If You Are a Hunter of Fossils by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall is an old book, but it’s an important part of my journey. I discovered it in the 90’s, when I was writing poetry and was known in my writing group for my line breaks. I liked to leave lots of white space (negative space) around my words. I wrote “down the page” and used line breaks to help the reader know when to pause or take a breath. When I saw Baylor’s book, I realized the words of a picture book could also go down the page.
Before we used the term “mentor text,” my students and I gathered all of Byrd Baylor’s books and studied her writing style. We made giant charts that documented the choices she made as a writer: her use of white space, voice, POV, etc. (I did not remember this until prepping for this post: the book is written in second person. I wonder if that was in my subconscious when I wrote Flying Deep? I have to believe it was. Everything we read informs our writing).
I’m still drawn to books with lots of white space, both in the words and in the illustrations. I love when the words and pictures have space to breathe. When your eyes have a place to rest.
Here are some recent examples that have spoken to me:
Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
Hawk Rising by Maria Gianferrari and Brian Floca
Before She was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes
Which picture books express white space statements for you?
Michelle is giving away a nonrhyming picture book critique of up to 700 words (fiction) or 1200 (nonfiction) to one lucky winner! As an alternative for educators, Michelle will offer a 20-minute Skype session with students. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 2, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.
MICHELLE CUSOLITO is the award-winning author of the non-fiction picture book, Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin. Prior to becoming an author, she worked as a naturalist, classroom teacher, and curriculum developer. Visiting schools is still one of her favorite things to do. She enjoys traveling with her family and has lived in the Philippines and Ireland. Flying Deep was recently named a “Must Read” at the Massachusetts Book Awards. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @mcusolito or at http://www.michellecusolito.com/