Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 9: Author Christy Mihaly Shines Light on Titles (and Subtitles)



Paying Attention to Titles (and Subtitles)

What draws readers into a story before they open the book? The title!
Great titles (a) grab the reader’s attention and (b) reflect the book’s tone, topic, and heart. As a nonfiction writer, I also study subtitles, which provide important additional information.
Here are five outstanding examples.

THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall
By Hannah Holt, illustrated by Jay Fleck
This title/subtitle combination signals a unique book that tells parallel stories: the life of Tracy Hall (who invented a process to create artificial diamonds) and the formation of a natural diamond.










LISTEN: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing.
By Leda Schubert, illustrated by Raúl Colón
The “Listen” grabs our attention. The subtitle explains who this wonderful biography is about.













MARTí’S SONG FOR FREEDOM: Martí y sus versos por la libertad.
By Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, translation by Adriana Domínguez
The cover communicates that this beautiful book about Cuba’s heroic poet José Martí (a) emphasizes song and poetry, and (b) tells the story in both English and Spanish.








PASS GO AND COLLECT $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented.
By Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Monopoly-playing kids will recognize “pass go.” The subtitle really grabs us—who doesn’t want the REAL story?












THIRTY MINUTES OVER OREGON: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story
By Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Melissa Iwai
This intriguing title is paired well with a subtitle giving readers more information.












Christy is offering a signed copy of her book, Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them, 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.


Christy Mihaly wrote the informational/fiction picture book Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them. (Her editor at Holiday House, Grace Maccarone, came up with the subtitle—which explains the book’s topic, intrigues young tractor fans, and subtly signals that it’s a rhyming text.) Christy’s YA nonfiction Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought (complete with punny subtitle) was co-authored with Sue Heavenrich and published by TFCB/Lerner. Her next informational picture book is not yet subtitled.

181 comments:

  1. Great titles, Christy. I've been wanting to read these.

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  2. Hi Christy, love your choices of titles with their subtitles (including Hey, Hey, Hay!...).

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  3. Great titles! The cover art helps support the intrigue for each of these books. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Your post shows how important it is to find the right balance in a NF title between creativity and information. Great examples!

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  5. Great food for thought for a MS I'm thinking about currently. Thank you.

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  6. I had never read The Diamond and the BOy before. I love the parallel story and how you know that up front from the subtitle. It definitely gets the ideas flowing for a current WIP. Thank you!

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  7. Glad to see you here posting and hosting a ReFo day, Chris. This very topic is one we're studying now in the Story teller Academy class, Submission Ready. They asked us to come up w/50 titles for our ms. Love subtitles.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy -- Fifty is a lot! Good luck with your list.

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  8. Great list of biographies and titles. I wonder though how much is determined by the author and how much by the editor? The editor / publisher completely changed the title of my first nonfiction book (and i didn't like the title at all, it was not catchy, was very long and hard to remember).

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    1. Hi Yvona -- that's a great point, of course. Titles do change and often it's for "marketing" reasons. I have found that editors generally prefer to work with an author to come up with a title that satisfies both. In my case, I was thrilled with the subtitle, which my editor gets full credit for inventing. It led me to think about the topic and to pay attention to others' titles and subtitles.

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    2. I recently heard for two editors, that while the title could change, having a great hook in the title at submission can pull the agent or editor in and make them want to read the manuscript. Kind of a putting your best foot forward. It shows you really know your hook and audience appeal. So I have heard.

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  9. Can’t say I ever thought about studying subtitles before.

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  10. Thanks, Christy! I was brainstorming a title for my fictional ms yesterday. I kept the focus on MC + conflict. Your examples show why we need to approach NF titles differently.

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  11. These titles and subtitles have got me really intrigued.

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  12. More great titles, thank YOU! I happened to get this book from the library and loved it. Thank you Christy! Looking forward to adding this book to my non-fiction collection.

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  13. Great choices and I loved seeing how the subtitle enhances them.

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  14. Great examples! Gives me a lot to think about.

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  15. Love your examples for great titles, including subtitles. Thanks!

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  16. Thank you. Another great point for writers!

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  17. Thank you for this great post on titles. A book's title is our first invitation to open a book. Wonderful examples.

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  18. I always have a tendency to give my books long titles. I should remember to use subtitles like in these examples. Thanks Christy.

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  19. Thanks for helping me to fully appreciate the power of subtitles. Without them, the intent and subject of these books would not be clear at a glance.

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  20. Thanks for sharing these mentor examples that have intriguing titles and subtitles, Christy.

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  21. You've gathered a wonderful collection of #NF #PBs here, Christy. Hey, hey, hay! You've grabbed my attention to read these today!

