Perfect Picture Book Friday – My Name Is Not Isabella

Let’s see.

Yesterday (according to my reckoning) was Thursday…

Tomorrow is Saturday (I’m pretty certain this is true, because I’m going to be at the Millbrook Literary Festival along with Iza Trapani, Karen Orloff, Nancy Furstinger, and lots of other wonderful authors, illustrators and friends – you should come join us if you’re in the neighborhood! – we’d love to see you!)…

But wait a second…  Where was I?

Oh yeah.  Yesterday Thursday, tomorrow Saturday, calendar currently saying “FRI”… all of which signs lead me to believe that today is indeed Friday!  Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I love Friday, don’t you? 🙂

So here’s my Perfect Picture Book for the day and then it’s officially the weekend and you should feel free to lie in the hammock with a good book and an iced tea and a large plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies while the kids and the dogs run amok and unsupervised because that’s what weekends are for 🙂  (Alternatively, if it’s as unseasonably warm at your house as it is on Blueberry Hill – 92 degrees on May 17 and 18 I kid you not! – feel free to turn on the sprinkler and run amok through it along with the kids and the dogs 🙂 )

Isabella

Title: My Name Is Not Isabella

Written By: Jennifer Fosberry

Illustrated By: Mike Litwin

SourceBooks Jabberwocky, September 2010, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: careers, imagination, dreams, self-identity, girl power

Opening: “‘Good Morning, Isabella,’ the mother said.  ‘It’s time to get up and out of bed.’
My name is not Isabella!‘ said the little girl.
‘Then who has been sleeping in my daughter’s bed?’ asked the mother.

Brief Synopsis: A little girl goes through her day imagining herself as women she admires for different reasons – an astronaut, an activist, a doctor, etc. – and decides by the end that she is herself but possesses some of the qualities of all these women she looks up to.

Isabella 2

text copyright Jennifer Fosberry 2010, illustration copyright Mark Litwin 2010

Links To Resources: the back matter of the book is an excellent resource with information about all the accomplished women Isabella admires as well as definitions of all their careers; discuss what YOU want to be when YOU grow up!; draw a picture of yourself as the person you imagine becoming; write a poem or a story about yourself as the person you imagine being.

Why I Like This Book: I’m very fond of this book because of its strong girl power theme, the women it celebrates, and the encouragement it gives girls to dream big.  I also like it because, years before it was published, I wrote a similar kind of book, though mine was more imaginative and not focused on famous women 🙂  Still, I like to think great minds think alike 🙂  This book is a great introduction for kids to a number of very accomplished women, and the art brings their fields of endeavor visually to life in a very appealing way.  A great read to foster a discussion of “what I want to be when I grow up”! 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #253 – Colors Want To Play (PB)

Happy National Pack Rat Day Everyone!

For those of you who weren’t born back in the middle of the last century, a pack rat is what you young whippersnappers these days call a hoarder.  Take this quiz to see if you are one:

Instructions: For each question choose ONE answer – A, B, OR C

1. You have no intention of cleaning your closets, basement, garage, attic, or any other room today or any day!

A.  Are you nuts?  Of COURSE I plan to clean!  What kind of filthmonger do you take me for?

B.  Are we talking cleaning as in applying Lysol to surfaces and removing cobwebs, or as in getting rid of potentially valuable stuff? (which, we are word people here so we have to split hairs and define this as decluttering as opposed to cleaning!) Cleaning is acceptable (as long as it’s not overdone), decluttering is not to be entertained for one second!

C.  What’s cleaning?

2. You spy the clean, empty box that your birthday Moose Munch came in on the coffee table and

A. Throw that useless piece of garbage in the single-stream recycling bin and feel virtuous for your efforts to stop global warming!

