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 6, 2014

Kate DiCamillo

My favorite book by Ambassador Kate DiCamillo.

Ambassador Kate DiCamillo.

I have to admit — I like the sound of that which is a good thing since DiCamillo was recently named the fourth national ambassador for young people’s literature.  The ceremony will be held at the Library of Congress on January 10.  

The first person to receive this honor was Jon Sciezka who makes complete sense to me since his books are so appealing.  He was followed by Katherine Paterson in 2010 and Walter Dean Myers in 2012.  Me?  I’m truly looking forward to DiCamillo’s tenure.

Given all of the books that she’s written and how amazing her body of work is, one series in particular stands out for me and that’s Mercy Watson.  At one point, Mercy Watson formed the core of our read aloud library.  We all adore this pig with a thing for hot-buttered toast, tutus and the occasional tiara.  And it wasn’t just the humor.

I also loved DiCamillo’s willingness to cross boundaries.   The Mercy Watson books aren’t just chapter books, they are chapter books with full color illustrations.  To pull this off, DiCamillo had to sacrifice the chapter book’s typical length to give plenty of space to Chris Van Dusen’s illustrations.  Not sure what I mean?  The first book, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, is only 1929 words long.  On the short end, The Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark is 4737 words long.  On the long end, The Boxcar Children is 17,087 words long.

We all talk about breaking new ground and most of us have a manuscript that isn’t easily categorized.  DiCamillo shows us that these pieces can sell, and sell well, but that we may have to be willing to give something up to make the manuscript work.

Read the entire story about DiCamillo’s appointment here.  


March 22, 2012

60 Years of Charlotte’s Web

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:15 am
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This October will mark the 60th anniversary of Charlotte’s Web.  I remember when my son brought the book home from school.  It was all I could do not to snatch it up and make off to a quiet corner.  Apparently, I’m not the only writer who feels that way.

If you haven’t read it in a while, Kate DiCamillo challenges you to read it again as a writer.  She discusses the impact of certain lines but also the themes that still touch people today the same way they did when the book first came out.

Celebrate reading, celebrate writing, celebrate great books.



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