Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 13: Author Ruth Spiro Sheds Light on Connections





Good books begin with a point of connection for the child – a character with a problem or situation they can relate to. Great books begin with that point of connection and then widen the lens. They continue to build, adding layers and exploring what the story is really about.

The character’s problem can be seemingly tiny, because very small problems can feel big to a child. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the problem, and the way the character deals with it, represents something deeper, such as a universal emotion or developmental milestone. These picture books deftly manage to explore a deeper point of connection within the confines of a satisfying story.


ALLIE ALL ALONG by Sarah Lynne Reul


















DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR by Sharee Miller


















MAKING A FRIEND by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Alison Friend
















I AM THE BOSS OF THIS CHAIR by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Marisa Morea


















THE DRESS AND THE GIRL by Camille Andros, illustrated by Julie Morstad



















Ruth is offering a signed copy of her book, Made by Maxine, 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.

Ruth Spiro is the author of the Baby Loves Science board book series, published by Charlesbridge. There are currently eight titles including Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering and Baby Loves Green Energy, with two new books coming in October. Her new picture book series begins with Made by Maxine, published by Dial. Ruth is a frequent speaker at schools and conferences, and recent presentations include the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Sheboygan Children’s Literature Festival, Maker Faire Milwaukee and the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Book Festival. She lives in suburban Chicago. www.RuthSpiro.com



156 comments:

  1. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I'm thinking about creating my own but I'm not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? With thanks working capital loan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ruth, I love MAKING A FRIEND. I love how in the context of creating a snowman, beaver not only builds a friend but discovers he's made a special friend, too. Thank you for reminding us to dig (and build in) that deeper, universal meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ruth, Thanks for sharing this great list. Finding deeper meaning is important to all stories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I completely agree with your point that 'little problems' are not little to the child, and this is such an important thing for 'big people' to remember. I can also totally relate to 'Don't Touch My Hair'!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great way to look at picture books. Thanks for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What seems like little problems are HUGE to little people. Thank you for these titles!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Creating books that make a child feel is key, and children feel deeply about all types of things, big and small. Thank you for the wonderful examples.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great topic to explore. "The Dress and the Girl" was the only one new to me and I'm so glad to now know this lovely book!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I’ve never thought about how a specific problem, like breaking a crayon, could broaden to cover a more universal theme while still staying within the focus of the original problem. I have one specific story in mind that I think this will help! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  10. These were all new to me! Thanks for the suggestions!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks, Ruth! I connected with MAKING A FRIEND and THE DRESS AND THE GIRL.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Making the connection to a universal theme is so hard, but fabulous when done well!

    ReplyDelete
  13. So true that a tiny problem can feel huge for a child! Will be thinking of that as I read through these.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for this selection of titles, they were all new to me. The Dress and the Girl is simply beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the reminder that tiny problems are big problems for a child - everything is always a new experience and emotion! Thanks for your excellent list of mentor texts!

    ReplyDelete
  16. What great mentor text suggestions and great advice. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm going to have to check these books out. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, connect make readers passionate about the book. What we have to remember as adults writing for children: "...very small problems can feel big to a child. " TY.

    ReplyDelete
  19. You've gathered a wonderful collection of picture books showing a range of kid-relatable problems. Thanks for the insights.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm going to recommend Allie All Along to our counseling office-it's a good one for dealing with emotions. I really enjoyed the Making a Friend and the The Dress and the Girl as well. I heard an interview with Camille Andros and it really was interesting how it all came about.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Very helpful perspective. We need to remember to see things through a child's eyes. Taking a small problem and showing its universality is essential. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  22. It's amazing to work as a school librarian and see the children struggling with these "small" problems and then have to have a book that doesn't hit you over the head with the message to share, is so wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is one thing I love about Picture Books. Thank you for these texts. I can't wait to read today.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you for your selections. I loved reading them all. Connections is a good word to post on my bulletin board.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What great stories that provide deeper meanings! Thank you, Ruth.

    ReplyDelete
  26. A child's problems can seem like the entire world to that child, so it's great that we as PB writers can help children understand and deal with problems in a less in-your-face way. Great list!