B. Pick the box up and look at it from every angle and think that you could potentially use it to wrap the 10 bars of expensive specialty soap you give Great-Aunt Joan for Christmas every year, or as the cockpit for the rocket ship your son will have to make for the Science Fair in two years because his sister had to do one last year so you know it’ll be his turn next, or to collect buttons or possibly old cell phone chargers in, and put it back on the coffee table so you’ll know where to find it when you need it.

C. Seriously?  The Moose Munch is gone?  When did THAT happen?!

3. You’re walking the dog and notice that your three-doors-down neighbor apparently suffered a Spring Cleaning Attack and left a whole pile of stuff at the curb for the Thursday trash pick-up.  You

A. Hurry past because by gum! you feel a Spring Cleaning Attack coming on too and you’re anxious to get home and take advantage of it before it passes!

B. Tie the dog’s leash around your waist so you have both hands free to carry off the only slightly smelly comfy reading chair that is certainly nothing a little Febreze can’t fix!, the almost perfect lamp that only needs a shade, a bulb and a new electrical cord, and the vintage bookshelf that only needs shelves to round out your brand new-to-you cozy reading nook!

C. Try the large hula hoop but it’s too big, try the medium hula hoop but it’s bent into an egg-shape and won’t hula, then try the small hula hoop and discover that it’s Just Right!

Now.  For every answer “A” give yourself 37 points.  For every answer “B” give yourself 3.5 points.  For every answer “C” give yourself 4,567 points.

If your score is more than 4,567 points you have good taste in activities and snacks and are likely footloose and fancy free!

If your score is more than 15 points but less than 4,567 points, you may suffer from obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder and should gradually desensitize yourself to dirt and clutter by sitting in a sandbox full of sand toys and trucks with a toddler for an hour every day!

If your score is less than 15, you have a great imagination and would make a great writer!  You are also a pack rat! Congratulations!  🙂

Now that you’ve enjoyed that little smidgerel of enlightenment (isn’t it always fun to learn something new about yourself?) let’s get on with the items on today’s agenda!

First, I’m thrilled to announce that the winner of the April Pitch Pick is Ana with her PB pitch for No More Cats!  Congratulations, Ana!  Your pitch has been sent to editor Erin Molta for her thoughts, and you were hopefully hear from her before too long!

Congratulations also to our other brave and talented pitchers who wrote wonderful pitches, and then took the incredibly helpful advice supplied by our cherished readers to heart and wrote great revisions!  It’s no easy thing to put yourself out there for comment and critique, and it can be hard to part with a pitch you’ve worked on and polished when feedback suggests it could benefit from changes.  So pat yourselves on the back and have…

. . . Something Chocolate!

This morning, we are serving Chocolate Lasagna Cupcakes because why not?! 🙂

chocolate-lasagna-cupcakes

Recipe HERE at CakesCottage

I have one word:  YUM!

(Okay, five words… YUM! YUM!! YUM!!! YUM!!!! YUM!!!!! 🙂 )

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Erin who says, “I am a member of both SCBWI and the12x12 Writing Challenge. I have many family and friends entrenched in education, from teaching to administration throughout the Hudson Valley and Northern NJ areas. I have an undergraduate degree in English and am working on a new blog as well.”

Find her on the web at:

Twitter: @erin_forrester

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Colors Want To Play

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-6)

The Pitch: In COLORS WANT TO PLAY, colors (and maybe you) unravel in a fun-filled journey of demanding direction from the hues themselves. One color is missing and needs some coaxing to join the others. Readers learn the ride can be just as much fun as the destination. Don’t forget comfortable shoes!

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Erin improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

 

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in June, so you have a little time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and have a chance to have it read by editor Erin Molta!

Erin is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to a day of writing which involves no cleaning or decluttering of any kind – celebrating my inner Pack Rat! 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Monday Funday Short & Sweet

Hey, Everybody!

Do you know what day it is?

If you said the third Monday of the month, Monday Funday, the day Short & Sweets returns to a blog near you (er… this one! 🙂 ) then you win the penny prize!

