One Writer’s Journey

January 7, 2019

Picture Books: Sending a Message without Preaching

Every now and again I find a book, flip to the publishing information and see the date and think, “Where has this book been for so long? Why did I take so long to find it?”  That was my reaction to Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt.

If you haven’t read this book, my post is pretty much one great big spoiler.  So if you read on, no fussing.  Seriously.

Sofia discovers that Maddi’s mom can’t afford groceries but she has promised not to tell.  How do you write a picture book that deals with hunger without being preachy?  Here are five things that Brandt did that make this picture book work.

  1.  Make it about something else. On one level, this is in fact a book about hunger.  But it is primarily a book about friendship. Sofia can’t stand that her friend is hungry.  Because of this, she works to feed Maddi which leads us to #2.
  2. Have the young character struggle to solve the problem. Sofia tries.  She takes Maddi left over fish from her own family dinner.  Hint – fish does not travel well in a backpack.  Next she tries eggs.  Again, yuck.  But she is trying and that is #3.
  3. Show the struggle.  Again and again Sofia tries to solve the problem.  But she is also faced with a moral struggle.  She has promised not to tell and this again takes us to #4.
  4. Make it real.  Sofia wants to be a good friend.  That means she has to keep her word.  But would a good friend let someone go hungry?  Eventually she decides that the answer is “no, she would not”  and that takes us to #5.
  5. Weave it into a Story. Brandt does more than send the message – we need to do something about hunger.  She weaves the theme surrounding hunger into a story about two very likeable girls.  It is Maddi’s fridge.  It is Sofia and Maddi’s story.

Ultimately, that is what makes it work.



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