Saturday, March 31, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 21

I thought Reading for Research Month was twenty days long, but, lo and behold, a twenty-first post is up. Co-ordinators Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call finished off the month-long program with a post on character transformations. "You may have heard publishing professionals say that characters need to make their own growth by solving the problem on their own," they tell us. I would say that in children's books, it's important that a child character needs to solve the problem. Children's books with adult main characters are few and far between and are often awkward.

I've read some of the mentor texts listed in the past, but not in relation to yesterday ReFoReMo concept. So no new reading.

Can I use the idea of character transformations in my picture book manuscript? This is something I think I could be stronger on.

Final Number of ReFoReMo Books Read: 47 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 20

Day 20's Reading for Research Month post on the importance of writing with economy was particularly interesting coming right after Day 19's on longer picture books. "...each word and sentence contains essential ingredients that, taken together, elicit a particular and specific response in the reader," editorial director Mary Lee Donovan writes.

Another day when I read only one of the mentor texts.

Yesterday's Picture Books

Baby's Got The Blues by Carol Diggory Shields with illustrations
by Lauren Tobia is adorable and a neat read. The basic premise, a baby creating a blues song, is clever. I think the use of a repetitive pattern is one of the ways the author makes each word and sentence contain essential ingredients and elicit a specific response.

As you can see from the picture to your left, I read Baby's Got the Blues with an actual baby. To him, to be accurate.

Can I use this material with my own picture book manuscript? I hope so. I'm a big believer in everything in a book having a particular function, no matter what type it is.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 47 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 19

Can you believe it? I'm behind again.

Yesterday at Reading for Research Month, Susan Eaddy's post on longer picture books was particularly interesting if you're a writer. Word count for picture books has been a subject for discussion for years. And years. And years. Eaddy is a supporter of longer texts. "...stories are often more complex...Bedtime reading can be comprised of a single book."

I read five of the longer picture books suggested (one being Finding Winnie from a few days back). I had an interesting response.

Today's Picture Books

I've had years of reading the shortest picture books and seeking out shorter ones for a young family member. I found that I wasn't that interested in the two long traditional stories, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse Kevin Henkes or Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations by Harry Bliss. Lilly was a great character, but it just seemed like another school story. And the chicken story just went on and on. But, as I said, I may have become too accustomed to the very short picture book.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by E.B. Lewis is an interesting twist on an improving book, the classic "how would that make you feel, if someone did that to you, sweetheart?" story. This story of an ostracized child is told from the point of view of the person doing the ostracizing. I've been wanting to read something from inside the bad kid's mind for years. This one doesn't have a happy, let's-all-live-together ending. It's about regret. But in a modest, child-friendly way. I actually liked this.

The longer picture books I really liked were the two that had a historical angle. Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine with illustrations by Kadir
Nelson (seen his work this past month) really ought to have been categorized as a biography, but the library where I found it shelved it as fiction. It's the story of Henry "Box" Brown, who escaped slavery in a particularly fascinating way. There's an entry point to this story for kids, in that it begins with a very brief mention of brown's childhood. Then it's all adult, all the time. The reality of this adult's life has plenty to interest a child reader.

That Book Woman by Heather Henson with illustrations by David Small
is what might be called historical fiction. Historical fiction in picture books. Is that a thing? This book deals with the Depression-era Pack Horse Librarians who brought books to rural Kentucky. Though the librarian is an adult, this is a piece of fiction and we learn about her through a child character's point of view.

So I guess what I've learned as a result of today's ReFoReMo work is that if I'm going to read a longer picture book, I want it to be about something substantial.

Does this longer picture book issue have anything to do with my own picture book manuscript? No, I don't want to extend this thing. I did get an idea for a picture book bio today, though.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 46 

April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

An active month for children's literature in Connecticut. Notice the illustration workshop being offered at the Wethersfield Academy for the Arts. I mention this, because I'd never heard of that place.

Wed., April 4, Mike Lupica, Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School, Moodus 6:30 PM  Sponsored by R. J. Julia Booksellers. Registration

Thurs., April 5, April Jones Prince, Women's Forum of Litchfield, Litchfield 2:30 PM Fee at door and reception

Sat., April 7, Jenna Grodz, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 12:00 PM

Mon., April 9 through Fri., April 13, Christine Kornacki, Wethersfield Academy for the Arts, Wethersfield 9:00 AM-12:00 PM Illustration Workshop, Registration and fee.

