Mentor Text Reviews by Tanya Konerman and Elizabeth Saba
In search of ways to master word count in lyrical ways, I pulled out mentor texts from my “nonfiction idols.” Three from April Pulley Sayre gave me the inspiration I needed: Best in Snow, Raindrops Roll, and Full of Fall. These succinct, sensory-rich, and delightfully poetic picture books captured each of her concepts with flow and flair (not to mention, wonderful photography by Sayre herself). And most importantly for my revision struggles, they were still able to provide detailed information with word counts more in line with the industry standard. How? BACKMATTER! Sayre used the “story” part of the book to provide an overview and create a feeling about the subject matter, while offering additional scientific tidbits and facts to further learning and understanding in her backmatter (which is not included in word count for picture books).
As you write and revise, consider: Could backmatter help support your nonfiction story’s weight? Would readers benefit from a more lyrical approach to your subject matter? How can you offer an educational book that appeals to the senses?
Tanya Konerman is a bit obsessed with picture books, reading and studying 15 or more a week throughout the year. She currently writes them too. You can find her picture book reviews and some other cool stuff at www.tanyakonerman.wordpress.com.
A How To Book without the How To? Pick A Pine Tree written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis is actually a ‘how to’ book. I love the way Patricia took a tradition, scooped up a plethora of experiences and items and then laid out the best parts of those in this book. Combined with the illustrations Pick a Pine Tree is a great mentor text for a jaunty joyful ‘how to’ book. As a writer, this mentor text shows that you do not need to have ‘how to’ in the title to be a ‘how to’ book. We can translate that to other genres. Do you need to say ‘true story’ in a title to indicate that it is nonfiction and so forth. I also took the time to type this book up to see if I could understand why the page turns and near rhymes were effective and not distracting. Because of the combination of text and pictures, readers will identify with at least two if not more experiences in this book making this a fun, satisfying read and read aloud. The illustrator does an excellent job enhancing the readers experience with the variety of characters and scenes throughout the book. Thanks Patricia for a wonderful book to read and to learn from.
Elizabeth Saba is a children’s book writer. She has an MFA Certificate in Children’s Literature from the Stonybrook Fellows Program. She is a literacy advocate, teaches reading and reads aloud to preschool children and 2nd grade students every Friday. Elizabeth is a member of SCBWI and 12 x 12.