Tuesday, April 27, 2021


By Cindy Williams Schrauben

There is often confusion about mentor texts vs. competitive/comparative titles (comps). In my mind, a comp is always a mentor text, but a mentor text is not always a comp. How does that work? Let’s look at some specific examples from this year’s reading month titles. 

On Day # 22, Joana Pastro chose the following as mentor texts that utilize onomatopoeia:

  1. WOOD, WIRE, WINGS (Kirsten W. Larson & Tracy Subisak)

  2. ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Lauren H. Kerstein & Nate Wragg)

  3. TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Teresa Robeson & Junyi Wu

Great examples!

Now, let’s suppose that you are writing a silly, fiction tale that includes onomatopoeia. Which of these titles would make good mentor texts? All of them, right? There are different ways to use onomatopoeia in your story and investigating different techniques can help. Title #1 is a non-fiction biography, #2 is fun fiction starring a dragon, and #3 is a lyrical story with anthropomorphic main characters and nonfiction information. 

So, all three of these books are mentor texts, but #2 is the only title that might work as a comp. Mentor texts that are not comps are extremely valuable for stretching your techniques outside the box, so don’t be afraid to use books that vary from your work-in-progress. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Let Me Count the Ways

By Janie Reinart

One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go! You guessed it! Your challenge this month is to write a counting story.  You can add magic to your counting book like Dawn Young in Counting Elephants. Kate Read's story, One Fox is a counting book thriller. Be sure to check out the ultimate list of counting books on Anna Geiger's blog. Anna Geiger, M.Ed. is CEO of the Measured Mom blog. Check out her  post The Ultimate List of Counting Books.

I recently read the picture book, I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbit to my two grandsons aged six and three. When I was finished, both boys yelled, "Read it again!"  The boys laughed out loud in several places in the story.

By Will Mabbitt

"This is a book about worms. (I can only draw worms.)
   Here's worm ONE.
   Here's worm TWO.
   Here they are both together.
   It's hard to know which is which.
   I'll. give the second worm glasses.
   That's better. Now you can tell them apart."

By Vivian Kirkfield

Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. Vivian  Kirkfield created back matter that introduces each species, conservation efforts, causes for animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.

"Water wakes. 
  Dawn breaks.
  in a chorus of birdsong.
  One willow flycatcher whistles
   as the night slips silently away."

By Anthony D. Fredericks

Tall Tall Tree: A Nature Book for Kids About Forest Habitats is a rhyming counting book with STEAM activities. Back matter contains information about redwood trees and the animals that live there. 

"Creeping, hopping, zipping
throughout the redwood's green
are many different creatures
who are very seldom seen.

They live among the branches
high in this tall tall tree.
Insects, birds, and mammals.
Let's count them--one, two three."

Have fun creating your counting story. Mention your favorite counting books in the comments.
Ready. Set. Go!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Perfectly Paired Picture Books - Introduction

 By Keila V. Dawson

As writers, we’re told to read widely. The mission of ReFoReMo is to study mentor texts to improve a writer’s craft. The ReFoReMo blog and the annual challenge in March provide followers with lots of recommended titles to study. In his new blog feature, Perfectly Paired Picture Books, readers will find books representative of the diverse audience who read the books we write. Books will be matched based on similar story elements with those without diverse content and or where that content isn't the focus of the story which remains the overwhelming majority of books published today.

Ready to explore? Let's go!

What is diversity?

Just so we are all on the same page (pun intended!) we’ll use We Need Diverse Books' criteria of diversity. And Ohio State University’s Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors as a framework to think about the impact of diverse books on young readers.

All books with diverse content need to be evaluated so his article, Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books, gives an in-depth look at ways to do that. After reading the titles in these pairs, use the questions below to think about them.  

1.     Is a book you read diverse? If yes, what story elements make it so? 

·        Setting

·        Main character

·        gender identity

·        sexual orientation

·        skin color

·        racial identity

·        ethnic/cultural identity

·        religious affiliation

·        neurodiversity

·        socioeconomic inequity or inequality

·        Story problem

·        Topic

·        Language

2.   How is this book a mirror for readers represented in it?

3.   How is this book a window or sliding glass door for readers who are and are not represented?

4.  How does the point of view add to the storytelling?

5.   What makes the structure of this book a good fit for this story?

6.   How do the illustrations and visual storytelling add to the text?

7.   Consider the author’s perspective—what are examples of ways the author and or illustrator show how they see the setting, character, problem, or topic? 