Fri., April 13, Melissa-Sue John, Olivia Lauren, Shaneika Burchell-Kerr, Imani Grant, Prosser Public Library, Bloomfield 4:30-6:00 PM Local authors' showcase 

Sat., April 14, John Himmelman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Tues., April 17, Katie L. Carroll, Milford Public Library, Milford 2:00-4:00 PM Book launch   

Tues., April 17, George Hagen, Simsbury Public Library, Simsbury 4:00 PM Registration by 4/13 

Wed., April 18, Helen Lester, Simsbury Public Library, Simsbury 4:00 PM Registration by 4/14

Thurs., April 19, Ying Chang Compestine, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Thurs., April 19, Gina Ciocca, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 7:00 PM

Thurs., April 19, Ying Chang Compestine, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 5:30 PM

Sat., April 21, Sara MacSorley, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 10:30 AM

Thurs., April 26, Siobhan Vivian, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Fri., April 27, Melissa-Sue John and Olivia Lauren, Pitkin Spring Fair, East Hartford 5:30-8:30 PM

Sat., April 28, Melissa-Sue John and Olivia Lauren, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown, 10:00 AM

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 18

Okay, lads and lasses. The weekend is over, I'm caught up for the moment on Reading for Research Month, so here we go again. Today's post by author Salina Yoon addresses board books. Board books are very early readers, and, Yoon says, readers read a board book's "shape, its form, its weight, its texture, its size, its pictures, and even its taste." Therefore, she considers all the senses when she creates a board book.

She also describes board books as interactive, which was interesting given that Day 17 of ReFoReMo was all about interactive books. In that case, Cindy Schrauben was talking about books that were interactive intellectually. Yoon today is talking about books that are interactive in physical ways.

Well, people, we knew this day had to come. I was not able to find a single one of the suggested mentor texts for today.

Today's Picture Books

Zero. Zippy.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 17

Friday's Reading for Research Month's presenter was teacher and podcast host Colby Sharp. He did a YouTube presentation on picture books that inspire creativity. His talk was primarily, if not totally, about books that inspire creativity in children. As a Reading for Research Month participant, you could take a couple of different things away from this:
  • We could be looking at these mentor texts as examples of creativity-inspiring books we could be writing.
  • We could be looking at these mentor texts for inspiration for ourselves. 
Let's see, how many of the suggested books did Gail manage to find and read? I hope you guessed just one.

Friday's Picture Books

The one book I read is Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe, who also illustrated Jimi by Gary Golio, about Jimi Hendrix. Steptoe, who, remember, is both author and illustrator, is clear in a foreward that he has not done any reproductions of Basquiat's work in this book. Readers "will find my original pieces that were inspired by my interpretations of his paintings and designs." An example of an author/artist's creativity being inspired by another's work. (See second bulleted item above.)

 One of the very impressive things about this book is that the illustrations carry the story very well, while at the same time often being very nonrepresentational. On many pages, you have a representational figure, or figures, primarily humans, in a nonrepresentational world.

By the way, Radiant Child won the Caldecott Medal.

Can I use Friday's creativity lesson in my picture book manuscript? Can I rework my text so it encourages creativity in child readers? Can I find something to better inspire my creativity with that book? Or make better use of the work that did inspire it? What would that be? you ask. Die Hard.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 41

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 16

Why, yes, now I am two days behind with Reading For Research Month. And I didn't do a done-list post yesterday. And I'm way behind on the April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. And I didn't work at all during the day yesterday, because I spent five hours painting walls. Whimper. Wail.  But that last thing, I'm getting a blog post on. Yes, I will find a way to work painting my entry into this blog.

In the meantime, she went on with a sigh, on Thursday, Cindy Schrauben told us about interactive books. These are narratives that children get pulled into in some way, beyond the traditional entering the world of a story. It makes a book a different reading experience.

Fortunately, I was able to get hold of four of these fun books.

Thursday's Picture Books

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is a wordless book that requires readers to interpret what's going on. In case they don't get the point that they they have a part in this, there are several pages that have sections that need to be opened to expose what's under them.