SS Spring Badge Susanna Hill - Final Small

badge created by Loni Edwards

The object of Short & Sweets is to jump start our writing, whether it’s Monday morning or any other time of the week.  Short & Sweets are fun little exercises we can do together and share to get the writing sparks flying!  We will all inspire each other’s creativity.

I’ll supply a challenge.  You put your response in the comments.  Then scroll through and see how everybody else responded.  Maybe whatever you thought up won’t spark a story idea for you, but maybe someone else’s response will!  (And don’t worry – everything will be vague enough that there’s no way 2 people will ever write the same story off the same prompt.  It just doesn’t work that way :))

So are you ready?

Pull up a chair amongst your friends here, help yourself to a breakfasty snack, and let’s get writing!

coffeetea bagels

Here’s today’s challenge: (we’re going nice and simple to ease you in… 🙂 )

Write the opening sentence of a picture book.

The sentence should introduce the main character and the story problem.

For example:  Ava had a hard time falling asleep.

Easy peasy, right?!

Let’s see how many opening sentences we can generate!  Feel free to share more than one!

I’ll start.

Jasmine Bloom had the worst superhero power ever!

Now you go…!

I can’t wait to see what opening sentences you come up with!

Happy writing everyone!  Have a marvelous Monday! 🙂

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Lost Cat

Golly!  What a week!

A graduation!  A twentieth birthday! And first copies of three new books!  All within 5 days!

It’s no wonder I don’t know where the week went, yet here we are at Friday again!

Friday is a really excellent day.  It means we’re about to get a weekend, and it means a list of Perfect Picture Books to enjoy over that weekend – an unbeatable combination!  All we need to make it true perfection is a nice chocolatey snack to go along with our picture books and our weekend 🙂  (Those of us who are mothers might luck out 🙂 )

I had another book in mind for today.  Something Mother’s Day-ish.  Based on the jacket copy I thought I’d love it.  But when I read it my reaction could only be described as meh (not what you want for a Perfect Picture Book!) and then I read this one and loved it start to finish, so there was really no contest, even though technically this one is NOT Mother’s Day-ish.  Preconceived idea out, awesome surprise book in 🙂  I hope you like it too 🙂

Title: Lost Cat

Written & Illustrated By: C. Roger Mader

Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, October 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: journey, pets, love (person/pet)

Opening: “Ever since Slipper was a tiny kitten, she’d lived with a little old lady in a little old house in a little old town.”

Brief Synopsis: Slipper has always lived happily with Mrs. Fluffy Slippers, but when Mrs. Fluffy Slippers moves, Slipper accidentally gets left behind in the commotion.  Slippers searches for a new home, but not just any home will do – it has to be the right one.  Will she find a new family she can adopt?

Links To Resources: Washington Children’s Choice Award Activities (scroll about 1/2 way down the pdf); Fun Facts About Cats; How To Draw A Cat video; learn to draw a cat step-by-step guide.

(Sorry – I can’t make that picture turn the right way around so you’ll have to tilt your head! 🙂 )

Why I Like This Book: First and foremost, I love the art!  Soft pastels that render that beautiful kitty so life-like!  Her expressions are perfect, especially her fright at High Tops, her polite pleading with Miss Shiny Shoes, and her bliss on the last two pages.  And the cat’s-eye-view perspective is wonderful.  The story is a sweet one with both humorous and poignant moments.  I love that all the people in the story are named for their footwear – which is what Slippers sees of them first 🙂  And most of all, I love that this lost cat story has a happy ending 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Oh, and P.S.  For those of you who didn’t already see it on FaceBook, my single first copies of my new books DID arrive 🙂 🙂 🙂

IMG_2806

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #252 – Princess Ickybelle (PB) PLUS The April Pitch Pick!

Holy Anticipation, Batman!  I am on pins and needles!

Why? you may well ask.

Well, I’ll tell you!