    ReplyDelete
  27. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the problem from a child’s perspective might be so different. Thanks for these recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I appreciate these recommendations. I look forward to searching for deeper meanings!

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a great list. And so important to remember that small problems can seem enormous to a child.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I can't wait to read these books! Thanks so very much.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks for sharing these books, Ruth. I haven't read any of them.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for sharing this list. I will be reading for deeper meaning!

    ReplyDelete
  33. A great list of mentor texts, Ruth. As you have pointed our, connections are important. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great list -- I loved Allie All Along!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Love the focus on connections and how lens widens to what the "story is really about." Thanks, Ruth!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you, Ruth. I am looking forward to reading them for new insight.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I loved all these books, for different reasons. Albie - loved the way anger was portrayed, and the diffusion solutions. Making a Friend - such a concrete way to show how to make a friend, and also make (real) friend. My snowpeople don't participate much in parades, either.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Having a simple child-relatable problem that addresses universal truths is way harder than it seems. Theses are great examples

    ReplyDelete
  39. It’s so important for kids to make connections when reading. Thank you, Ruth.

    Suzy Leopold

    ReplyDelete
  40. I love this perspective. Connections are so important! Thank you for your post!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi Ruth, what wonderful titles! Unfortunately my library doesn't have a single copy of any of these books. Off to the bookstore to see if I can find I AM THE BOSS OF THIS CHAIR. Just reading the title made me smile. :)

    ReplyDelete
  42. The cover of Allie All Along always makes me smile.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks for the great examples. Two are new to me!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Love the cover of Allie All Along. These books all look like subjects a child would like to read and find out what 'they' say - to help the reader get a few more skills to deal with that very situation him/herself. It's like support in treading about those who have had 'that problem' before.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thanks, Ruth, for the important reminder that good books begin with a point of connection for the child, and that we writers need to build on that and widen the lens, remembering that small problems are large problems for a child. I would have appreciated a sentence or two about how these 5 books accomplish this. I’ve checked and none of them are currently available in my tri-county library system.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Such great examples--I hadn't read I am the Boss of this Chair and really enjoyed it. Thanks for reminding us that what might *seem* like a small problem to us can feel very large to a child.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Great list of books, Ruth! I adore Made by Maxine -- a great book that also has a character with a problem and then the lens continues to widen as you add layers. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  48. These are great books! Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Love these titles! There are a few I haven't read, but now I'm going to!

    ReplyDelete
  50. WHen I was teaching,having children make connections with books was a priority.
    Thanks for a great post.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Ruth, your simple, concise and insightful description of a "worthy" PB is one that I copied onto a Word file and printed. I now have your words posted in my home office to inspire me as I write and rewrite. There are SO MANY STORIES TO TELL and SO MANY WAYS TO TELL THEM. My brain gets fuzzy and befuddled. Your words will clear the fuzz. Thank you! I wish you continued success in your writing journey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. re: so many stories to tell & so many ways to tell them. I forgot to mention in my previous comment, that while i was looking up Making a Friend by Tammi Sauer, i found Making a Friend by Alison McGhee. Both picture books make a snowman to be their friend... both find him too cold. Alison's book has a child character, while Tammi's has animal characters...

      Delete
  52. Ruth, your views on connections have been recorded in my notebook so I can refer to them over and over. I've never read a more concise and clear explanation for building a meaningful PB. Each of these books further demonstrate your wise words. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  53. You summed up the art of creating PBs perfectly, Ruth!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Connections in a child's life are a part of what we write about, thanks for sharing these titles.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Making a Friend--love the vulnerability of beaver and the sweetness of his new friendship. Most kids will connect since all of them have had to make friends.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your thoughts on connections. A great story is one a child can relate to, and you gave wonderful examples.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Love the idea of staring with connection and widening the lens. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  58. You’ve said much in few words, Ruth. I appreciate your Baby Loves Science séries and I look forward to reading Maxine. I have a critique scheduled with you in MY at the WOW conference and I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say about my manuscript.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I love how different each book is and yet how they all completely work with the concept for today. And so important to remember that little things are a BIG deal to children.

