Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"How To" Picture Books-Monthly Challenge

By Janie Reinart
Embed from Getty Images

Don't you wish everything came with a user manual? 

Here are tips for writing a "How to". Sounds like these tips could apply to picture books. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a "How to" story.

1. Define who your user is.

2. Write in a way all users can understand.

3. Detail the problem the user is trying to solve.

4. Present instructions step-by-step.

5.  Use graphic images as needed to support the text.

by Jean Reagan 

The directions for How To Raise a Mom start:

"First of all, help your mom ease into the day. 
How to start her morning:
-Let her sleep in, just a little longer.
-Then kiss, kiss, kiss her awake.
-Fling open the curtains and say, "Rise and shine! Your breakfast is ready."

At the end of the day, this story gives directions for bedtime: How to Put Your Parents to Bed by Mylisa Larsen

Pearl has been trying to build the perfect sandcastle all summer. Today is her last chance. She brings her robot pal to help.

By Josh Funk
"Hello, world I'm Pearl. It's the last day of summer vacation. Which means today is my very last chance to build a sandcastle. I've tried every single day, but something ruins it... But today, I've got the perfect plan. I've brought my trust rust-proof robot, Pascal. He'll do whatever I tell him-- as long as I tell him in CODE.

You'll never know when you will need this book: How to Trick the Tooth Fairy by Erin Danielle Russell. 

Have fun creating user manuals to help solve some of the trickiest problems little kids come up against.  Share some of your favorite "how to" picture books in the comments. This post will self-destruct in five, four, three...


  1. Thanks for sharing. I love how to books. Three of my favorites are How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan, How To Wash A woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson, and Caring for your Lion by Tammi Sauer.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carole and for the titles.

  2. Writing 'How to" books is so challenging! There are different styles of "How To" books and including the steps while creating a satisfying story is so tricky. Really admire these books! I also love How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth, as well as How to Read a Story (Kate Messner & Mark Siegel) and How to Make Friends with a Ghost (Rebecca Green).

    1. I agree, Andrea. I once read about 50 How-To books all at the same time, while I was working on one in this style. It can be really tricky. Some of the ones I read seemed to fall a little flat for me. I think it was because the story needs to be either filled with nonstop surprises/hilarity or layered with additional poignancy/meaning to make it a satisfying read, and sometimes authors forget that.

    2. Andrea you are so right! I don't know How to Make Friends with a Ghost. Thanks for the titles.

  3. One of my all-time favorites is Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy. It's brilliant and sweet and unexpected (yet inevitable, in retrospect). It's perfect.

    1. I don't know Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook. Ordered it at the library. Thanks you,

  4. Thank you, Janie, for inspiring us to tackle a tricky "how-to" picture book. I hadn't thought of that approach, but now my brain is clicking. You and others provide several mentor texts...thank you! Each week I read and take notes on as many picture books as possible in an hour. I'll be searching out these titles for my next research romp to the library.

    1. Yeah! Marsha love when our brains begin to "tick". Have fun. Metaphors be with you,

  5. Great post! I love that I can hear the voice of each author in the different books. AND now I have a how to for each activity. :) Thanks!

  6. These are great books! Fun idea and writing challenge. Definitely got my wheels turning!