Tuesday, October 20, 2020

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Parodies--Bunnies, and Mummies, and Goons

By Janie Reinart


Trick or Treat! This post is a blast from the past---three years ago---with some new additions.

Treat yourself to writing a parody. parody is a humorous imitation of an 

original classic--a song, poem, or story.

1. Song


                                                                   By Kim Norman

The fabulous Kim Norman wrote this treat of a story from the old camp song, "The Ants Go Marching".

Check out Kim's interview with the spectacular Tammi Sauer.

2.  Poem

By Karen Jo Shapiro

Karen Jo Shapiro rewrites John Masefield's poem "

"I must go down to the beach again, where there's water, sand, and sky,

And all I ask is my red toy boat with a string to pull it by…," 

John Masefield's Sea-Fever  

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;"

3.  Story

                                                               By Margaret Wise Brown

"If you run away," said his mother, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny."

"If you run after me," said the little bunny, "I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you."

"If you become a fish in a trout stream," said his mother, "I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you."

Change one word in the title and run with it. Change the first line just enough to make 

it recognizable. Check out this petrifying parody. 

By Michael Rex

"If you run away," said Mother Mummy, "I will get you! For you are my rotten little mummy."

"If you try to get me," said the little mummy, "I will turn into a serpent that lurks at the bottom of the sea."

"If you turn into a serpent," said Mother Mummy, "I will become a sea monster that will wrap around you and never let go."

Ready for another spooky take on a famous story. Keep the same rhyme and rhythm as the 


By Margaret Wise Brown

"In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of--

The cow jumping over the moon
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs"

There's that one word title change again.

                                                             By Michael Rex

"In the cold gray tomb
There was a gravestone
And a black lagoon
And a picture of --

Martians taking over the moon
And there were three little mummies rubbing their tummies"

"In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines.

In two straight lines
They broke their bread
And brushed their teeth
And went to bed."

This time also look at the pen name of this monstrous parody of Madeline.

                                                 By Ludworst Bemonster

"In a creepy old castle
all covered with spines
lived twelve ugly monsters
in two crooked lines

In two crooked lines,
they bonked their heads
pulled out their teeth
and wet their beds."

Here is your challenge. Write a parody. Share your parodies with us in the comments.

1. Select a song, poem, or story.

2. Change the first line just enough to make it recognizable. 

3. Keep the same rhyme and rhythm as the original.

4. Have fun playing with words. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

THINK QUICK with Sandra Sutter

Hi Sandra! Congrats on the release of STAN'S FRIGHTFUL HALLOWEEN! We are thrilled to celebrate with you today! I love the themes of persistence and friendship in this book.  And of course it's the perfect read for Halloween! All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Halloween: 

Best holiday or worst holiday? 

One of the best (but admittedly, it isn't my favorite). 

On Werewolves: 

Fascinating or Scary? 

Scary. Except for Stan, of course! Who can resist that adorable face? 

On Halloween parties:

Essential or superfluous? 

Essential. I loved Halloween parties at school and think every child who enjoys such frightful fun should experience one! 

On Surprise Parties:

Delightful or dreadful? 

Delightful. I am a good secret-keeper! 

On trick or treating:

Tricks or Treats? 

Treats, although a well-played, a non-harmful trick is always appreciated.

On falling:

Happens all the time or rarely happens? 

All - the - time. I've fallen off of a sidewalk. Twice. 

On persistence:

All the time or some of the time? 

All the time, especially in the publishing world. 

On friendship:

Many friends or a few good friends? 

A few good friends, but I love to meet new ones. 

On puns:

Frightfully funny or just plain frightful? 

Frightfully funny! Can you tell I'm not one for scary movies?

On books:


This is such a tough choice. But if I have to choose one, it's going to be STAN'S FRIGHTFUL HALLOWEEN! 

Thank you, Sandra! 

Sandra is the author of THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL (Spork, 2019), a modern, gender-bending take on the popular children's song, and STAN’S FRIGHTFUL HALLOWEEN (Spork, 2020), a spookily fun story of a clumsy, but determined young werewolf. She is a member of SCBWI, 12x12, and is an assistant with the Children’s Book Academy. When not writing, Sandra is a mountain-biking mom and jewelry-making hobbyist with a knack for finding life's silver linings. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Mentor Text Author Study: Revisiting Margarita Engle

 by Keila V. Dawson

Margarita Engle is an award-winning author of poetry and prose. Engle’s quest to learn more about her Cuban heritage and history led her to discover figures she’s written about in her books.

