Welcome to ReFoReMo 2019! As ReFoReMo begins today, we're excited to build a consistent habit of exploring mentor texts together. Reading takes us on an emotional journey that both enhances our writing skills and brings joy to our lives. So why not start with some bibliotherapeutic books?
Bibliotherapy is the use of books as therapy. As a therapist, Kirsti uses books with her clients to evoke discussion and help clients heal. A bibliotherapeutic picture book disguises a lesson as an emotional journey. What starts as character interaction transfers to the readers' background experiences. Relating to the characters enables healing and problem solving. Although we may not directly relate to every problem portrayed in stories, they also build empathy and act as windows to the world around us.
Character to Character
Emotion starts with character interaction. In Be Kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller, compassion is number one as a new classmate struggles to find her place and another contemplates what she can do to help. We have all struggled to fit in at one time or another, and therefore, the emotion and problem transfers to us as readers.
The Day you Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez, is another powerful example of feeling different, yet finding friendship. Filled with lyrical language, and powerful imagery, the story helps everyone know that they are not alone.
I love Jory John and Lane Smith's Giraffe Problems. Giraffe is unsatisfied with his long neck and when he meets Turtle who is unsatisfied with his short neck, they form a friendship that helps Giraffe realize the positives of his own neck situation. Funny text interweaves with expressive illustrations that resonate with anyone who has been disillusioned with their own traits.
In Stegothesaurus, by Bridget Heos and T. L. McBeth, Stegothesaurus experiences a relationship journey that involves feeling different from his brothers, finding someone he thinks he has a lot in common with, and then realizing his brothers are the ones who love him best after-all. This journey helps us realize that what really matters in relationships is connection and love.
Reader to Character
Although Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola is not a recent picture book, it is one of the first picture books I read long ago that allowed me to have a holistic experience with the characters. Tomie’s traditions with his grandparents made me think of my own family relationships, and therefore I inherited little Tomie's emotions. Even though I had not lost a grandparent when I first read it, it helped me prepare for what would happen in the future.
Likewise, empathy and compassion can transfer to us even when we have not experienced something directly. As I read Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant, I did not have a pet a the time, but I internalized the meaningful relationship. Now that I have a cat of my own, I look at it from a deeper emotional perspective.
In Sterling, The Best Dog Ever, by Aidan Cassie, the reader empathizes with Sterling, who is determined to be what others want him to be. Everyone has had an experience with people pleasing in a way that is inauthentic. When Sterling realizes that he is loved for being himself, we have the opportunity to apply this lesson to ourselves.
Similarly, in Rot The Cutest in the WORLD!, by Ben Clanton, the reader sympathizes with a potato named Rot who feels like he needs to be like all the other contestants in a cuteness contest.This results in hilarious attempts to be someone that he isn't. In the end, we learn that cuteness really is in the (potato!) eye of the beholder.
Reader as the Observer
Sometimes a problem is misunderstood by others, which creates additional obstacles for the main character. In Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, Niko draws his feelings as abstract art, but others cannot understand what he is doing. Niko struggles to connect fully with others and our eyes are opened to individual differences through observation.
Other times, characters are blind-sided by overwhelming traumas which change the course of their lives. Healing is part of their journey but does not come easily. In Rescue & Jessica: A Life-ChangingFriendship by Jessica Kensky, the reader observes parallel perspectives from a therapy dog and a girl who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. Both perspectives are not likely to be something the reader has experienced directly, yet the reader is still part of the emotional journey.
As you study bibliotherapeutic picture books, we hope you reveal a deeper understanding of successful emotional journeys. Happy reading and writing as ReFoReMo 2019 begins!
What mentor texts have helped you create emotional journeys in your writing?
Carrie is offering a quick-look critique and Kirsti is offering a signed copy of her book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall to one lucky winner. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.
Carrie Charley Brown is the founder and co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She eats, sleeps, and breathes picture books as a library media specialist, writer, and critique mentor. Carrie contributed as a 2014/2015 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist and regional advisor for SCBWI North Texas. She enjoys supporting the kidlit community by spreading mentor text love.
Kirsti Call is the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo and a marriage and family therapist who uses bibliotherapy with every client. She reads, critiques and revises every day as a member of various critique groups, and blogs for Writers Rumpus. As the author of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, Kirsti coaches revision at school visits through interactive writing, singing, and of course, reading for research! Kirsti contributed as a 2015 CYBILS YA Fiction panelist and 2016-2018 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist. She is repped by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.