10 Little Ninjas by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Nate Wragg is an example of an often repeated format described on Day 15 of ReFoReMo. The repetition of the classic Ten Little Monkeys story catches readers'/listeners' attention. But the writer and illustrator of 10 Little Ninjas bring a feminist twist to their version. Maybe I'm just reading that into it. Nonetheless, I may be getting this for a very young female family member.

Press Here by Herve Tullet is unique in that it actually instructs readers to do certain things to it. We're not talking a real narrative here. It's more playtime between reader and book.

And Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett with illustrations by Matthew Myers is just brilliant. The premise here is that we're reading a precious bunny book that another reader interacted with by rewriting the text and altering illustrations. This is, hands down, my favorite Jon Scieszka book. When I finished it, I thought, This would be a neat...mentor book!...for a class project. Get kids into revising a book of their own. Well, the folks behind Battle Bunny are one step...probably several steps...ahead of me. You can download the "original" Birthday Bunny pages that "Alex" revised to suit himself so that your young ones can do the same. A great Easter present for an older child. Or maybe an adult. 

Can I use this idea of providing interaction for child readers in my picture book manuscript? This is something I would like to try. It's going to take some thinking.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 40  I broke the 4 O! Will I make 50?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 15

Yesterday's Reading For Research Month post by Dow Phumirok is about how themes and formats are often repeated in picture books. Her point is that writers can bring something unique to a traditional storyline.

Sad to say, I found/read only one of yesterday's books. And it was one I'd read before.

Yesterday's Picture Book

I'd read Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio with illustrations by Christian Robinson back in 2014. Loved it then, loved it now. Yes, it is a cuckoo in the nest story, but with dogs. And the cuckoos are adorable and much loved. Thematically we're talking about feelings being more important than appearances.

Can I use a repeated theme/format/storyline in my picture book manuscript? You know, I'm wondering about this. For instance, is my theme too unique? ("Can we control our lives?" My favorite theme to write about.) And maybe a variation on a recognizable story is what makes some of these picture books work.  

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 36

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 14

Okay, back to Reading For Research Month after a break for Time Management Tuesday and a good whine. And, yes, I'm a day behind again.

Yesterday author/illustrator Jen Betton explains that she often writes out picture book texts so she'll better understand what the books' authors are doing. She also storyboards the books to see how the illustrators handle pacing and composition.

I believe I've heard of this type of thing before, at least as far as text is concerned. Writing out a picture book's text, especially if you assign the text to a page, as it appears in the book, helps new writers get a feel for things like page breaks or the kind of flow/excitement being used to encourage readers to move on to the next page.

Yikes. I was able to find and read a lot of today's books.

Yesterday's Picture Books

This House, Once by Deborah Friedman is a lovely book with an unusual subject, the origins of the various parts of a house. Someone writing out this text would become very aware of how the author/illustrator integrated the words with her pictures.

Someone writing out the text of Philip C. Stead's Bear Has a Story to Tell (illustrations by Erin. E. Stead) would pick up on the repetition of give and take between Bear and the other characters. Then I love the parallel beginning and ending, the looping that occurs.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated, again, by Erin  E. Stead would seem like a very traditional story, by which I mean not necessarily a picture book story, to someone copying it. Then past the mid-point we get some of the same give-and-take repetition we saw in Bear Has a Story to Tell. Interesting point--the only child in this young children's book is a minor character who doesn't have any lines. The main character and most of the supporting players are all adults.

I saved Joyce Sidman's Before Morning for last because it really blew me away. The elegant poem, which Sidman describes in an afterward as an invocation, is both totally different from the story told by Beth Krommes' illustrations and makes total sense with them. Invocations are, to my knowledge, prayers. Look at that cover illustration. Make anyone else think of a church's stained glass window? I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying the prayer is answered. I don't know how copying this would work for anybody, but the book is amazing to read, at any rate.

Can this copying business help me with my picture book manuscript? If I could find the right book, very possibly.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 35


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Is Spontaneity The Enemy Of Time Management?

In my very recent experience, yes. Deciding to take part in Reading for Research Month was a spontaneous act. I learned about it on Twitter and jumped at it. It has been very time consuming, and there's no way of predicting whether it will ever lead to any kind of inspiration that will help me professionally. I'm not passing judgement on the quality of the program. I just didn't have time to be doing this now, and ReFoReMo was a creative shiny thing I shouldn't have chased.

