Monday, March 23, 2020

ReFoReMo Day 16: Author Emma Otheguy Shares Great Turning Points


I selected these books because they each include a twist or turning point within their narrative, which gives the reader the sense of excitement and sweetness we all love about picture books. One of the most common concerns I see with new picture book writers is the tendency to conceive of picture books as a sort of child-friendly newspaper article, or as a long list, rather than a robust story with a beginning, middle, end—and something suspenseful or unexpected along the way. The best turning points in picture books are when we see the protagonist take action, like when Clara decides to stand up to the factory bosses in Brave Girl, or when the rooster first pierces the silence in The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet. I included Dreamers on this list because writers sometimes feel that a poetic and tender poem such as this one doesn’t need structure, but the turning point in Dreamers is one of my favorite moments in recent picture books—when Yuyi and her son find that suspicious and improbable place, the library. It elevates the book, makes it a story with a true arc, and fills us with the wonder of discovery.


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
by Carmen Agra Deedy
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

Dreamers
by Yuyi Morales

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero










Emma is giving away a skype visit to one lucky winner! 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.

Emma Otheguy is the author of the bilingual picture book Martí’s Song for Freedom (Lee & Low, 2017) about Cuban poet and national hero José Martí, as well as her newly-published middle-grade novel Silver Meadows Summer (Knopf, 2019), which Pura Belpré-winning author Ruth Behar called “a magnificent contribution to the diversity of the new American literature for young readers.” Martí’s Song for Freedom received five starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and the New York Public Library, and was the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2018 Children’s and Young Adult Book Award in Intermediate Nonfiction. Emma’s forthcoming projects include her contribution to Newbery Honor-winning author Adam Gidwitz’s Unicorn Rescue Society middle grade fantasy series, to be released in spring 2020, as well as A Sled for Gabo, the first of two picture books with Atheneum, due out in fall 2020.

Emma attended Swarthmore College, where she studied children’s literature with Donna Jo Napoli and graduated with Honors. Later, she worked in farm-based education, at a children’s bookstore, and as a Spanish teacher. She holds a Ph.D. in History from New York University, where she focused on Spain and colonial Latin America. Emma has held fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the American Historical Association, the Council of Library and Information Resources, and Humanities New York. Emma lives in New York City.




















122 comments:

  1. These are wonderful books to use for mentor texts! Thanks so much!

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  2. Thank you for including the turning point in DREAMERS in this set of mentor books. I look forward to rereading each one - and a few others - with the goal of finding the twist/turning point. Thanks.

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  3. Thank you for showcasing these terrific picture books, Emma. They sound so interesting that, once the libraries reopen, I'm going to read each one.

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  4. Your focus on turning points couldn't have come at a better time. I'm working on one right now in my WIP. Thanks for the great suggestions.

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  5. Thank you for reinforcing how good story structure is important in picture books. Turning points are critical to making a picture book interesting .

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  6. Thank you for this excellent group of titles to study turning point in plot. Thank you, Emma.

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  7. Robust stories, indeed! Thanks for sharing great examples, Emma.

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  8. You were right on the money with your comment about a writers linear news article-like approach to a PB. I have been guilty of that😊 I can’t wait to read these examples you gave of how to avoid that, not just thinking about how to get from the beginning to the end but really add something interesting.

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  9. Thanks for highlighting how turning points don't have to be loud. In addition to Dreamers, The Day You Begin also feels like a quieter book than some of the others. I love the last page where three of the characters come together in the illustration.

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  10. Thank you for your thoughts and the great examples. Structure, tension, turning points - all good things to keep in mind no matter the style of writing.

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  11. So many important parts to what many think are so easy to write a picture book! Thank you for your points to remembered.

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  12. I am excited to read these books. Thank you. A twist or unexpected turn is always good.

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  13. I loved the moment in "The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet," when they kicked th mayor out who would not tolerate noise! Thank you for your selections.