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  22. Wow, there is a lot of power in those titles. Thanks for getting us to think about that!

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  23. I love this! I very much appreciate a good title. When my critique group and I meet, sometimes one of us has trouble coming up w a suitable title for what we've done. It really is such a joy to dig deep together, and come up with that title where you just go- "YES!" Thanks for sharing these titles :)

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  24. Nice collection of NF! Thank you! Hey, Hey, Hay! looks like a great book for my neck of the woods in Oregon. Thanks!

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  25. Great list of picture books with subtitles!

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  26. Thanks for pinpointing the importance of a title to get publishers and readers interested in picking up our books.

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  27. Pass Go was very interesting! Thanks for the collection.

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  28. Thanks, Christy, for these great examples!

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  29. Great post, Christy! Thank you for sharing with us the importance of titles and subtitles. I am working on 3 picture book biographies and a biography series that is screaming that it wants to become chapter books. After reading this I need to go back over them and see if adding subtitles will help.

    I love that your book Hey, Hey Hay! shows a mother and daughter harvesting the hay and fell in love with the line, "storing summer in a bale."

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    1. Thanks so much and good luck with your biographies!

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  30. Wonderful NF titles to study! Thanks, Christy!

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  31. Thanks for this post. Great to know I'm not the only one who uses subtitles to help me quickly determine whether I want to give a book a try.

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  32. It's so interesting to think about how titles draw us in to the story (and how much to give away in the title). Thanks for a thought-provoking list!

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  33. I am all about unique titles. It's often how my stories get started.

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  34. Thanks for calling attention to a detail I thought was small, but that really makes a difference!

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  35. Thanks for this list of mentor texts that draw the reader to the book:)

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  36. Wow! I had not thought of titles being so important. They look like interesting books. Thank you.

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  37. For PB bios, subtitles could be especially useful in telling a bit more about obscure or unknown subjects. Thanks for bringing attention to subtitles as assets! (I have the feeling I could use one on the bio I hope to start soon!)

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  38. Great post, Christy!! Nice to analyze titles and subtitles in this way and think about what will make someone pick up the book, but also help them find it in a search

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  39. Titles and subtitles--like children's cereal--certainly grab the reader's attention and makes her want to dive in the story. Thanks for the valuable list of mentor books. I hope my trip to the library on Friday will be fruitful! Blessings for all you are doing to help us become better writers!

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  40. Thank you, and happy hunting at the library!

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  41. Nothing beats a good title. And your comments on subtitles are so helpful. Thank you!

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  42. I always say a book title is an important part of an author's marketing strategy -- like a headline in an ad. It's the thing that should make the reader pull your book off the shelf instead of any other book crowding the bookstore or library.

    Also, isn't it interesting how the title and subtitle of the Guthrie book seem to contradict each other? Should I "listen" or should I be "singing?" LOL I love how this makes me want to read the book to understand what's meant by "listen."

    P.S. I loved Hey! Hey! Hay!

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    1. Oops! I mean the Seeger book!

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    2. Exactly, Carol! It's an important piece of your book cover's "real estate," and you want to use it wisely ... (no pressure, though). Thanks for the kind words about HAY, too.

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  43. A book title sets the stage for what is inside the cover. Thanks for sharing, Christy.

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  44. A title/subtitle combination that intrigues and explains goes a long way to moving the book off the shelf and into the hands. Great examples.

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  45. Thank you, Christy, for encouraging us to pay attention to the titles and subtitles of nonfiction picture books as we are searching for mentor texts. You gave us some wonderful examples! I love the title of your new picture book and its subtitle did add meaning to the title.

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  46. It is so nice to snuggle up with beautiful books and contemplate their titles, while weathering a blizzard outside. Thanks.

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  47. A great collection of NF books and thought-provoking question of titles/subtitles. Thanks for the suggestions!

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  48. Thank you for this list. Coming up with titles can be so tricky-- it's well worth the reminder to include that as part of our reforemo study!

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  49. Good choices.

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  50. Wow, this is perfect timing. Just doing an exercise on coming up with titles for books as part of a Submission Ready Class through Storyteller Academy. Had never put much thought into titles before. Really great list.

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  51. Hay! Christy - great post. I really loved Listen! and how that title was echoed in the text. And Thirty Minutes over Oregon - just by that title I knew it would be an echo of 30 Seconds over Tokyo.

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  52. You have really highlighted the need for a strong title, with some fascinating reads. Thanks so much

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  53. Hey, hey, Christi! Thank you for sharing excellent titles and subtitles.

