way to get into the voice of the characters.

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  134. Perfect timing for a WIP, which may need a little rethinking on voice differentiation. These mentor texts will help. Thanks!

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  135. Helpful post about voice and dialogue! Thank you!

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  136. I don't think of pb when thinking of voice--more something to consider when writing novels. Thanks for opening my eyes!

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  137. Wow! I love "Bob and Joss"! What a great example of how so much more than words can be conveyed through dialogue.

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  138. "Wolfie the Bunny" and "Bob and Joss" are my favorites. I'll pay more attention to dialogue. Thanks.

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  139. I love meeting new books. I could only find Wolfie. What a great story! I found replacements and still learned by looking at how dialogue influenced their voice.

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  140. Thanks Ariel for showing us the importance of dialogue. I often leave it out of my stories but will not consider dialogue in my revisions.

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  141. Thanks for these, Ariel! Dialogue can be so fun in picture books and do so much toward voice and characterization! Thanks for these fun examples.

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  142. This is such a fun collection of books - including yours as well - which we adore at our house! Thanks Ariel!

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  143. The humor in Wolfie the Bunny for me resides completely in the contrast of the biased parents' and alarmed children's voices.

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  144. Thank you for such a great list of books with strong voices. Getting dialogue right is difficult.

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  145. Can't wait to read I have a balloon...it's on order from the library but we are dealing with Sweet Mother Nature's way of saying good-bye to winter! (snow) Thanks so much Ariel!

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  146. LOVE strong voices and dialogue in PB's. Can't wait to read the rest of these. Thank you!

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  147. I thought Carmen was such a strong character. When you only have so much space to tell a story in a picture book, it can be difficult to build a defining character like Carmen whose passion for theater and acting permeated her voice and actions. (Her dramatic sulking was hilarious.) You make a good point that with a strong voice, you don't need to see the pictures to know who's talking. I think I could pick Carmen's quotes out of a lineup any day. Her vibrant personality shaped her voice, which made her a likable character despite her flaws (selfishness). By the end, she learned to share by being a victim of the "golden rule" when her brother gave her a "minor role" while playing with his pirate ships. Excellent suggestions of voice in published texts.

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  148. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on voice. I enjoyed reading through your list of books.

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  149. I love dialogue and what it reveals about characters!

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  150. Thank you! I especially loved This Is Not a Normal Animal Book (so funny!) and Starring Carmen!

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  151. Thank you for focusing on the topic of voice. It’s more challenging to get down than other traits, but so incredibly important.

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  152. I actually just started a draft today using only dialogue. So your books will serve as mentor texts.

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