I have just (yesterday afternoon) been informed that advance copies (one each) of WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH, WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES, and THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT are speeding toward Blueberry Hill as we speak!!!  They could get here today!!!  (OK.  Probably not.)  But maybe tomorrow!!! Or Friday!!!

Luckily I have a school visit today to keep me from setting up camp at the mailbox.  But tomorrow, if you need me, I’ll be out there in my tent just a-waitin’! 🙂

Meanwhile, let’s do the April Pitch Pick, shall we?  Our talented pitchers all revised their original pitches in response to your valuable input.  Read on to see their new and (hopefully!) improved pitches.  Decide which one you think is best and deserves a read and comments from editor Erin Molta and vote for it in the poll below!

#1 – Ana –  Working title: No More Cats
Genre: Picture Book. Ages: 3 to 6
Revised Pitch: When Lilly’s dad agrees to adopt a cat, he thinks one will suffice. But now Lilly seems to be on a mission to rescue every stray she encounters; a calico evading traffic, a kitten rummaging through trash, a tabby outrunning a dog. One by one the cat count rises while the number of potted plants and dad’s patience decreases. Together they must find new homes for their furry friends to make life sane again.

#2 – Joan –  Working Title: The New Girl or Cross-Stitch Crossbones
Genre/Age Range: MG
Revised Pitch:  Twelve-year old Jenna has been dealing with her FBI dad’s disappearance for over a year. When her mother is deployed to Afghanistan, Jenna must go to live with her grandparents in rural NC.

To help Jenna make new friends and handle the separation from her parents, grandma tries to interest Jenna in cross-stitch. At grandma’s cross-stitch group, Jenna makes her first friend of her own age—Colinda, who does cross stitch to spend time with her own grandma. Colinda is a student leader not afraid to make friends a new girl. Colinda introduces Jenna to other students but advises Jenna the best way to make new friends is to participate in activities. Jenna agrees to start a walking program to get in shape for the coming tryouts for the track team. On Jenna’s first walk, however, she discovers a skeleton! Colinda, some of Jenna’s other new friends, and the ladies of the stitchery group all prove helpful in uncrossing the jumbled bones of the mysterious skeleton.

#3 – Gabi – Working Title: A WORTHY CAPTAIN WAS SHE
Genre/Age Range: PB Fiction (ages 3 and up)
Revised Pitch:
Captain Sea Lion stuck firm to her rulebook. Rule number one: a worthy captain never turns back. Danger befalls hearties who do! But when stubborn Pelican squawks “sail back” like a broken distress call, Captain must face her own stubbornness and choose between empathy and fear.

Fans of Crankenstein and The Princess and the Pony will appreciate A WORTHY CAPTAIN WAS SHE—a quirky celebration of friendship and reconsidering rules.

#4 – Emmie –  Working Title:  JESSIE’S DREAM
Genre/Age Range: PB @5-8
Revised Pitch:  Jessie’s dream is to play baseball again with her team. Her reality is sitting out the season because of surgery requiring her to wear a halo cast.  Her friends pitch in to make her dream come true – a baseball field adapted just for Jessie!

Please vote for the one you like best in the poll below by Sunday May 14 at 5 PM Eastern!

 

Whew!  It is always such a tough choice, isn’t it?  I think all that brain-strain calls for a restorative.  And what could be more restorative than Something Chocolate?! 🙂  Grab a fork, pull up a stool, and join us at the table.  Today we’re having Oreo Chunk Cookie Pie!

Oreo Chunk Cookie Pie!

Just because it might not be the most obvious breakfast choice doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dig in.  It’s important to think outside the box.  Because after all, as writers, thinking outside the box is in our job description 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Joanna.  A displaced Canadian and painfully slow runner, Joanna Biggs has been writing since childhood, when she kept her teachers’ in-trays busy with piles of new stories. Her head space is usually taken up with zany, colourful characters who stick around until their stories are put to paper. In between naps on her keyboard, Joanna is currently writing the next picture book in the Princess Ickybelle series. When not napping and writing, Joanna can be found traveling around Europe and Asia with her husband and children. She is currently based in rural England, where she writes and runs a popular book club.