    Suzy Leopold

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  54. Thanks for the wonderful book (and title) recommendations, including your own book (Hey, Hey, Hay!)! I love a catchy title and love the thought that the subtitle can clarify the topic a bit more for your audience.

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  55. I have always loved titles and names, so I appreciate this post.

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  56. Thanks for the great post. There are a couple of titles here that I haven't read yet!

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  57. Hay! Hay! Hay!...whoops, I mean, hey, hey, hey, good point about titles. The books you highlighted truly showed that. Thank, Chris.

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  58. Wonderful books. Thank you for this post!

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  59. I struggle with my titles all the time. This has been a great exercise, thank you.

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  60. Thank you for a great list of titles/subtitles. I noticed that it was as much what they said as HOW they said it. The colors and fonts worked with the actual wording to draw the readers attention. Thanks again Christi.

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  61. I never realized that most non-ficiton books have sub-titles. Thanks for highlighting this and providing such great examples.

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  62. These were interesting stories I would never have searched before. I still want to know how they launched a plane from a submarine in Thirty Minutes over Oregon. Thanks for introducing these.

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  63. Thank you for your post on these great titles. I can't wait to read the books!

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  64. Thanks for sharing, Christy! Your title "Hey, Hey, Hay!" is VERY catchy! Well done!

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  65. Thank you for these great examples!

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  66. Love Hey, Hey, Hay! Nailed it! Thanks for your wisdom.

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  67. Great titles! Thanks for sharing!

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  68. Love these great titles--including yours! Thank you.

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  69. The Monopoly title was a real eye-catcher for me. Thanks for sharing these!

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  70. I look forward to familiarizing myself with the few in your list I have not read yet. I enjoyed your post, thanks!

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  71. The Diamond and the Boy was great. Thank you for all these titles. Having some more checked out at the library.

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  72. Thanks for sharing these great titles, Chris! Now I need to rethink some of mine....

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  73. Again, great biographies about interesting people! The titles help the reader know just what story they are about to be told.

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  74. Thank you for the great examples of titles and subtitles. I especially like the Pete Seeger biography, Listen bot my attention even before reading your comments, when I picked the book up at the library!

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  75. To me, thinking of titles is more difficult than writing the book. I don't think in catchy phrases or sound bites that capture the essence of the book, which is what I think great titles do. Subtitles are a little easier since they're trying to describe in concrete details what the book is about.....these are some good ones. Thanks!

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  76. Thanks, Christy, for showing how important a subtitle can be when paired with the title. You choose some great examples.

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  77. The subtitles definitely grab your attention! Thanks for the excellent list!

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  78. Thanks for recommending all these great titles! My kids LOVE Monopoly and we all were fascinated by the REAL story! Who knew?!

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  79. Christy-thank you for these examples of great titles and subtitles.

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  80. These are all wonderful examples, both visually & textually.

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  81. Interesting post and some great titles here. thank you for your work here.

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  82. Thank you! I had never thought of titles and subtitles in quite this way before!

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  83. Thank you! I had never thought of titles and subtitles in quite this way before!

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  84. Obviously, subtitles are an important piece of real estate with a hefty job to do. Thanks for focusing on these for us.

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  85. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon is a great title!

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  86. I only half notices sub-titles before. Now, I'll pay much more attention. I cannot wait to read Hey, Hey Hay. I come from a long line of farmers.

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  87. Hey, Hey, Hay - great title! Congrats!

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  88. These all look like great examples and mentor texts. Thank you for the suggestions.

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  89. I noticed these are all non-fiction. Now I need to study fiction titles more closely and see if there are many sub-titles for them.

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  90. Titles are the hardest part for me!

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  91. Just picked up 12 picture books from the library ~ looks like I'm going back! :)

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  92. For me, choosing a title is the hardest part. It seems that NF books explain more on their titles than fiction, right?

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    1. It IS challenging to pick the "right" title -- the best advice I've received is to play around with it, using your book's theme(s) and intriguing hook(s). Being able to use a subtitle takes some of the pressure off the title itself, though.

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  93. Looking forward to reading all of these!

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  94. I love the title LISTEN: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing.
    I especially like how the subtitle is above the title which is in all caps.
    Thanks for your post!

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  95. Interesting post. The use of sub-titles in PBs seems like a fairly new thing that I hadn't really noticed before.

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  96. Great examples!

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  97. Thanks for calling attention to how important titles and subtitles are. Loved the title of your book Hey! Hey!Hay! Very clever! I thoroughly enjoyed the book about the invention of the Monopoly game and look forward to reading the others as soon as they come to the library.

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  98. Now I want to dig through books and look at the subtitles. Very interesting.