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  14. Thank you, these are very helpful observations! I love the books you have recommended.

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  15. An unexpected turning point and a good structure are really important. So many PBs have good page turners but no climax or surprise moment to tie the story together. Thank you for bringing this to light.

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  16. Thanks so much for a great list.

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  17. The wonder of discovery keeps the reader turning the page.

    Thank you, Emma.

    Suzy Leopold

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  18. A great reminder to always remember what we are trying to do and who we are doing it for. xx

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  19. I love Brave Girl! Thank you for the reminder!

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  20. Emma, thank you for choosing books with interesting twists or turning points. I agree ...”The best turning points in picture books are when we see the protagonist take action, ...”
    I have also found that a child is most engaged with the story when he or she can identify with the protagonist in some way.

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  21. Great post! I agree, readers get excited at the twist or turning point. I'm going to attempt to find the titles I hadn't read as e-books.

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  22. EMMA: What a WONDERFUL post! THANK YOU for bringing up this IMPORTANT topic. As storytellers, we MUST remember to tell a story--and how to do so in THE MOST EFFECTIVE way!--in order to fill our readers with that SWEET and DELICIOUS sense of "wonder and discovery." I CAN'T wait to dig into your book examples! THANK YOU!!!

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  23. Thank you for this excellent post and for highlighting these beautiful books!

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  24. Emma,
    I enjoyed Marti's Song for Freedom. I will look for the suspense and the unexpected in my manuscripts.

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  25. Thank you for this post. I agree that a turning point makes a picture book richer and more effective. I love the books you listed here as mentor texts!

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  26. Thank you, Emma, for sharing great turning points in a picture book. I, too, loved the turning point of discovering the library in DREAMERS. Helpful post.

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  27. Thank you for your insightful post and text suggestions. Very helpful!

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  28. Thank you for this informative post and sharing these examples!

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  29. Thank you for this reminder- helpful examples!

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  30. Thanks for the great post. It made me stop and think about my plot lines and how much I need to add tension by having a turning point.
    Sara

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  31. Thank you for these titles and showing books where the protagonist takes action and does something. Could find most of them.

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  32. Thank you for this group of texts. I love The Day You Begin.

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  33. Thank you, Emma! This post was perfect timing for me as I'm working on the twist in my story. Many moving stories in this collection.

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  34. Great picture book choices to show that great turning point. Thank you, Emma!

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  35. I love "The Day You Begin". Thank you for the list!

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  36. Thank you for your list. Always
    nice to look at familiar titles with a new thought in mind.

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  37. Thanks for this awesome collection of mentor texts and the reminder about turning points.

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  38. Thank you for the list. I love 'Dreamers' and have kept it near one of my favorite reading chairs to read over and over again. See that as you say the turning point elevates the story!

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  39. Thanks for sharing your insights about these books. I look forward to reading them.

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  40. Thank you for this list of picture books with turning points. I look forward to reading them.

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  41. Thank you Emma for giving us these books to study. My two favorites were BRAVE GIRL and THE DAY YOU BEGIN (loved the repetition of that phrase in the book). And what an unexpected turning point in DREAMERS--it truly does elevate the story. I saw elements of #ownvoices in these books, too.

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  42. Thank you, Emma! Excellent examples.

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  43. All great stories. I loved The Rooster Who Wouldn't be Quiet and all its words - many adjectives & dialogue tags that weren't 'said.' I wonder what's its word count. I signed up for Epic so I could read books that weren't in local libraries (most) and really enjoyed listening to Carmen Agra Deedy read this story. Brave Girl is there too as a video. Dreamers as a book. What a treat to read/watch/listen to these three books!

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  44. Thanks for recommendations! I will look at these more closely for turning points.

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  45. Such a great point about how even "quiet" books benefit from structure with a solid turning point. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

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  46. Thank you for these wonderful mentor texts. I love your description of a good picture book - "a robust story with a beginning, middle, end—and something suspenseful or unexpected along the way."