Find her on the web at:

twitter: @joanna_biggs
facebook: www.facebook.com/joanna.biggs2
new website coming soon

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Princess Ickybelle

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: When messy and mucky Princess Ickybelle needs a bath, the fed-up Queen calls for help. Queen Granny arrives with some terrific tricks up her sleeve but Princess Ickybelle leads Granny on a wild goose chase around the castle, determined to foil Granny’s perfect plans. When the Princess finally succumbs to a scrubbing, she discovers that some Princesses aren’t meant to stay spotless for long.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Joanna improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

 

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in June, so you have a little time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and have a chance to have it read by editor Erin Molta!

Joanna is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to SEEING MY NEW BOOKS!!!!!  (I feel like Animal on Sesame Street – all wild hair and eyes and incoherent yelling! 🙂 )

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Giant Jam Sandwich

Today is a big day!

Our little boy is graduating from college!

Scan 157

One moment he was running around the house in nothing but a diaper singing “Oklahoma” at the top of his 21-month-old voice (yes, I have video footage but I think I’ve embarrassed him enough just by mentioning this 🙂 ), the next he’s a smart, kind, funny, lovable, handsome 21-year-old young man (nope, not at all biased 🙂 ) setting off into the world.

So I though I’d celebrate the day by sharing one of his favorite picture books – possibly THE favorite of all time for him 🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

giant jam sandwich

Title: the Giant Jam Sandwich

Written & Illustrated By: John Vernon Lord (with verses by Janet Burroway)

HMH Books For Young Readers, April 1987, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: humor/nonsense, teamwork, creative thinking/ingenuity

Opening: “One hot summer in Itching Down,
Four million wasps flew into town.
They drove the picnickers away,
They chased the farmers from the hay,
They stung Lord Swell on his fat bald pate,
They dived and hummed and buzzed and ate…”

Brief Synopsis: When four million wasps come to Itching Down, the villagers must figure out how to get them to leave.

Links To Resources: what kind of pests might come to your town or village?  what would you do to outwit them?  draw a picture of your plan and/or write a poem or a story about how you would defeat the pests!

giant jam sandwich int

Why I Like This Book: It is impossible not to love a book where 4 million wasps come to town and the obvious solution is a giant jam sandwich 🙂  I love that no one thinks of anything violent – they think, what do wasps love?  Strawberry jam, of course!  So let’s make bread that requires a scaffold to slice, tractors and horses to pull, and helicopters to drop.  The nonsensical, fun plan – exactly the kind of thing a child might think up and find perfectly reasonable! – makes for a most entertaining read.  As I can attest.  Since I think I read about 4 million times 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday #251 – Follow In My Footsteps (PB)

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Oh!  Sorry!

Didn’t mean to terrify you first thing in the morning with my singing! 🙂

But Mr. Rogers’s song leapt to mind because I DO have new neighbors!  They just moved in a couple of houses down the road!

Would you like to meet them?

“Looooooook!” (she cooed in her best isn’t-that-just-the-cutest-darned-thing-you-ever-saw voice)

 

IMG_2668  Version 2

Two little 12-week-old sister puppies from a local shelter!  Are they so cute?  Really, everyone should have puppies available for those moments when you need a bit of cheering.  There’s nothing like those soft, cuddly, wriggling little bundles of ecstatic, warm-hearted, tail-wagging, face-licking joy.  They make any day better 🙂  Please feel free to say “Awwww!” and indulge your puppy lust by looking at these cuties as much as you want 🙂

And now, to make up for shocking you awake with my ear-splitting rendition of Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood, let’s have Something Chocolate, shall we?  I think we’ll go simple, classic, deliciousness this morning with Fudgy Cocoa Brownies! (After all, cocoa is a breakfast item!)