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  99. Christy, Your own title "hey, Hey, Hay! A TAle of Bales and the Machines That Make Them is so catchy. I cannot wait to read it. Our library has it on order. Here's to hoping my MS's title can be as catchy! Thanks for shining your bright light here.

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  100. I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction PB's but I have to admit, some of these were pretty interesting

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  101. Great examples of how the subtitle helps to bring the reader into the book. Especially about Pete Seeger and H. Tracy Hall.

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  102. I love subtitles for non-fiction. They add so much depth and really help readers to know more about the book and whether they might want to read it.

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  103. Great examples, plus a some new ones for me to check out! Thanks.

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  104. All great titles! Clever use of Monopoly phrase in creating title and drawing in readers from the first 5 words of the cover.

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  105. Great post! I haven’t been able to get my hands on some other fvthese but hopefully soon

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  106. Hi Christy. Titles are so hard to get right. These are some great choices- as is the title of your book! Thanks for your post.

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  107. Thanks for these great examples of engaging titles. And the stories inside live up to the titles as well.

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  108. What great recommendations for reading related to titles and those often-ignored subtitles. Thanks, Christy!

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  109. Great post! One of my favorite things to do is write the titles. :) Thanks!

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  110. Great post and great titles. You've got me intrigued now about Monopoly. Must get that book (and all of them!). Thank you!

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  111. Titles are so important. Thanks for your great choices.

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  112. Great post about titles and I love your book! #Epic18!

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  113. Thank you for sharing! This is helping me with a title I'm working on!!

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  114. Hey, Christy! Great post! And your own title is pretty awesome.

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  115. Titles are so hard - but so important! That is something I am constantly working on. Thanks for these great examples! And I love the title of your book as well.

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  116. You certainly make a great point about the important and informative nature of subtitles. Case in point: I got to the very end of THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY before I realized that our heroic diamond and heroic boy were *not* destined to find each other as the romantic-esque title indicated in my mind, but instead were meant to exist in two separate but parallel narratives as the subtitle describes, said subtitle having been completely “missed” by me. Regardless of that fact, I *loved* Hannah Holt’s bio of her grandfather and was continually impressed by both the consistency of that parallelism and the quality of the writing itself in those two narratives.

    “The change is clear. Crumbly, dull graphite sheds dusty clothes—rebuilt from within.”

    “The earth opens wide like a hungry mouth. A continent torn apart by diamonds.” (And how prescient is THAT line re: the back matter discussing blood diamonds?)

    Simply gorgeous. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Hannah’s next release.

    Pete Seeger and Jose Marti sound like they would’ve been boon companions had they lived in the same era: both lovers of poetry and nature and their fellow humans. Their respective bios do an effective job of demonstrating how change for the better can come about when one person sets the tide in motion. Supporters flocked around Seeger just like they flocked around Marti. Reading about these figures is important because it humanizes charity and kindness and conservation, lets kids know that they’re not just some big concepts hanging up there in the sky: they are within all of our reach.

    I was especially touched by the Marti bio because Emma Otheguy built him up as this impassioned person who cared so deeply for his country and all its citizens that he went to war for them, something that he wasn’t fit for (is anyone?), dying in what sounds like a relatively brief stint of a minor battle. How terrible to be cut down so quickly, so *easily* in your effort to make a difference. But he probably wouldn’t have done it any other way. Like Otheguy’s book says, our words live on long after us, and no amount of time can fully silence them. May we all know a little bit of that immortality.

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  117. Great point about the subtitles.

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  118. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 14, 2019 at 9:07 PM

    Hey, Hey, Hay! is SUCH a great title. I really struggle with coming up with good titles.

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  119. Very interesting list. I thought they were all picture book biographies, but after some research discovered that wasn't so. Yet the titles and subtitles made me dig deeper. They worked!

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  120. Christy, thank you for introducing me to LISTEN. What a beautiful story! I can't wait to get my hands on the other titles I haven't read yet.

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  121. I think those NF titles can be particularly challenging -- great list!

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  122. Titles matter! Thank you for these great examples. I love your Hey,Hey, Hay!

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  123. Unfortunately, I could only get two of these books through my library. I hope to be able to read the others at some time. Thanks for this.

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  124. You’ve got me thinking about a subtitle for my Informational fiction book. Can I do that?
    I ‘LL do more brainstorming on my titles and subtitles. Loved Diamond and the boy and 30 Minutes over Oregon.

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  125. These are great examples. Thank you!

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  126. Perfect examples!! Thank you!

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  127. Having the right title is crucial, but for me it's also difficult to pin down. I had not thought to study titles before, and I think this will help. Thank you!