Marcie Atkins wrote a 2018 ReFoReMo Mentor Text Author Study about Engle. Today, we’ll look at her most recent picture book, DANCING HANDS:  HOW TERESA CARREÑO PLAYED THE PIANO FOR PRESIDENT LINCOLN illustrated by Rafael López and winner of the 2020 Pura Belpre Illustrator Award. 



When Teresa was a little girl in Venezuela, Mamá sang lullabies to let her happy hands dance across all the beautiful dark and light keys of the piano.

In this one line, the reader learns a lot about the main character. She lives in Venezuela, played the piano with “happy hands” while her mother sang, tells us music is important to her family. And the illustration shows her father standing close as her hands dance across the piano keys. Engle chose the word dance to describe how her hands move so we can imagine what they looked like.


Engle uses lyrical language and figurative language to tell the story of Teresa who had to flee Venezuela as a child because of war,  moved to the U.S. and soon after, her newly adopted country was at war, too.

“happy hands dance across all the beautiful dark and light keys of the piano”

"clouds that bucked and kicked across the wild sky like angry mules"

“notes that rose, swayed, rippled, and dipped like a bird in a blue sky above a green forest.”

STORY FOCUS: A Moment In Time

Teresa struggled to fit into her new life in the U.S. When she felt sad, she played her piano. When she felt happy, she played the piano. She became famous and played in many places. President Lincoln heard about the Piano Girl and invited her to the White House. She knew Lincoln was grieving over the loss of his son, and the lingering Civil War, so she wanted to bring him some joy, if only for a moment.

The colorful illustrations by López depict various moods of joy and despair as Engle explores what was happening during Teresa’s childhood.

It is a perfect pick to study and celebrate Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Mentor Text Talk with Keila Dawson, Jeanette Bradley, and Lindsay Metcalf

We're thrilled to have our very own Keila Dawson talk to us about how she used mentor texts for the book, NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History.  She is joined by her co-editors, Jeannette Bradley (who also illustrated the book!) and Lindsay Metcalf.  All three of these kidlit stars serve the children's book community--thank you for sharing your insights, Keila, Jeanette, and Lindsay! 

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  If so, how?


Lindsay: Absolutely! When I read a book that really sings, I type it out. Then I can get a feel for the pieces that add up to a book that really resonates with me. Is it the point of view? The page turns? The use of metaphors? The very sentence structure or other poetic devices? Then I can play around with using a similar structure or devices in my own work.


Jeanette: Yes, I study picture books as both art and writing mentor texts.  Like Lindsay, I sometime type out the text of a book that I think works really well - a technique I learned from my first ReFoReMo! I have been sketching from the masters since I was 10, but it never occurred to me to do a similar technique with writing before then.  I mark pagination in my typed text to help me study the pacing and use of page turns.


Keila: It’s unanimous! Picking apart a well-written book inspires me. Whether it’s the approach to a tough topic, a fresh approach to an evergreen topic, the story structure, or literary techniques used, I want to study the parts I think are well done.


Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of NVTS?


Lindsay: I remember taking inspiration from...



by Susan Hood, illustrated by various artists (HarperCollins, 2018)


by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Roaring Brook, 2015)

by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Philomel, 2017)


Jeanette: I took inspiration from:


STICK AND STONE by Beth Ferry  (Author), Tom Lichtenheld  (Illustrator) (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015)  Tom Lichtenheld’s use of color paper and pastels in this book years ago, in which he plays with the paper color as both foreground and background, inspired me when I first saw it years ago. I love drawing that way, but had never found a book that worked with that technique.

       FRY BREAD: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard  (Author), Juana Martinez-Neal  (Illustrator)  Once again, the use of toned paper in this book is brilliant. And the backmatter adds multiple layers of richness to the text.

       LITTLE LEADERS: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (December 5, 2017). This book is so unique, with Vashti Harrison’s sweet, childlike portraits of famous Black women. While my portraits are much more realistic and show the young activists engaged in their activism, I always come back to this book to study the power of simplicity, of editing out inessentials, and focusing on heart in picture book illustration.


