Pie for Chuck

Every now and again I come across a book and as I read it I think “I wonder.” Pie for Chuck by Pat Schories is part of Holiday House’s I Like to Read line.  They call them easy-reading picture books.  I would simply call them easy readers or beginning readers.  Tomayto.  Tomahto.

As I read this one, I wondered what the author’s inspiration was.  As several writing conferences, I’ve heard editors ask writers not to submit one particular Institute of Children’s Literature assignment.  Everyone has to work from this particular prompt and way too many of these stories are submitted to publishers.  The prompt is a bunny rabbit sitting beneath a window where a pie is cooling on the window sill.

In Pie for Chuck, we meet a woodchuck named . . . Chuck . . . who loves pie.  Chuck cannot reach the pie that is cooling on the window sill. Neither can Raccoon or Rabbit or the chipmunk or the group of mice.

See, there’s the Rabbit in the middle of the group.  What can I say?  I just wonder if this started out as an ICL story.

If so, good for Schories for creating an assigned story that found, perhaps in a slightly altered form, publication.

Whether or not this was an ICL story, I also appreciate that it successfully breaks rules.  Which rules?  The rules about cute animal names. Granted, Schories didn’t use Bobby Bunny or Walter Woodchuck but the woodchuck is Big Chuck and the chipmunk is Chip.

I suspect that this works in part because it isn’t, strictly speaking, a picture book.  As an early reader, illustrations give the new reader clues to help decipher the text.  In this case, the illustration matches the type of animal matches the name. Big Chuck and Chip actually shake things up a little bit because they aren’t named Woodchuck or Chipmunk whereas other animals are named Rabbit and Raccoon.

Yes, you can break rules but you have to do so in a way that makes your story work for your reader.