First, Some Whining

Hunting up the books on the reading list took up a great deal of time. Yes, I can search the catalogs of 30 libraries in central Connecticut, all at once, and I could have tried borrowing them through Interlibrary Loan and having them delivered to my local library. But our state's financial woes have lead to an unstable ILL system here for a few years. I'll spare you the details, but since maybe 2016 I've been just using the three area libraries I frequent instead of ILL. The reading list search for ReFoReMo has meant a lot of time on the computer, which would have happened even if I'd used ILL, and many trips to libraries. I have one more stop I should make for 5 or 6 books, but it would involve a special trip to another town. I'm throwing in the towel on those. In addition to the book search, we were encouraged to keep a notebook on our reading. I did that on the blog. Which, okay, that was a multiplier, right? One task, blogging, took care of two needs, blog content and the notebook requirement for ReFoReMo. So that was good.

But all the ReFoReMo blogging took away from other blogging. I didn't do a TMT post last week, for instance. I also have skipped some of my Friday done list posts. I never sent out this month's CCLC newsletter. I usually do all those things in the evening, and I was reading for and blogging about ReFoReMo then.

I had formal goals and objectives for this year that this month haven't received the time and energy I'd planned for them, while I was doing the library thing and reading and thinking about picture books. I didn't make much progress on two big writing goals, and the objectives for my submission goal have barely been touched this month. Any research I've done for that has almost been accidental.

Why don't I just spontaneously quit the spontaneous act that's causing me so much trouble? I'm too far in, people! Walking away means wasting all the ReFoReMo work I've already done.

I See You Hindy

I did a little research on spontaneity and time management this week. Which means I Googled it. And, let's face it, I couldn't spend a lot of time on this.

Primarily what I found were sites with material on how to be more spontaneous. Bring more spontaneity to your life. Spontaneity is good. You can imagine how much I wanted to see that.

Then I stumbled upon a terrific personal essay called One Time Management Tip That Will Keep You Calm On Fridays by Hindy Myers at a site called Between Carpools: For The Busy Jewish Woman. Myers comes from a line of creatively spontaneous women. "Bright ideas pop into our head and we follow through." Myers is a teacher who was always coming up with projects for her students, but usually not until she was on her way to work. Prepping for these things often made her late getting classes started. Then there was the issue of her family's Shabbos meal on Friday nights. In the hours leading up to it, she was coming up with more and more things to do.

Myers was the only writer I found this past week who understood what creative spontaneity can do. The dark side of spontaneity. She ended up working with a life coach. (Read her story.) And the two of them came up with a Shabbos Solution that I think can be modified for, heck, maybe everything.

The Shabbos Solution

In a nutshell, Myers doesn't start any new tasks after noon on Fridays. She can finish things, get them wrapped up. But nothing new gets started, which helps keep the hours leading up to dinner clear for getting ready for dinner.

A little bit brilliant. Think how you can modify what she does for your purposes:
  • You have a big project you have to do in a particular week or month, so you make a decision that you won't start anything new for a certain amount of time before hand. You work on your regular tasks, but you don't start any new creative work that will distract you from the big project you've planned.
  • You have a regular work commitment, so you make a decision that you won't start anything new for a certain amount of time before hand.
  • You can do this with personal commitments, holidays, anything. No new creative projects after a certain point.
This is a formalized version of "say no," and you're saying it to yourself. 

I'll definitely be trying it. In the meantime, I'll be continuing with my ReFoReMo posts, and I'll do a wrap up post when I'm finished.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 13

And today at Reading for Research Month we have librarian and writer Marcie Flinchum Atkins writing about concept books, something I'm not very knowledgeable about. Evidently they usually involve teaching something...a concept! numbers. Atkins writes about a "different type of concept book with topics like love, peace, empowerment, bravery, empathy and more." She calls these concepts big ideas and says picture books about them are often for older readers.

Once again, I was able to find only a couple of the books (10) on today's reading list.

Today's Picture Books

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt with illustrations by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko is definitely about a big idea. Why are we who we are instead of someone else? The book doesn't provide any answers. There's no mention of nature vs. nurture, for instance. But maybe the concept that's being introduced here is asking questions about ourselves and recognizing that there won't always be answers.