Best Fudgy Cocoa Brownies

Fudgy-Cocoa-Brownies-13

Recipe HERE at CafeDelites

These delicious dark chocolate breakfast morsels go perfectly with your breakfast beverage of choice – coffee, cappuccino, iced coffee, mochaccino, coffee, latte, coffee, milk, or coffee!

(Did I overdo stressing the breakfast appropriateness? 🙂 )

Mmmmmm!  Heavenly!

I think we can agree that all’s right with the world after puppies and fudgy brownie goodness! 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Gabrielle who says, “Fledgling writer. Current member of 12 X 12, SCBWI and Maryland Writers Association.
Get a lot of my ideas from day to day life with my delightful 12 year old lacrosse and soccer player (and cello) who is helping me survive middle school!”

Find her on the web at:

“blog in progress”: https://gabrielle1956@wordpress.com
on facebook as Gabrielle Copeland Schoeffield

 

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Follow In My Footsteps

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: When his dad is injured on a winter hike, Zach must find help. Without a cell phone or map, he worries he won’t find the way home in time until his father’s words echo in his head, “Just follow in my footsteps.”

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Gabrielle improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

 

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in June, so you have a little time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and have a chance to have it read by editor Erin Molta!

Gabrielle is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to picking up # 4 from the airport (which is probably where I am while you’re reading this!) I am always happy to have my kiddos home even if it’s only for about 5 minutes! 🙂  And I’m not saying for sure, but it’s always possible the trip will involve a stop at Dunkin’.  These trips tend to.  After all, America runs on Dunkin’ and I am very patriotic when donuts are involved 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

 

Oh, Susanna! What Verbs Should I Avoid And Why?

Hey, Everyone!

What an exciting day it is!

It’s time for . . .

(cue dramatic soap opera theme music 🙂 )

. . . the long-awaited return of Oh, Susanna! (your picture book questions answered!)

Today’s question comes to us from BoldWriter who wonders:

In writing picture books strong verbs are a must. My question is this,
‘What are the most common verbs to avoid using, if possible, and why?’

BoldWriter, I’m so glad you asked!

As writers, it is our goal to express ourselves with the strongest, most articulate, most evocative language we can muster.  We use our words to bring stories to life for our readers.  In addition, as writers of picture books, our word count is extremely limited and we never want to use two or three words where one will do… and do a better job!

We’ve probably all seen those blog posts or articles that instruct us on The 5 Verbs To Avoid At All Costs! or how to Make Your Story Jump Off The Page By Eliminating These Action-Sucking Verbs!

It’s tempting to try to come up with a list.  It would be so simple, wouldn’t it, if we had a list of No-No Verbs that we could just search our documents for and remove, thereby turning our stories into perfect gems of literary genius?! 🙂

But it isn’t quite that simple.  (It never is with writing 🙂 )  While there are a few verbs you want to try to avoid when you can, it’s more an overall question of choosing the right word in every instance throughout your story – not just verbs, but nouns and the very judicious sprinkling of adjectives and adverbs we use where necessary and appropriate.  Every word has to earn its place in your picture book manuscript.  As George Carlin said, “There are no such things as bad words.  Only poor choices.” 🙂

So while I can’t necessarily give you a be-all-and-end-all list of verbs to avoid, there are a few verbs that belong on the Use-With-Caution list for one reason or another:

CAUTION! (1)

to be (am, is, was, were, etc.)
to do (does, did)
to go (go, went)
to have (has, had)
to seem
to feel
to think
to believe
to know

Others to use carefully include:

to get
to make
to let
to put

I don’t imagine this is an exhaustive list, but it names the majority of the main culprits.  (Readers, if there are others that leap to mind, please share them in the comments!)

The potential pitfall of most of the verbs on this list is that they are weak and/or vague.  They lure you into using modifiers (a word, phrase, or clause which functions as an adjective or adverb to describe a word or make its meaning more specific) when you’d be better off choosing a stronger more descriptive verb to begin with.