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  47. Emma, thank you for these mentor titles. I enjoyed each and everyone. Loved the discovery of wonder they offer. :)

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  48. Thank you, Emma, for these great books with "something unexpected along the way". Time to have a closer look!

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  49. I especially enjoyed The Day You Begin❣️ What a beautiful and valuable lesson without ever being didactic. And it applies to absolutely everyone ❣️

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  50. Fabulous list that really highlights that magical picture book moment! Thanks!

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  51. Emma, thank you for this stellar list of books. Each one is a gem worthy of study.

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  52. Thank you for the list of books to check out as mentor text.

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  53. I think I may be commenting in the wrong place. I loved all of today’s books.

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  54. Great post! Thanks for post and the twists!

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  55. Thank you, Emma, for your list of mentor texts showcasing great turning points. I think children [like adults] really enjoy an unpredictable and unexpected twist. Those are the stories that stay with you. Thanks again. [Posted by LouAnn Silva]

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  56. Thank you for this selection of mentor texts and for focusing on the importance of the twists or turns in stories. These are so important yet also can be difficult to accomplish effectively at times. These texts will be quite helpful and provide guidance.

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  58. Great post, Emma! Thank you for these mentor texts that show the twists/turning points of a story’s plot.

    I loved "Brave Girl" and it will soon be sitting on my bookshelves. I can’t wait to read the others when my local library opens up again.

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  59. I loved The Day you Begin and how it shows how students are all different that is ok. I still need to read the others because I couldn’t find them.

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  60. I loved these books and that the characters were stong and made great decisions. Thanks.

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  61. Thank you for this important highlighting of turning points, very helpful. Can't wait for the library to open!

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  62. Thank you for sharing these stories with great turning points.

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  63. Thank you for sharing. While I prefer holding the book, listening to the online version with music and voices added another dimension to each character's story. Turning points!

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  64. Such wonderful mentor texts. Thank you for sharing them with us today.

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  65. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely list of books!

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  66. Loved these "turning point" lessons- it's very fun to study the most impactful part of a PB!

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  67. Thanks for sharing! I really connected with Dreamers by Yuyi in the library moment too.

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  68. This is interesting. I have Rooster and Papi, but my library is now closed. I will catch up. Thanks.

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  69. Great list! Turning points are so important, but it's sometimes to write them in effectively without forcing them.

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  70. Great post! Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions.

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  71. Thank you, Emma, for this topic and wonderful mentor texts. I can think of one of my manuscripts in particular that I want to rethink my turning point and make it stronger.

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  72. Thank for sharing this list of mentor texts with stellar stories. I felt the turning point in The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet and Brave Girl.

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  73. Thank you for your reminder of the importance of turning points and story arc... yes, i'm one of those writers you're referring to who loves lyrical language and whose poem stories often lack in story arc... so i will definitely take a look at these. The only one i'm familiar with is The Day You Begin. I will be sure to take a look at the others as soon as the library opens for business again...

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  74. TY for these recs, Emma. This comment from you truly resonated w/me: "...the tendency to conceive of picture books as a sort of child-friendly newspaper article, or as a long list..." I am guilty of the long list and need to watch for it.

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  75. I appreciate how you described the best turning point as when the protagonists take action. A great reminder!

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  76. Thank you! These are wonderful examples to look at those moments - I need to look back into my own work to see how I'm doing with turning points. Also - I love "Marti's Song for Freedom."

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  77. Thank you for these great titles. I think I forgot to comment yesterday...hard to keep up on things lately!

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  78. Great selection of books, showing us those turning points by the MC!

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  79. This a great element to research and recognize when reading books. Thanks
    -Ashley Congdon

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  80. This is the first list where I've read all of the books! Once my library reopens, I'll have to revisit these titles and pay extra attention to their turning points.

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  81. Thanks for the post and the list of books.

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  82. I enjoyed looking for the turning point in the story. A good way to look at my own stories to make sure that point is there. Thank you!

