Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Susan Verde

Before Susan Verde became a New York Times award-winning author, she was an elementary school teacher and yoga instructor. Her books show how kids navigate the world and how to write from a child’s point of view.



Verde’s first picture book The Museum, Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator), is written in a series of rhyming couplets from the point of view of a girl visiting a museum. Verde’s text shows how the girl reacts to each piece of art. Reynolds’ choice of masterpieces is a tribute to some of the greatest artists of our time. The ending is a tribute to creativity and artistic self-expression.

When I see a work of art,
something happens in my heart.

I cannot stifle my reaction.
My body just goes into action.

This one makes me
want to pose
and stand up on
                                           my tippy-toes.                                            

In Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community, John Parra (Illustrator), a boy speaks to and about a wall as though it is a living part of his community. Elders recall when it was beautiful and had stories to tell. But over time the wall became “lonely concrete” and one day the boy decides it doesn’t have to be this way. “You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.” Verde’s character takes action and through street art the wall once again reflects the wonderful things happening in the neighborhood. This is an inspiring story of community activism.

Maybe once you were full of style,
but no one has taken care of you.
You are nothing to look at.
You are cold,


Aware of the need for children to slow down and reset, she helps children examine their own bodies, reflect, and manage the noise they hear from the outside world.

How would a child fully grasp concepts like empathy, compassion, and mindfulness? Susan Verde and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, explores these concepts in her series on wellness.


The opening from I AM YOGA, the first book in the series sets the tone:

When I feel
in a world
so big,
When I wonder how I fit in,
When the world is spinning so fast…
I tell my wiggling body:
be still.
I tell my thinking mind:
be quiet.
I tell my racing breath:
be slow.


In The Water Princess, Peter H. Reynolds, (Illustrator), Verde collaborated with Burkina Faso supermodel Georgie Badiel to tell the story of a young girl faced who doesn’t have easy access to water. Using a first-person point of view and lyrical prose Verde gives and emotional account of a day in the life of the girl who has to walk miles for water.

The thirst comes quick – dry lips, dry throat.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
I see it.
I dip my toes in it.
I scoop it up and bring it to my lips.
Slowly, I open my eyes.

Susan Verde’s stories are wonderful examples of how books can be quiet or active as long as the focus is on the child and their experiences.

Don’t miss other books by Susan Verde:



  1. What a great post, Keila, with perfect examples of how many topics writers have a hard time writing. There are a few here I need for my own work, now. TY.

  2. Great choice of author to highlight for mentor texts, Keila. I've met Susan at a book festival, and she is as delightful in person as on the pages of her awesome picture books.

  3. Love all of these beautiful books! I got to meet Peter Reynolds at his Blue Bunny Bookstore in June when I launched Four Otters Toboggan there. Each page of their joint books is a delight! Susan's words are magical!

  4. I love the lyricism of Susan's work. Thanks for introducing me to some of her newest titles.

  5. Love Susan's work! Hey, Wall Is a favorite. And I've got The Water Princess on my TBR list. I'm going to have to take a look at her concept books to see how she keeps them from being didactic, too. Thanks for bringing Susan's books into the spotlight!

    1. I adore Hey, Wall too! So much packed in that one story. Thanks for stopping by Jilanne.

  6. Thank you for this look at Susan's works. She is tremendous. The Water Princess is one of my all time favorites, and as a librarian, I use the I Am... books when doing story times all the time.

  7. Susan's wordcraft is musical; her topics are significantly universal. Thank you, Keila,for introducing me to Susan's books and talent. I admire Susan's ability to explore life skills for children without sounding writing text that sounds like Charlie Brown adults: WAH WAH WAH! During next library trip, I'll be submerging myself into as many of her stories as I can find.

    1. Agre Marsha! I know you will love each and every one of her books. :)

  8. I'm a fan of abstract concept books. Thanks for highlighting these.

  9. Thank you for this post! I've always loved Susan's writing voice. I look forward to reading THE MUSEUM. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great post! Such a wonderful collection of books! Thank you!

  11. These were great examples and I hope I can read these soon!