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!


  1. Hi Keila! I'm glad that you are encouraging the study of diverse books. Currently, I'm taking a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion course through USF, along with watching many webinars related to diversity.
    I recommend your webinar - No Voice Too Small: #DisruptTexts and Empower Youth Through Powerful Protagonists in Diverse Picture Books (recording here - https://aquila.usm.edu/bookfest/2021/1/9/)

  2. I love the idea of perfectly paired books! I'll have to think about what other books pair with these pairs! Thanks, Keila!

    1. Hi Angie, thanks for reading. And let me know what you find!

  3. Thank you, Keila, for this interesting post. You have given me a lot to think about in these compare/contrasts.

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  5. Thank you Keila. So many things to consider in our writing.