    ReplyDelete
  60. I am waiting to get these from my library, but it looks as if they will be good reads. Thanks for the list.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Such a fan of Ruth's Science board book series! Thank you for the wisdom.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thank you for these mentor texts, I very much enjoyed them and hadn't read them before. Wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  63. Thank you for bringing these to our attention and this topic! I hadn't read these before!

    ReplyDelete
  64. Child relatable! Thank you, Ruth, for sharing these mentor texts to study the relationship of child to story.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Yes, this the key element that keeps a book from feeling "slight." Thanks for a great list of examples!

    ReplyDelete
  66. "Great books begin with that point of connection and then widen the lens." I love that quote. Thanks, Ruth!

    ReplyDelete
  67. Great to read these books that value the point of view of the young child. Thanks for sharing these.

    ReplyDelete
  68. THanks for all these great recommendations! I also recently listened to your podcast intereview on the PictureBooking Podcast -- I loved hearing about the making of Made By Maxine! Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but looking forward to it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  69. Connections are so key. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Thanks you for the examples of books that show a deeper level of connection in the story.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Great post, Ruth! Thank you for the terrific list of mentor texts. I’m looking forward to reading “Making a Friend” and as a cat lover, “I Am the Boss of This Chair.”

    I totally agree that a tiny problem can feel huge to a child!


    ReplyDelete
  72. Looking forward to getting these from the library!

    ReplyDelete
  73. Off to the library web site to order these. Thank you, plot is my most difficult area.

    ReplyDelete
  74. These all have such clear examples of a problem to be dealt with. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  75. What a great selection of books!

    ReplyDelete
  76. I love this...find the point of connection. True. True. Thanks for your mentor books too.

    ReplyDelete
  77. You're awesome! I love your insight. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  78. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

  79. Great post, Ruth! Thanks for sharing your #kidlit wisdom.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Making that connection is a uch an important part of picture books. Thank you for these examples and this post!

    ReplyDelete
  81. Ruth - Thanks for a great post with excellent examples!

    ReplyDelete
  82. Thank you for the great list of books. And you're so correct, little problems can be earth shattering for a child.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Thank you for these suggested books, only one of which I have read so far.

    ReplyDelete
  84. What a great bunch of books! The Dress and the Girl was so sweet and so unique!

    ReplyDelete
  85. Ruth, thanks for showing so many books with small, relatable hooks. Childhood is when humans start learning to deal with these challenges, and these books are all great examples. Really relate to ALLIE ALL ALONG! We had an Allie or two in our family.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Great choices for books about connections. I especially liked "I am the Boss of this Chair", having raised several cats over the years and can picture these antics in my home. I also feel a true connection to a child for the story in "The Dress and the Girl."

    ReplyDelete
  87. So far I've only been able to get "Don't Touch My Hair" and "Making a Friend" from the library. I loved how both of them used clever twists to add whimsy and humor to sensitive topics.

    ReplyDelete
  88. "Great books begin with that point of connection and then widen the lens." Such a good reminder. Thanks for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  89. You are so right in sharing how important it is to begin with the point of connection for a child and then build layers. The problem for me is keeping the word count down while trying to do that!

    ReplyDelete
  90. Good reminder that tiny things can feel big to a child

    ReplyDelete
  91. Great inspiration here, thank you! It's so true that the tiny problems are huge to a child.

    ReplyDelete
  92. My problem is always throwing in too much. These books show how to stay with one message. Thanks for the insight.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Connecting first is the key! Thank you for sharing this insightful article.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Thank you for writing about this important topic!

    ReplyDelete
  95. All new books I haven't read. Thank you for the suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Thanks for sharing these! I think I maybe be testing the limit of my library card!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Thanks for the great list of mentor texts. These connections serve as points of entry into the story and help to add the emotional layers to the text. I appreciated the reminder to think "small."

    ReplyDelete
  98. Cool! I've never heard it described quite that way. Start with a point of connection!

    ReplyDelete
  99. That connection and needing to relate is so important for children. Thanks for sharing these books!

    ReplyDelete
  100. This was a good post to remind us to introduce the problem early on for the reader, but to also make sure we are establishing some kind of connection. I liked how today we were reminded to focus on the little things that can make a BIG difference. And I loved the literal interpretation of stripping down the layers in ALLIE ALL ALONG.