A weak verb will fit almost anywhere because it’s nonspecific.  A strong verb uses context to be the best verb for that spot.

Why say I went when you could say:

I skipped
I strolled
I dashed
I wandered
I galloped
I biked
I tiptoed
etc…?

Any of the alternate choices is stronger, clearer and more active, and conveys more information.  In addition, each of the alternate choices indicate very different things occurring in the story – someone who is wandering is a different kind of character, or is in a different situation, than someone who is galloping.  The alternate choices rely on context.

The verb to be has added dangers.

  1. It may take you down the “telling” path (you know, Show’s arch nemesis 🙂 ) and invite you to use weak descriptors like “nice” and “great” or vague descriptors like “big”.  Let’s look at an example:
    The building was big.
    Well, how big?  We’re being told something but not shown.  Is it bigger than a car?bigger than a house?  bigger than a mountain?
    The verb to be has led us astray! 🙂
    A better way to say it would be:
    The building thrust its peak into the clouds.
    Thrust is a stronger verb than was and used in conjunction with the clouds allows us to envision how big the building is.  It also conveys a sense of action.
  2. It may inadvertently set you up for passivity.  For example:
    Lucie and Lily were looked on with disgust after they ate a mustard sundae.
    “Were looked on” is passive – the action is being done to the characters instead of the characters doing the action.  Who is looking on Lucie and Lily with disgust and why should we care?  You’d be better off with something like:
    The whole first grade avoided Lucie and Lily after the mustard sundae episode.  “You guys are disgusting!”

The verbs to feel, to think, to believe, to seem, and to know are in a slightly different category.  They create unnecessary distance and weaker forms of expression.  For example:

Joe thought the goblin smelled like toe jam.

Does the goblin smell like toe jam or doesn’t he?

If he does, it would be a stronger statement to simply say: The goblin smelled like toe jam.  If he doesn’t, there’s no reason to bring it up at all! (I mean really, why would you bring up toe jam if you didn’t have to? 🙂 )

Most times if you find you’ve used think, know, believe, seem, or feel, you can simply cut them to make your sentence stronger and more active.

Choosing strong verbs and nouns also has the advantage of allowing you to avoid flowery or overly descriptive language which a) runs up your word count, b) slows the pace of your story, c) can distract from the action, and d) can potentially confuse picture book aged readers.

All verbs, however, even those on the caution list,  are useful and have their place, and in some cases are the best choice when you want to stay simple and direct.

For example:

Phyllis was not like the other groundhogs.

Yes, I used the verb to be.  But as an opening sentence, this is simple and direct and conveys immediately the information that Phyllis is different.  In this case (I would argue 🙂 ) the verb to be was the right verb for the job.

So it’s not really that there are verbs you want to avoid.  Rather, you want to choose the strongest word you can in any instance, verb or otherwise – the word that does the very best job of conveying your meaning in that sentence.

Part of the fun of writing is polishing our work until it shines, going over and over our sentences until each word is perfect.  🙂

BoldWriter, I hope that answers your question, at least somewhat!

And now, I open the floor to readers.  Do you have thoughts on verb usage?  Do you have a list of verbs you avoid?

Please feel free to email me your picture book writing, reading or teaching questions!  The next installment of Oh, Susanna! will be Monday June 5.

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! 🙂

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – How The Sun Got To Coco’s House

Hey there, picture book peeps!  Happy Friday! 🙂

I have such a lovely book to share with you today!

(It’s just a teensy bit possible that my choice was inspired by the fact that we’ve had nothing but gray skies, clouds, and rain for so long I’ve forgotten what the sun looks like and I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, the sun will find its way to Susanna’s house 🙂 )

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Title: How The Sun Got To Coco’s House

Written & Illustrated By: Bob Graham

Candlewick, September 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: nature, writing (personification), language (poetic)

Opening: “It had to start somewhere.  While Coco slept far away, the sun crept up slowly behind a hill, paused for a moment, and seemed to think twice…before it plunged down the other side and skidded giddily across the water.