Brave by Stacy McAnulty with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff deals with a more clear cut concept...bravery. Or, to be
even more clear cut here, what you might call the bravery of the every day. Atkins had said earlier that these kinds of concept books "leave room" for illustrations. In Brave, the illustrations, by themselves, carry a lot of the work.

Can I turn my picture book manuscript into a high-end concept book? I don't think so, but the concept of a big idea concept book is intriguing.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 31

Friday, March 16, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 12

Oh, look. I've been keeping up with Reading for Research Month for several days in a row now. Look at me!

Today agent Jenna Pocius wrote about picture books offering readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective. "...the realization that the world looks different through everyone's eyes."

The two books I read that supported her statement did do a good job of illustrating her point.


Today's Picture Books

Double Take! A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood with illustrations by Jay Fleck does, indeed, do something different with a traditional opposite book. It starts with the usual In/Out, Asleep/Awake business but moves on to point out that you can only really understand big, if you also know about small. And when does near become far? The different perspective we're talking about here is the relationship between concepts, not just simply noting that they're opposite to one another.

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel does something very neat with the idea of different perspective. One cat is seen by multiple sets of eyes. This book definitely gives readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective.

Can I somehow give readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective in my picture book manuscript? Well, not in an overt way the way these two books do. But like any writer, I think I've done something different with my characters, giving readers a different way to look at someone.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 29 The total is going up very slowly because I can find so few of the ReFoReMo books.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 11

Today at Reading For Research Month we have another post on theme, this one by Janie Reinart. Earlier Baptiste Paul called theme "the big ideas" in a story. Reinart writes about universal themes.

I was able to get only one of today's books.

Today's Picture Books

My Beautiful Birds by Susanne Del Rizzo is a very good story set within the world of Syrian refugees. Thematically, I think it's about endurance and the passage of time making it possible to move on. Ah, yuh. That's pretty universal.

Can I use a universal theme in my picture book manuscript? Why, it's interesting I should ask myself that this evening. I was just thinking this morning that I've been working with the same theme for more than ten years now..."Can we control our lives?" Hey, how universal is that? Seriously universal, that's what it is. And, yes, it's the theme of my picture book.

Unfortunately, while I was engulfed in thinking about my work themes, I was driving on a highway and missed my exit. Didn't even notice until I realized I was almost home.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 27

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 10

Andrea J. Loney discusses picture book biographies on Day 10 of Reading For Research Month. She says that a great biography doesn't just tell a great story, it creates an immersive experience for readers. She asks participants to look for "poetry, visual metaphors, and dramatic tension." 

Once again, I wasn't able to find all the books suggested.

Today's Picture Books

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Amazing Bear by Lindsay Mattick with illustrations by Sophie Blackall No poetry here. The dramatic tension here is caused by the war setting, I think. I'm kind of lost with the visual metaphor part. I am a word person.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese with illustrations by John O'Brien. Once again, no poetry. The dramatic tension is created because of the newness of what Fibonnaci is doing. The visual metaphor...there are spirals hidden in many of the pictures here. Fibonacci numbers have some scientific (or perhaps mystical) connection to nature and appear in spirals. I've read this before. I still don't get it. Evidently, you have to make a grid of squares and plot these numbers on it and Eureka! you have a spiral. But who came up with the grid idea? Oh, yeah. Fibonacci.

I'm bad with numbers. Bad with visuals. This is not a good ReFoReMo day for me.

Can I use any of the picture book bio suggestions in my picture book manuscript? Well, it's not a bio, but dramatic tension is always good.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 26

From Personal Experience To Fiction With "The Big Sick"

Emily V. Gordon, one of the screenwriters for the movie The Big Sick, which I haven't seen, wrote an excellent article on bringing her and her husband's personal experience into her writing. It's not unusual to see fiction writers being advised to study books on film writing, and I think her essay is a fine piece for fiction writers also. Personal essay writers might want to take a look at it, too.

Two points:

  • How do you make a personal experience universal? 
  • A personal experience expresses something in real life that it may not express on the page.

KidlitCon Coming To Providence In 2019

Kidlitcon, a conference of children's lit bloggers, is planning its 2019 event, and it's going to be in Providence, R.I. Some bloggers I've "known" for years have already signed on. I have commitment issues, but I'm hoping to get there as an attendee. Have already discussed it in-house.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 9

I'm about to catch up on my ReFoReMo project...I'm about to catch up...I'm about to catch up...for a few hours.