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  83. I had read many of these before, but I hadn't made that leap to realized that they were all mentor texts for their turning points. What a great selection — thanks!

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  84. Thank you for sharing these brave choices with pivotal moments.

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  85. Interesting! Will look harder for the turning points now. Thank you

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  86. Hi Emma, Yes! Picture books must "include a twist or turning point within their narrative, which gives the reader the sense of excitement and sweetness". That's what all of us PB writers should strive for. Thank you for sharing your insights!

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  87. Thank you for providing us with this study on great arcs in picture books. I really enjoyed these.

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  88. Thank you for pointing out these turning points that make stories memorable. I am going to look for turning points in the picture books I read and my own manuscripts.

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  89. What a great lens through which to write our PBs, with that unexpected protagonist twist or turning point in the middle. Loved THE ROOSTER...and looking forward to studying the rest once the library reopens! Thanks, Emma!

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  90. Thank you for sharing these wonderful books. Dreamers is my favorite here.Your point about picture books needing a turning point is exactly what I needed to hear today.

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  91. A great reminder that a PB need to be as complete as any other story. Thank you!

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  92. Finding that surprise or unexpected twist is such fun. Studying ways to do this with your suggestions. Thanks!

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  93. Great mentor texts and I love the focus on turning points in PBs. Thank you!

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  94. This is an important thing to keep in mind while writing - unexpected twists! Thanks for the reminder.

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  95. These mentor texts are lovely and I appreciate the discussion around twists and turns in picture books! Thank you!

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  96. Thank you for this. Twists and turns are a weakness for me, so these books..when they come from a closed library...will help. I'm saving all the posts so I can study when the library re opens.

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  97. These are all great books! I loved seeing what the characters did and how the authors told their stories. Thank you!

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  98. Thank you, Emma. I love twists and turns and I try to incorporate a twist ending in all of my books. Thanks!

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  99. Great reccos. Especially loved the Rooster story. Thank you!

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  100. I hadn't heard of it described as a twist or turning point in picture books before. We love those in movies, so why not children's books?

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  101. This was an intriguing set of books. I especially enjoyed Brave Girl, not only for its action-packed scenes & heart, but also because it was a NF story told in a very dynamic way. Add to that, the opening lines were top notch.

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  102. For me, picture books are so similar to poetry, that it seems automatic to me that they should have a turning point, like poems do. Love Brave Girl! Thanks!

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  103. Thank you for defining how to give some structure to a MS that might be weak.

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  104. Thanks for focusing on the turning points in these picture books, Emma. As I'm struggling to revise and refocus a picture book biography, this is just the point I need to find and highlight in my manuscript.

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  105. Such an important point, with excellent examples to show us how it's done!

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  106. Thanks for this list of robust titles.

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  107. Highlighting the twist or turning point is a great tool for those wanting to dig deeper into the craft of PB writing. When I think of my favorite movies, all of them have great twists- I seem to love them! You can see why I'd be especially fond of your reading suggestions, so thank you!

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  108. Thank you for reinforcing the importance of story structure!

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  109. Good point about poetic stories. Looking forward to reading DREAMERS.

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  110. This is a really great selection - enjoyed them all - especially 'My Papi has a Motorcycle'.

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  111. oh I just picked up Papi Has a Motorcycle. Can't wait to read it. and I love Dreamers. I will use that as a mentor text.

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  112. After reading this post I want to reread Dreamers and The Day You Begin...and all the others, too.

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  113. Thank you Emma. Such beautiful books. I love Yuyi Morales artwork and story.

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  114. Loved this reminder about pivotal points in our stories... it is the unexpected action we like as adults - same for kids!

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  115. Thank you Emma! It's great to revisit these stories with an eye to the pivotal moment.

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  116. I agree! Books need a story structure, which means that they need that little twist in the story.

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  117. The turning point or twist are my favorite parts of a story!
    Thank you Emma for these examples.

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