One Writer’s Journey

February 23, 2015

Book Love Blog Hop: There’s a lot of Beginning Readers to love

Here I am at the tail end (yes, I meant to say tail) of the Book Love Blog Hop.  I was invited to participate in this February long event by writing buddy Peggy Asher.  Book Love gives us a chance to write about books we love, and I have to say that I’ve read some great books lately. Today I’m going to focus on beginning readers.
First of all, I ‘d like to recommend Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant. I got to know this series as the mother of a young reader so I can tell you this — if you want to write early readers, read Cynthia Rylants books.  She has both the Mr. Putter and Tabby series and the Henry and Mudge series.  It isn’t easy to create characters with depth as well as solid plots in this brief format but Rylant succeeds and adds humor as well.
Another author who pulls this off is Mo Willems with his Elephant and Piggie series, including one of his recent titles, Waiting Is Not Easy.  Part of the reason that Willems’ books are such a hit is that children identify with these characters.  This particular book is about waiting for a surprise and Elephant is the quintessential impatient child.  Willems’ books are much simpler than Rylants.  He aims for the very youngest new readers.  His illustrations are so expressive that they add depth to his book.
Last but not least, I’d like to recommend Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo.  Di Camillo’s books are for slightly older readers, more advanced than Rylant’s readers.  She doesn’t write down to her readers as you can see when you encounter phrases like “very exceptionally cheap.” Readers will work through the challenge for the laugh-out-loud humor in her stories.
If you are interested in writing beginning readers, check these books out and make note of the differences.  Willems uses no chapters because he is writing for the youngest end of this audience.  Rylant’s books have chapters but aren’t as difficult as Di Camillo’s books which also have chapters.  Note the changes in the humor and the vocabulary.
It isn’t an easy market to break into but these are definitely the books to study.  Write like this, and your work will stand against the best.

January 13, 2012

Beginning Readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
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Here is the stack of easy readers from Viking and Penguin that I just finished.

  1. Bones and the Dinosaur Mystery by David A. Adler
  2. Young Cam Jansen and the 100th Day of School by David A. Adler
  3. Young Cam Jansen and the Ice Skate Mystery by David A. Adler
  4. Cork and Fuzz: Good Sports by Dori Chaconas
  5. Lionel’s Birthday by Stephen Krensky
  6. Fox and His Friends by Edward Marshall
  7. Fox in Love by Edward Marshall.
  8. Three by the Sea by Edward Marshall.
  9. Pearl and Wagner: Two Good Friends by Kate McMullan.
  10. Park and Wagner: One Funny Day by Kate McMullan
  11. Oliver and Amanda: Amanda Pig, First Grader by Jean Van Leeuwen

You already know that if you want to write something — young adult mysteries, picture books, science articles — that that is what you need to read.  But this is especially true if you want to write beginning readers.  Make certain you are reading beginning readers and not picture books!

How will you know?

  1. Look for the publisher’s series name.  Easy-to-read, Rookie Readers, etc.
  2. Beginning readers are generally marked with a reading level.  Most lines have three or more levels.
  3. Beginning readers are smaller than picture books, designed to look like big kid books.
  4. The print in beginning readers is larger than that in most picture books.
  5. Most beginning readers have “chapters” although there are seldom more than three.
  6. The illustrations in beginning readers do not add another dimension to the story.  They illustrate the story in a way that makes the text easier to decipher.

That’s all for now.  I’ll be posting more on beginning readers as I work up a few manuscripts to submit.


September 16, 2010

Surprise Endings

For me, one of the trickiest things about writing picture books and early readers is creating the surprise ending, that twist that leaves your reader smiling.  Fortunately, I recently read several of the Gilbert books by Diane deGroat before interviewing her for an article that I’m writing for Children’s Writer.

In each and every one of her books, she creates a twist.   In Gilbert, the Surfer Dude, her character Gilbert goes to the beach with his family.  When he gets there, he realizes that he’s forgotten his swim trunks.  When they go to buy a new pair, the ones that he picks are far too large.  After he looses them in the surf, Gilbert decides that, although he wasn’t scared, it might be better to spend some time with his little sister in the kiddie pool she has built on the beach.

How did deGroat lead up to this ending so that it wasn’t completely unexpected?  In several ways.

  • Gilbert’s sister is reading a book about ocean life and it scares her.  She refuses to go into the water.
  • Mother is sure Sister will want to swim in her new suit.
  • In his new suit, Gilbert is more than a possum (implying that as a possum he is less).
  • Gilbert helps his sister dig a hole and fill her pool up.
  • The surf is more than Gilbert can handle and it bowls him over.
  • He tries one more time and sees a scary shape in the water.

These events and emotions work toward one end — the ocean can be scary and a bit more than some possums (or people) can handle.  With so much detail throughout the story, digging and filling the pool don’t stand out.   Instead, it comes across as a bit more information that establishes that his sister is scared.  In reality, these are the details that anchor the surprise ending in the rest of the story.

What kinds of details can you use in your own picture book or beginning reader to establish character and, later, supply a surprising twist to the end of your story?


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