So today author Ariel Bernstein writes about using dialogue to create voice in picture books. Dialogue probably is the way to go, because picture books are so short. There's not a lot of space and time for introspection.

This is another one of those days when I was only able to read one of the suggested books.

Today's Picture Book

I loved Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Zachariah OHora when I read it a few years ago, and time has changed nothing. It's still a very funny and clever book. And Bernstein's right. Voice is part of it. Dot's voice when she speaks. This is a third-person book. No first-person depressed or snarky ruminating like you find in YA. What Dot says is what makes Dot Dot.

Can I pay more attention to the dialogue in my picture book manuscript in order to create voice? Yes, indeed, I can.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 25

Reading For Research Month, Day 8

Yes, I am a day off again with my Reading For Research Month material. We're in the midst of another snowstorm here in the northeast, and I spent half of yesterday cooking what was in my fridge in case the power goes out again today. Then there was writers' group last night, which is when I usually blog. Please, April, please come soon so I'll be done with this project. Waily, waily.

So yesterday's post by Matthew Winner was on strong beginnings and endings. Personally, I love parallel construction, and I like endings that mirror beginnings in some way or loop back to them somehow. That, to me, is a strong ending. Or, if we're talking about a story where the character experiences a change (and I know some people would say that that should happen in all stories), I like to see that expressed in some strong yet still subtle way at the end.

I read four of yesterday's ten books.

Day 8 Picture Books

Of the four books I read, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg is the one that I think illustrates a strong beginning and ending the best. "Let me tell you a secret" is the first sentence, the only one on the first page. That's a strong beginning. I don't actually want to give away the strong ending. This is also a good example of second-person point-of-view. (See Day 7.)  I am not a number person, so I'm not the best reader for this book. Nonetheless, I very much admire the concept here.

Charlotte The Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros with illustrations by Brianne Farley is a neat introduction to the scientific method. (I tend to like anthropomorphic rabbits.) The author is walking a tightrope, trying to do a how-to on experiments within a story. So, yes, I guess the ending does hit strong, given that it manages to stick to the story.

Well, now, on second reading I've decided that Shelter by Celine Claire with illustrations by Qin Leng does have a strong beginning and ending. This is what I would call an improving text, something I don't usually care for. But this French import is lovely.

I read Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton with illustrations by Victor Ngai a few weeks ago. I no longer have it, so I can't address the strong beginning and ending issue. The book is a neat example of finding a semi-forgotten historical event and featuring it in a piece of nonfiction, however. We mentioned Dazzle Ships last night at my writers' group.

Can I use a strong beginning and ending with my picture book manuscript? I certainly hope so.

ReFoReMo Books I've Read To Date: 24

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 7

Day 7 of Reading for Research Month is by Sterling editor Christina Pulles and deals with second- person point-of-view. The benefit of second-person point-of-view is that it draws readers into the story. "You're a part of the action." Because you are the you of the story. Additionally, authors can write a variety of stories with it.

I believe this is the first day for which I was able to read all the suggested picture books.

Day 7 Picture Books

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson was used to illustrate how-to books on Day 5, but Pulles describes it as a cause-and-effect book. If you do X, Y will happen. Which is different from how to do something.
Your Alien by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Goro Fujita  and When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore with illustrations by Howard McWilliam are both stories. The you in the narrative makes readers a character in these stories. 

Pulles calls How to Read a Story by Kate Messner with illustrations by Mark Siegel a how-to book, and, like If You Plant a Seed, it was part of the how-to books post on Day 5. The second-person point-of-view would be good to discuss in relation to how-to books.

Love by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Loren Long is, indeed,
a message book, as Pulles says. The second-person point-of-view allows the author to bring the message directly to readers. 

Can I use the second-person point-of-view in my picture book manuscript? I don't know. Perhaps it would be a good idea to do a draft in second person as an exercise. Or maybe a second-person narrator is something I should save for another book.

ReFoReMo Books I've Read To Date: 20

I am caught up with this project for a few hours, maybe a day.