8.  Do you know the relationship of the author to the characters, topic, and or theme of the book? How does that affect the storytelling?

       Because it’s spring, I think of farming, and farming makes me think of community gardening. April is also national poetry month. Keeping that in mind, below are perfectly paired picture books recommended for you to read as mentor texts.





The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey


Bess the Barn Stands Strong bElizabeth Gilbert Bedia, and illustrator Katie Hickey

Community Gardening

Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root

Harlem Grown Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood  by Tony Hillery and illustrator Jessie Hartland 



Poetry Month

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrator Dung Ho 

Dear Girl,: A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal  and illustrator Holly Hatam 

Comparing books with common elements can help writers analyze an author's perspective and how they approached a topic in order to tell their story, their way. 

Let us know what books you'd add to each pair. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

ReFoReMo 2021 Prize Winners

We are so grateful for the eye-opening perspectives and education from our seventh-annual 2021 ReFoReMo challenge. You are all winners for dedicating yourselves to mentor text study and growing your craft through this challenge.

Book discussion takes mentor text study to another level and that is why we created the ReFoReMo Facebook group. We decided to give a bonus prize this year to the participant that reflected the most in our Facebook discussion group. This person posted lengthy reflections on every book throughout ReFoReMo, attempting to spark new discussions nearly every day. We see you and thank you…


Eva Fekete de Felder!

You win a 20-minute consultation with us!

(Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call)


We hope you will all stay engaged in our ReFoReMo Facebook group throughout the entire year with picture book discussion, helping others with mentor text recommendations, and sharing picture book resources. Reading for Research blog posts will be featured each Tuesday, including a mini challenge on the third Tuesday of each month.


Thank you, again, to our amazing ReFoReMo presenters and prize donors! If you have not already, please mark their books as “to-read” or “read” on Goodreads, give back by writing reviews, request their books at the library, and follow them on social media. You will find links to each of their websites here

And now…the winners of our Rafflecopter Drawing…


Kirsti Call’s COW SAYS MEOW:  Donna L. Martin

Quick Look Critique with Carrie Charley Brown:  Dea Brayden

Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WAIT REST PAUSE:  Celeste A Turner


Heidi E. Y. Stemple and Jane Yolen’s I AM THE STORM: Kimberly Wilson

15-30 Min Consultation with Susannah Richards: Michelle Kashinsky


Joana Pastro’s LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS: Hilary Margitich

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s THAT MONSTER ON THE BLOCK: Serena Gingold Allen

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s NOW I’M A BIRD: Kay Tarapolsi

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s PLANET KINDERGARTEN: Jennifer Hunt

Hayley Barrett’s: WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW: Jennifer Cole Judd

30-Min Coaching Session with Carole Boston Weatherford: Jenny Buchet

Picture Book Critique with Erin Dionne: Sheri Rad

Picture Book Critique with Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez: Angie Quantrell


45-Minute Zoom or Consultation with Lauren Kerstein: Vasilia Graboski

Swag Package from Lauren Kerstein: Maria Marshall

Todd Tarpley’s 3-book package: Heather Pierce Stigall

Corey Rosen Schwartz donates Kirsti Call’s Cow Says Meow: Susan Papierski Summers

Picture Book Critique from Cindy Schrauben: Lynne Marie

Picture Book Critique or Consultation with Kathy Halsey: Brenda Flower

Janie Reinart donates Lola Schaefer’s TEACHING THE CRAFT OF WRITING: Suzanne Poulter Harris

Picture Book Critique from Editor Jackie Kruzie: Natasha Garnett

Picture Book Critique or Virtual School Visit from Keila Dawson: Gretchen Huesmann

Congratulations again, to all ReFoReMo 2021 participants! We hope your picture book drafts and revisions will be productive in this new year. We encourage you to jump right in and revise together with the #ReVISIONweek Spring challenge tomorrow on Lauren Kerstein’s blog. The springtime focus is page spreads. Who’s ready to revise?