One Writer’s Journey

February 26, 2015

Writing Picture Books: Make Your Ending Personal

Front cover for 'Home' by Carson Ellis – published by Candlewick Press

Carson Ellis found the perfect ending for his story when he brought it all home.

Recently I read an interview with Carson Ellis on Picturebook Makers.   She was talking about her new picture book Home.  Because she is an illustrator, she sketched out her ideas for the majority of the book before she had an editor.  She tells about how most of the sketches made it into the book with little change.

The one spread that gave her trouble was the final page.  How to tie this book about homes in their many forms all together?  It worked when she showed the readers the studio where she created the book.  It worked when she made it personal.

When we talk about picture book writing and how to end the book, we often talk about an AHA moment.  The idea is that you need to find a way to end the book that will make the reader say aha.

This is a concept I’ve always had some difficulty grasping.  What if my aha moment is different from your aha moment?

When I read this interview, it hit me.  Ellis is talking aha moment — the moment that sticks with the reader because she has made the book personal.

How can you make the ending of your book personal for your reader?  Part of it will depend on what you are writing.  At the moment, I am working on a nonfiction picture book on prayer.  Throughout the book, I give examples of how people pray all over the world.  Right now, the ending emphasizes this diversity.  Now I’m left wondering if it would work better if I brought it home.  How do I pray?

You can also make a nonfiction ending personal by issuing a call to action – here is what you can do. . . Or you can challenge your reader to be the next pioneer in the field.

With fiction, create a spread that ties into an emotion that will call out to your reader.  This can be home or family and security.  Again, it will depend on your story.

If you are working on a picture book, give your ending some thought.  Do you currently bring the ending home?



August 27, 2014

Picture Books: The Surprise Ending

Picture book endingsIf you are writing picture books, one way that you can end your story is with a surprise like the one Adam Rubin gives his readers in Dragon’s Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers).  In this story, the narrator tells the child character all about dragons and their love for tacos.  He discusses toppings dragons love and toppings dragons despise.  He even goes into what will happen if you mistakenly give a dragon one of these forbidden toppings and just how dangerous this can be.  Warning in hand, the child then plans a taco party for the dragons.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t see one of the ingredients in the salsa until it is too late. . .


Because he misses the hot peppers in the tacos, the dragons spark and shoot flames.  This might be okay in a dragon cave but in a house?  It burns to the ground.

Nope.  Not exactly the ending that you expect in a picture book.  Daniel Salmieri’s illustrations make the whole thing humorous but it still comes as a surprise.  After all, the worst thing most of us have ever experienced at a party is a spilled drink or a minor injury.  Belched flame is outside our experience. This isn’t the cute picture book ending that we expected at all.

But it isn’t so far out there that we can’t accept it.  Rubin hinted at this ending.  From the start, the child is warned that spicy toppings make smoke come out of dragon ears and they snort sparks.

One of the most effective endings for a picture book is the surprise ending.  At the first reading, the reader is surprised.  During subsequent readings, he enjoys being in the know.  Just make sure that you plant the clues that make your ending, even if its as fantastic as fire belching dragons, believable.



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