Keila: I took inspiration from:

SHAKING THINGS UP: 14 YOUNG WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD  by Susan Hood, et al., HarperCollins (January 23, 2018). This book features fourteen different revolutionary, inspirational women. And a different female author and illustrator wrote about each of them. And I thought we had a lot of moving parts!


WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, Crown Books for Young Readers (September 4, 2018). The buzz about this book came as we put together our proposal. This book, targeted for a middle grade audience, is also an anthology of poems, letters, and personal essays by well-known children’s book creatives and written to empower youth

·       SHE PERSISTED: 13 AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger.  Philomel Books (May 30, 2017),

This book includes biographies of diverse female leaders from the past and present. Besides the illustration, each subject has a quote that shows how she persisted to reach her goal.


How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer/illustrator?


Lindsay: It helps me better understand the concepts I love to read, so I can better choose which story ideas to pursue. If I’m not writing for myself first — and for the little girl I once was — then I’m always in danger of losing interest in the project. Given that each project takes years to develop, you have to have passion for your own stories.


Jeanette: I wasn’t a writer or an illustrator before I started reading picture books with my first baby. I was working in fair housing/fair lending policy. Reading picture books as an adult brought me back to my first encounter with art, which was picture book illustrations and comics, and rekindled my love.  I went back to school to learn children’s book illustration.


Keila: As a former teacher, I read picture books to my students all the time. And continued to do so when I became a parent. I have witnessed the power of story. It is undeniable. And to see how children respond to books can be enlightening. We can look to the diverse books movement to see exactly that stories are important, for representation, inclusion, and to allow readers to experience a world or point of view that may differ from their own.


What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book creators to utilize mentor texts?


Lindsay: By typing them out, marking the spreads, and getting a feel for the text as it appears on a blank page, without illustrations. I didn’t realize until quite a bit later that the main text is only a small piece of what writers can take away from a published book. Type out the dedication. Type out the flap copy, which is its own art form. And be sure to look for the logline on the copyright page to see how the publisher boils down the themes into a sentence or two. You won’t need to know how to write a dedication or flap copy until you have a book contract, but practicing writing loglines will help tremendously in focusing your stories and preparing your pitch for conferences as well as Twitter contests.


Jeanette: In addition to the above, I try to read as many of the picture books related to my WIP as possible - even older ones - and take extensive notes on what I feel works and what is lacking in the current literature. I’m fortunate to live in a state that, while small, has an excellent statewide library system, so I can get almost everything through interlibrary loan.


Keila: Whenever I read a book that resonates with me, I want to figure out why. Where am I getting the information that makes me laugh, wonder, expect? Is it the text or the art? I will re-read and note those parts in the book. Having worked closely with Jeanette, I am getting a better feel for how art and text work together depending on each scene. They each have jobs to do, and studying that relationship in a picture book is very helpful.


Lindsay H. Metcalf is a journalist and author of nonfiction picture books: Beatrix Potter, Scientist, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (Calkins Creek, November 2020); and No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetry anthology co-edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020). Lindsay lives in north-central Kansas, not far from the farm where she grew up, with her husband, two sons, and a variety of pets.


Website: lindsayhmetcalf.com

Twitter: @lindsayhmetcalf

Instagram: @lindsayhmetcalf

Pinterest: pinterest.com/lindsayhmetcalf/

Flipgrid: No Voice Too Small Book Club

Keila V. Dawson
 worked as a community organizer, teacher, school administrator, educational consultant, and advocate for children with special needs before she became a children’s book author. She is co-editor of No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, along with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020), she is the author of The King Cake Baby illustrated by Vernon Smith, (Pelican Publishing, January 2020) and  the forthcoming Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book, illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Beaming Books, January 26, 2021). Dawson is a New Orleans native and has lived and worked in the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Website: www.keiladawson.com

Twitter: @keila_dawson

Instagram: @keilavdawson 

Pinterest: pinterest.com/keiladawson/

Flipgrid: No Voice Too Small Book Club


 once worked for fair housing organizations, but now she writes and draws for kids. In addition to co-editing and illustrating No Voice Too Small, she is the author and illustrator of Love, Mama and the illustrator of When the Babies Came to Stay. Jeanette lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. www.jeanettebradley.com



Website: www.jeanettebradley.com

Twitter: @JeanetteBradley

Instagram: @jea_bradley

Flipgrid: No Voice Too Small Book Club