Brief Synopsis: The sun comes up and takes a poetic journey across the world to Coco’s house.

Links To ResourcesWarmth Of The Sun discussion and activity; Shadow Play classroom activity; measuring solar activity; info about the sun with 17 related links; sun coloring pages; Happy Sunshine Cookie recipeRenewable Solar

Why I Like This Book: How can you not love a book that contains phrases like “skidded giddily across the water”?  The whole story is a gentle, lovely, poetic description of how the sun comes up, travels across the world touching everything in its path with light and warmth, and finally arrives at Coco’s house to spend the day.  It’s a very quiet book, but one that can be enjoyed for the beauty of the language, the deceptive simplicity of the art (wait until you see the pinks and golds), and the feeling of comfort bestowed by the fact that, come what may, the sun rises each morning and makes a new day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!  Adding your themes seemed to work pretty well last week – woo hoo! 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

P.S. The general opinion on Wednesday seemed to be in favor of reinstating Oh, Susanna! (your picture book questions answered 🙂 )  Since the first Monday of May happens to be in about 12 minutes, if anyone has a question they’d like to submit for an answer, please send it right along!!!

 

Would You Read It Wednesday #250 – Jessie’s Dream (PB)

Good Morning Everyone!

It’s a Whirlwind Wednesday today!

I’m off to two days of school visits, having just returned from the awesomeness that was NESCBWI.  What an amazing, inspiring weekend, and how fun it was to see so many online friends in real life!

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me, along with some of the wonderful people I’m lucky enough to call friends! at NESCBWI

Apparently the NESCBWI experience has fired me up 🙂  I was thinking it would be fun to bring back a couple of features I haven’t run in a while on this blog.  I’d love to know how you guys would feel about it, and whether or not one or both features are of interest to you!

First, I was thinking about reviving Oh, Susanna! the picture book equivalent of Dear Abby 🙂 where writers can post questions about techniques, process, and business of writing, teachers can ask questions about finding useful books or making writing fun in the classroom, and parents can ask for recommendations on specific subjects of interest (trucks, dinosaurs, etc.) or for addressing areas of concern (monsters, new siblings etc.) for the picture book reading crew at their house.

Oh, Susanna!

 

I was thinking of running Oh, Susanna! on the first Monday of each month.

Second, I thought I might revive Short & Sweets, fun writing exercises we can do on our own or in the group here to get the ideas and words flowing – great for writers, and great for teachers who might want a fun writing activity to do with their classes.

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I was thinking of running Short & Sweets on the third or fourth Monday of each month.

So what do you guys think?  Any interest in either of those things?  Would they be helpful to you?  Or is there something else you’d like to see?

Let me know in the comments!

Gosh!  All the excitement of contemplating new/old blog series has caused me to experience low blood sugar!  I feel the need for Something Chocolate, don’t you?! 🙂  This is a really healthy one, too, because look!  Berries! 🙂

No Bake Three Chocolate Cake

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Recipe HERE at CookingLSL

Ah!  That’s better!  I hope you feel refreshed! 🙂

Let’s launch into today’s pitch which comes to us from Emmie who says, “I am a retired first grade teacher. Member of SCBWI. Active in my local critique group and have attended conferences in Indiana. I just recently joined 12 x 12.”

Find her on the web at:
www.EmmieRWerner.com

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Jessie’s Dream

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 6-8)

The Pitch: Jessie’s dream is to play baseball with her friends. Her reality is sitting on her porch listening to baseball because she has a halo cast. Until…..that’s what friends are for.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Emmie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

 

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in June, so you have a little time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and have a chance to have it read by editor Erin Molta!

Emmie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on reviving (or not reviving!) Oh, Susanna! and Short & Sweets, or your other ideas of what you’d like to see offered here!!!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