    ReplyDelete
  101. This post made me think and go back to read several of my MSs. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Thanks, Ruth! I haven't read all of these, but I read I AM THE BOSS OF THIS CHAIR the other day and I absolutely loved it! It's a perfect example about connecting to others and making that connection turn into more.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Awesome post! My mind went immediately to two of my WIPs and how I could apply your thoughts. Thanks so much! Read these to my 2 year-old granddaughter. She has curly hair too.

    ReplyDelete
  104. I love The Dress and the Girl. I have to look up the others!

    ReplyDelete
  105. I love the reminder about how seemingly small issues to us, can feel huge to kids. It is a great reminder to write at their level/connect to what is on their minds. Thanks for these recommendations. Love so many of these books!

    ReplyDelete
  106. Begin with the point of connection and then explore a deeper connection. Love it and these wonderful titles! A few are new to me

    ReplyDelete
  107. Agreed! What seems trivial to an adult can be huge for a child. And I love the image of 'widening the lens'.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Can't wait to get my nose in some of these books that I haven't read yet. "Good books begin with a point of connection for the child.
    . . . the problem, and the way the character deals with it, represents ... a universal emotion or developmental milestone." Remembering this!

    ReplyDelete
  109. I like the variety in this list. I think it's easy for me to get distracted by the humor in some books, so I'm taking another look at I AM THE BOOS OF THIS CHAIR.

    ReplyDelete
  110. I appreciate this list and am excited to read the ones I haven't read yet. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  111. Finding that connection has been a struggle for me. Thank you for these mentor books. I look forward to studying them closely.

    ReplyDelete
  112. I am looking forward to reading these books. Not one is at our library... yyet. I also thought about my favorite books and the layers their authors added to take them from good to great. While I am scouting for them, then looking at my own work to build in more layers. Great post. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  113. I love this thought that a little problem can be enough for a picture book because it can feel big. Definitely true in my house.

    ReplyDelete
  114. Thank you for this list. It's important to know issues that seem minor for adults are HUGE for a child.

    ReplyDelete
  115. I love these books, especially DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR. I'll definitely be sharing that with my sons. Thanks for the list!

    ReplyDelete
  116. Allie All Along is a perfect example of how even small problems can be overwhelming for a child, and beautifully illustrates the process of a positive way to calm down.

    ReplyDelete
  117. I love Allie All Along and I think it's a good one to help kids deal with their anger emotions!I also LOVED I am the Boss of this Chair. I had a similar experience in my house where my 1st cat was very territorial. Great choices for making connections!

    ReplyDelete
  118. Small things can feel big to a child. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  119. Thoroughly enjoyed reading these books after reading your comments and seeing how relatable the stories are. .Thank you for such great recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
  120. A list has been created for this post entitled: RELATABLE MCs: mentor texts. This is a wide topic so, as always, feel free to add to the list here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/reforemo/relatable-mcs-mentor-texts/2366832683561072/

    ReplyDelete
  121. I love the way you highlighted the "point of connection for the child." Thank you for these book recommendations! They were all new to me!

    ReplyDelete
  122. Thank you for these - and for pointing out the initial, possibly small (to adults) point of connection for a child that can lead to larger, universal themes.

    ReplyDelete
  123. Love this list--thank you! It's a good reminder to think about those points of connection.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Thank you Ruth! I LOVE this: "Great books begin with that point of connection and then widen the lens. They continue to build, adding layers and exploring what the story is really about." Great choices for mentor texts, too!

    ReplyDelete
  125. Great list- and some titles I have yet to explore. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  126. Allie All Along is the kind of book kids need to understand how to build resiliency. It's difficult to portray the process for calming down from high anger, but this book did it beautifully.

    ReplyDelete
  127. Just reread I am the Boss... so full of color and humor. Super child-friendly exploration of sibling rivalry. The lens starts narrow, widens, and narrows again for the satisfying conclusion.

    ReplyDelete
  128. Thank you for the reminder to look for those connections with kids. Making that connection in the beginning really hooks the reader. Great list of mentor texts!