Another nor'easter expected here tomorrow or the next day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 6

On Day 6 of Reading for Research Month, author Keila Dawson discussed tough subjects in picture books. She says such books introduce kids to "characters who have figured out how to cope with difficult circumstances or problems." Actually Dawson's brief paragraph on the subject was quite good. She did quick discussions of each of the books she uses, listing the topics involved and giving what sounds like a moral for the story.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get my hands on one of the six books she recommends.

Day 6 Picture Book

The Water Princess by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds is a lovely book that could easily have spiraled into an instructive problem story, but it most definitely does not. I think a big part of what makes this book so workable is the main character, who fantasizes about being an African princess. Also, she recognizes the struggle she and the women she knows deal with, making a lengthy round-trip each day to get water, but she doesn't lecture the readers about it. The author trusts us to recognize that this is a tough subject.

This book illustrates several points Dawson makes:
  • It's inspired by a real person and a real situation
  • The situation is going to be unfamiliar to most American child readers, but they can empathize with the main character, in large part because she is introduced as someone with an active fantasy life, much as many readers have.
  • This has the potential to spark conversations, particularly because of the back matter. See Day 3.
What does the subject of tough subjects have to do with my picture book manuscript? Nah, really nothing.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 17

Friday, March 09, 2018

What did you do this week. Gail? March 9 Edition

Not a lot. These last two weeks have been cut into with appointments, shopping for necessities, and coping with winter weather. Oh, and also I broke my mother’s new hearing aid and had to make a couple of runs into a medical office with that. (I’ve got another trip to come on that.)

Nevertheless, over the last two weeks I managed to do some more work for:

Goal 1. Submissions. I have a plan to submit at the beginning of each month, and I managed to do that the end of last week. One submission resulted in some interest. Then yesterday, between power outages, I was able to take part in pitmad.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. This has been my big focus with whatever time I could find. I haven't made the kind of progress I'd hoped to these last two weeks, meaning underpainting/blueprinting/outlining new chapters. In order to go on, I had to go back and deal with a secondary character. I did a lot of research and information on her religious background and I'm much happier with her. I also have a better feel for how the next chapter should go. Even how this character should dress.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Picture Book Study. In addition to actually taking part in Reading For Research Month, I've had to do library searches for the picture books and then get them. I've been to the library four times in the last two weeks. Three different libraries. I'm a couple of days behind with this and hoping to find some time this weekend to catch up.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. Got some blog posts done, including the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, but have done a weak job of promoting them. Something else I can catch up on some weekend.

UPDATE: If you're on Facebook, you can check out my Northeaster 2018 Album to see how we managed our big 24-hours without power. Hint...I could still read.

The Das Saga

I'm taking a little break from picture books to write about You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins.  This book features a unique subject, and by that I don’t mean the lives of the Indian family
followed for three generations, but immigration and assimilation. This is a Bengali family, but to some extent they’re experiencing what families from  many cultures have experienced coming to America, with the stresses of living with both the old and the new.

My big interest when considering assimilation into American life is that immigrants lose so much in order to do so, since that was certainly the experience of the Gauthier family. But the second and third generation members of the Das family are still Bengali, as well as American.

Perkins dips into each generation of this family, covering mother, daughters, and granddaughters. My complaint about the book is that I wanted more about these five women. I could have gotten into a Forsyth Saga type read spread over several books.

A thought just occurred to me...In children’s literature we get very thin fantasy stories spread out over three or more books all the time. Why not a family/historical tale?

FTC Transparency Information: I am acquainted with Mitali Perkins, having met her a few times. I know her just well enough to get all "Oh, wow, I know a writer whose book made the long list for the National Book Award" when You Bring the Distant Near did just that.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 5

I'm a day behind with the Reading For Research Month project again, this time because I was caught in a nor'easter last night. We had no power here from 7:30 PM yesterday until around 2:45 PM today. Then it went out again from 4:30 until nearly 7:00. So that's something like 21 hours, when you do the math, with no power and no wifi. No cable. Didn't suffer too badly, as you can see, but I couldn't blog. Woe is me.

But now I can tell you that Day 5 by Patricia Toht was all about how to write "how to" books. There was some interesting material in her post about "how to" books not being character-driven. I wish she'd gone a little more deeply into a couple of her points about progression and arcs.