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  128. Thank you for these examples and showing us the importance of titles :-)

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  129. Thanks so much for the post. Titles are important!

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  130. Titles are more important than I thought. These books are helpful. Thank you.

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  131. A catchy title is certainly a way to catch the attention of readers - and hopefully an editor or agent! How often do you think titles are changed or refined before publication?
    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

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  132. Here is the list of mentor texts for this post. As always, please feel free to add to the list. https://www.facebook.com/notes/reforemo/titles-and-subtitles-mentor-texts/2363132950597712/

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  133. Creating a catchy title is hard. Thanks for the reminder to study titles and subtitles

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  134. Thank you for this focused post on titles and subtitles-- I am struggling with a subtitle for my PB Bio as we speak! Thanks for some good mentors.

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  135. I always struggle with titles, never thought of subtitles! Thank you for sharing.

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  136. Great selection, ESPECIALLY, Pass Go and Collect $200 by Tanya Lee Stone and Steven Salerno. Who knew? And an important story told in a very engaging way.

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  137. Titles are so important!!! Finding the right one can be agonizing.

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  138. Discovering the title for a new draft takes some effort! I've only read one of the books in your list. I will need to place some holds at the library.

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  139. I like subtitles. Gives us a chance to pique a reader's interest and enough info to know what it's about. Thanks for pointing that out.

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  140. I never gave much thought to subtitles in picture books. Now I need to look at this more closely. Thanks for the excellent post.

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  141. Yes! Thanks for this list, Christy!

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  142. As a fan of nonfiction, I enjoy reading the titles and subtitles of the many books in this genre that are available now. Thank you for pointing out the importance of them. I loved being introduced to Jose Marti in Marti's Song for Freedom.

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  143. As a fan of nonfiction, I enjoy reading the titles and subtitles of the many books in this genre that are available now. Thank you for pointing out the importance of them. I loved being introduced to Jose Marti in Marti's Song for Freedom.

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  144. Who doesn't want the real story? Love that line in particular.

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  145. Hmmmm! Sub-titles -- just as important. Do want to read your suggestions.

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  146. Seeing how titles and subtitles work together was eye- opening for me. I think they are both so important and must be worded carefully to earn that real estate on the front cover!

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  147. It was so helpful to think about how titles and subtitles work together to intrigue the reader and provide a preview to the book. Thank you!

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  148. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon made me cry. Thank you for this list.

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  149. I struggle with titles, so this was really helpful. Subtitles can really do a lot to hook a reader and help give them an idea of what they're about to read!

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  150. Astghik (Astrid) KamalyanMarch 23, 2019 at 1:20 AM

    In one of my MSs, I struggled with titled. After reading this post, I realized that adding a subtitle could be the solution! Not sure why I haven't thought about it before, but thank you so much for talking about it!

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  151. Titles are so tricky to get right, yet so important. It's one of the first things that may draw a reader to your book. And you want to deliver on what that Title offers a reader. I love this look at subtitles as well in these mentor texts. Thank you!

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  152. Love PASS GO, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, and LISTEN titles! I enjoy the challenge of finding good titles, knowing it takes a lot of time to land on that perfect one! Thanks, Christy!

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  153. Oh my, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, meant so much to me. My father was a survivor of Pearl Harbor. And thanks for the challenge to keep digging for a good title. I try to come up with at least 20 for a manuscript and see which one sings.

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  154. Interesting! Now I'm trying to think of fiction books that also use subtitles.

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  155. They say "don't judge a book by its cover" but clearly the title and subtitle are very telling! These are great examples!

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  156. Thanks, Christy! I am also fascinated by titles/sub titles. Sometimes I feel like the subtitle is boring compared to the flashy title or vice/versa but sometimes both are equally awesome. We enjoyed the Monopoly book and the Diamond book. I will say I also like the title/subtitle combo of your book - the Hey! Hey! Hay! is very clever.

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  157. Hi Christy, thanks for this post. I just purchased Pass Go and Collect $200. My son is an avid monopoly player. He will like the book(even as a grown up).

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  158. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 28, 2019 at 7:39 PM

    So interesting to look at the play between the title and subtitle.

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  159. A wonderful group of titles, and their "better halves"! Absolutely loved Hannah Holt's the Diamond and the Boy

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  160. Chris, this post is especially meaningful to me as all three of my biographies have a subtitle. This post will help me with any fine-tuning I might do.

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  161. Great titles! I haven't seen as much focus on the connection between primary and secondary title, so this is really helpful!

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  162. Love these examples! Thank you for drawing my attention to how titles and subtitles work together to entice a reader and tell them what the story is about. I'll be paying more attention to this now!

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