    ReplyDelete
  129. Connections and layers - good advice and mentor texts. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  130. I love these books! Thank you for this list.

    ReplyDelete
  131. What great recommendations on books that make these important kid connections and build on them. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  132. Thank you for reminding us to find a connection with our young readers. That's why we write! I'm adding Making a Friend to my collection of friendship stories to read with my first graders. Making friends doesn't come easily to everyone and I think they'll be able to relate to Beaver's initial ineptness.

    ReplyDelete
  133. Lovely titles, thank you for introducing me to them. Just lovely and new family favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  134. I am the Boss of my Chair is a new favorite! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  135. Thank you, Ruth. Each book on your list was new to me! I loved your quote: "because very small problems can feel big to a child." That is so true! And important for us parents and writers to remember.

    ReplyDelete
  136. Like others here, I dug the visual metaphor in ALLIE ALL ALONG. I think the book makes for a great conversation-starter for reader and child: emotions as clothes that we can choose to wear or discard. I do think it’s interesting how this book portrays “negative” emotions like anger and even depression as something that covers us up or makes us appear different than our “normal” selves. Allie becomes a fuzzy red monster at her angriest, but isn’t anger, regardless of how destructive or out-of-proportion it may seem, a human emotion, rather than the aspect of some fantastical monster? Is Allie not REALLY Allie just because she’s feeling angry at the moment? It might not be an attractive outfit, but it is still part of her wardrobe, no? Compare this to another title we’ve read this month—THE ROUGH PATCH—that depicts the MC as physically unchanged yet still working through the same feelings as Allie and learning how to cope with and manage those feelings. Reading these two titles side-by-side could do much to inspire a child’s critical thinking and understanding of how one subject can be depicted by two different artists.

    Speaking of valuable lessons, DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR has got a great one. It not only speaks to an important social grace that touches on race and ethnicity but a more universal concept of consent. I loved how Sharee Miller acknowledged both parties’ involvement in this transaction, the difficulty of saying “no” to someone as well as the difficulty of hearing “no” from someone. In situations such as the one faced by Aria in the book, it’s easy to vilify the intruding party as ignorant and insensitive, and while that is typically true to one degree or another, nothing is gained from shaming that person for their actions. Instead the book promotes a culture of understanding, a process that can only be achieved when both parties are aware of each other’s feelings through open communication. DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR may sound like a warning, but the book itself is actually an invitation for readers to co-exist with one another and respect the rights to happiness of same.

    ReplyDelete
  137. I have requested these books and they should be coming. Great for conversation starters with students.

    ReplyDelete
  138. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 28, 2019 at 7:51 PM

    I am the boss of this chair is one of my 4yo's favourite books.

    ReplyDelete
  139. I didn't find any of these books, but learned more about them through research.
    The Dress and the Girl and Don't Touch my Hair are specially appealing.

    ReplyDelete
  140. Very much appreciate the sentiment that small problems can feel like the world to a kid!

    ReplyDelete
  141. Thank you Ruth! I hadn't read these before!

    ReplyDelete
  142. Really enjoyed how these stories played out. A good study for me. Thanks for this list!

    ReplyDelete
  143. Thank you for shedding light on a really important component.

    ReplyDelete
  144. I love how you said, "Great books begin with that point of connection and then widen the lens." So true! The books that have stayed with me are the books that successfully add those layers you describe. I loved how I Am The Boss of This Chair starts with a cat, but the cat is child-like and has a very relatable problem - encountering a new sibling or someone new to share with. Love how the lens then widens to have the character not only address the issue of sharing but also why it might be more fun to share (while still pointing out that not everything needs to be shared). Smart choice by the author to use cats to communicate the concepts since it gives enough emotional distance for children to feel safe approaching and talking about the MC's problems. The other examples you mentioned are fantastic as well. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  145. Thank you for the recommendations! I've always been in awe of books that can take something small and bring it to a bigger, deeper level.

    ReplyDelete
  146. We read Don't Touch My Hair as a family, and talked a lot about the character's feelings. A few hours later, I overheard my child (who struggles with keeping hands to self) talking about the book with others. I love it when a great book successfully conveys its message!

    ReplyDelete