Like Day 4's post, the book suggestions for Day 5 were not discussed, so readers need to work out for themselves how they illustrate the posters' thesis. Leaving Gail on her own is never a good idea.

I read three of the five books for today.

Today's Picture Books 

What To Do With A Box is another example of wonderful interaction of text (another book by Jane Yolen)  and illustration (Chris Sheban).  To me Yolen's book reads like more of an ode to creativity and, of course, the box, then it does a how-to book. I wonder if this isn't the poetry or picture book equivalent of a shell essay. A shell essay is an essay that's written in a non-essay format. It's called a shell essay because the essay takes on another kind of writing's format the way a hermit crab takes on some other creature's shell. (Actually, I see these are also called hermit crab essays. I don't know where I saw the term shell essay.) I think What To Do With A Box takes on a 'how to" structure, but isn't actually a how-to book itself. But, remember, I'm having to figure this out on my own.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson doesn't actually explain how to do something. It's about the consequences of action and seems much more an extended metaphor than a how-to book. But, again,
that's me working this out for myself. Nelson wrote and illustrated the wonderful We Are The Ship and If You Plant a Seed is a beautiful book both in story and illustration. It proves that Gail can like an improving book. This story has an almost spiritual edge to it and get a load of that bunny! I'm thinking somebody I know is getting this for Easter.

Now How to Read a Story by Kate Messner with illustrations by Mark Siegel, that's a how-to book. There are actual step-by-step instructions, in the text and integrated into the illustrations. Some of them, such as "find a cozy reading spot," are fun and maybe not that technically necessary for reading a book. Others, such as "If there are words you don't know, try sounding them out or looking at the pictures to see what makes sense," sound as if they could have come right from a reading teacher's mouth.

Can I turn my picture book manuscript into a how-to book? Believe it or not, maybe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 4

Okay, I've got an hour or so this evening to catch up with this project.

Today for Reading for Research Month author Baptiste Paul presented material on theme. He described theme as "the big a story," which I found very dissatisfying when I read it this afternoon. But now, after a couple of hours...okay. I get that. All I have for a definition is something like "a world view the author is concerned with" or "a life issue the author wants to explore." Hey, that's a big idea.

Paul makes a point I hadn't thought about. Theme is conveyed through illustrations in picture books as well as text.

Today I read three of the five books suggested. Paul didn't discuss them. Readers are supposed to "objectively read them" ourselves. Yikes.

Today's Picture Books

I have to admit, thematically speaking, Rain by Sam Usher shot over my head. A boy is stuck in the house with his grandfather while it's raining. He wants to go out, but Gramps, who is busy reading a lengthy letter that is sealed with hearts and then responding to it, will have nothing to do with that. Until, of course, he's ready to send out some mail. Then they have an adventure on their way to the mailbox that involves clowns and boats. It's a beautiful book, but I don't get the big idea.

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently & Helen Oxenbury is a traditional story of kids up to their necks in fantasy play. King Jack is fine with fighting dragons in the daylight with his brave knights, but after the other kids head home and Jack's left on his own in the dark, Mom and Dad start looking really good. Now, the big idea/life issue the author and illustrator are dealing with here involves children using fantasy play to deal with frightening things, safe in the knowledge that Mom and Dad are there for him to turn to. (Unless it's something else.) Lovely text in verse, and I'm becoming fond of illustrator Oxenbury.

Of these three books, I thought Daniel Miyares' Float had the strongest theme. A young boy goes out into the rain with his homemade paper boat and has a good time until the boat gets away with him and is ruined. Like Jack in King Jack and the Dragon, this kid turns to Dad, who dries him off and gives him some hot chocolate. Then the kid finds some more paper, makes a plane, and heads out into the sunshine to fly it. The big idea/life issue? We try and fail, and try again. Get knocked down, get back up. Resilience, baby. I like that theme, so I hope I'm right about it applying to Float. And what is particularly interesting about this particular theme in  this particular book? Float has no text. The theme is, indeed, conveyed totally through illustrations.

Many times authors will say that they weren't aware of the themes in their books until after they finished writing them. I've been trying not to do that. I try to to definitely know my theme, and it has to be supported by action, dialogue, etc.

So do I know the theme for my picture book manuscript? Indeed, I do. "Can we control our lives?" Both the child main character and his grandfather support it. Yeah, that's a classic children's book theme.