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Example: Breaking The Fourth Wall with the Aside

THE LYING KING


written and illustrated by


Alex Beard


There once/ was a king -/--/


who liked/ to tell lies.-/--/


He said/ it was day -/--/


Beneath/ the skies. -/-/


“Good Morning!”

“Not a cloud in the sky!”



Image a stage, when the actor stops and speaks to the audience. The invisible wall that separates the audience from the actor is the fourth wall. 


Why does this work and how can it help me?


An aside is but one way to break the fourth wall. But why would we want to do that in our writing? What are the benefits?

In story picture books with a character arc, you must have emotional resonance. This is the most difficult part of writing a picture book. It is made more challenging when trying to do so in rhyme.


The aside achieves this by speaking to the reader. The aside can communicate important information and makes the reader a confidante. 


  • Did you notice that the aside does not need to rhyme?
  • Did you notice that The Lying King is expressing his emotions to the reader? 
  • Did you notice how this technique pulls the reader into the experience?

Do you have a manuscript you're wrestling with? Maybe a good exercise is to try the aside.


Example: Rhyming Story Picture Books

Pirate Nell's Tale To Tell


by Helen Docherty


art by


Thomas Docherty


The day/ Nell joined/ the pi/rate crew -/-/-/-/


was full/ of hope;/ a dream/ come true! -/-/-/-/


For great/ ad ven/tures filled/ her head -/-/-/-/


from ev/er y tale/ she’d e/ver read. -/--/-/-/


Nell won/dered what/ she ought/ to pack. -/-/-/-/


 Of course!/ Her pi/rate’s al/ma nac. -/-/-/-/


It taught/ her all/ she’d need/ to know -/-/-/-/


from how/ to steer/ to how/ to row; -/-/-/-/


Which way/was east/ and which/ was west... -/-/-/-/


But Capt/ain Gnash/ was not/ im pressed. -/-/-/-/



Often picture book writers are told NOT to rhyme. Agreed, there are challenges to overcome. Challenges like: Is the story serving the rhyme, or is the rhyme serving the story.  Are we losing the plot, tension and character arc in the process? 


Do not lose heart for these challenges can be overcome.


So, why does THIS story work and how can it help you?


Here are the "W" questions every story needs to ask. 


  • Who is the main character? 
  • Where is the story taking place? 
  • What does the main character want? 
  • Why does the main character want this? 

Let’s see how these questions are answered with this story. 


  • Who-Nell
  • Where- A pirate ship
  • Wants- To be a pirate
  • Why- For great adventures


Nell wants to have great adventures. To achieve her goal, she decides to join a pirate ship. We learn a bit about her character when she brings her almanac. But she is met with one large obstacle in the form of Captain Gnash. All these questions are answered within the first 69 words.

And we want to continue reading, do we not?

So, in the spirit of Nell, I say forge ahead!  Don’t let anyone stop you. Write your story in rhyme. Make you character memorable and multi-dimensional. Answer all of the "W" questions in the first few paragraphs.


If someone tells you it is a hard sell to write a certain type of book, maybe it’s because they haven't seen YOUR book yet!


Example: Cadence


THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG


And Other How To Poems


Selected by Paul B. Janeczko


Art by


Richard Jones


HOW TO BUILD A POEM


By Charles Ghigna




Let's build a po em -/-/-


made of rhyme /-/


with words like lad ders -/-/-


with words that climb, -/-/


with words that like -/-/


to take their time. -/-/


Cadence can be described as: a rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words. In poetry, it is what sets the pace of a literary piece.


Why does this work and how can it help you? 


  • Did you notice how the hard beats of the poem above appear to match the pounding of a hammer?
  • Did you notice the structure of this poem appears to match that of climbing a ladder?

Cadence connects the sounds and senses to each other. It helps you not only read the words but experience the words. Cadence can make you feel. It has the power to get under your skin, linger and sometimes unsettle you.


Example: Hypercatalectic and Catalectic

WAYS TO WELCOME


By Linda Ashman


Art by


Joey Chou



Waves and / shakes /-/+


And hel/los /-/+


Eye to /eye /-/+


And nose to/ nose. /-/+



Sooth ing/ words /-/+


An ex/pert guide /-/-


Step by/ step /-/+


And side by/ side. +/-/+


When it comes to rhythmical poetry we only count hard beats. 


Poets have a variety of tools at their disposal. One of which is rhythm. Poetry is an art form where each word is weighed and measured. It can set a tone, spur emotions, make ideas memorable and create music.


Hypercatalectic is when a soft beat is added. Catalectic is when a soft beat is subtracted. Notice how this is done in the poem above. 


I have scanned it as trochaic/dimeter. That means the first syllable has a hard beat followed by a soft beat. Each line has two hard beats. 


  • Did you notice that the first line in the first stanza is missing a soft beat at the end? That is catalectic.


  • Did you notice that the last line in each stanza has an added soft beat added at the beginning of the line? That is hypercatalectic.


  • Important to note is usually no more than two hypercatalectic/catalectic beats per line. Otherwise the poem loses its musicality. 

Why does this work and how can it help you?


When we introduce children to the music of reading, it becomes a pleasure. They will go on to read chapter books, novels and textbooks.


Sometimes the picture book or poem in your hands is the first step to a thoughtful, educated and well-read adult.



Example: Cumulative Story Structure

THIS IS THE MESS THAT WE  MADE


by Michelle Lord


art by Julia Blattman



This is the mess that we made.


These are the fish that swim in the mess that we made.


This is the seal that eats the fish that swim in the mess that we made.


This is the net that catches the seal, that eats the fish that swim in the mess that we made.


This is the boat of welded steel, that dumps the net, that catches the seal, that eats the fish 


that swim in the mess that we made.


A Cumulative Story is a story that builds on a pattern.  It starts with one person, place, thing, or event. Each time a new person, 

place, thing, or event is shown, all the previous ones are repeated. 

Why does this work and how can it help you?

  • Each event reinforces the initiating problem of the story and a new attempt at solving it.  It helps children to think of different solutions.

  • Did you notice the problem, initiating event, character intentions and desires, and moral are there?

  • This is fun because children soon pick up on the refrain and increase their own vocabulary. 

  • Did you notice how each event add momentum? Thereby increasing tension.

Example: The Refrain

A Southern Child's Garden of Verses


by David Davis


art by 


Herb Leonhard



THE HOUSE ON WISDOM HILL


Far down/ the road, -/-/


past Bird/song’s mill, -/-/


near Caut/hen Pond, -/-/


so deep /and still, -/-/


I climb/ the path, -/-/


in aut/umn’s chill, -/-/


to the house/ on Wisd/om Hill. --/-/-/


The boards/ are warped -/-/


and gray/ with age, -/-/


like curled/.+ scraps -/+/


of parch/ment page; -/-/


the lean/ing fence, -/-/


a rust/y cage -/-/


for the house/ on Wisd/om Hill. --/-/-/


I mount/ the porch -/-/


and try/ to see -/-/


past tangl/ed vines -/-/


and hist/or y -/-/


when Grand/pa was -/-/


a boy/ like me, -/-/


at the house/ on Wisd/om Hill. --/-/-/


Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice the refrain at the end of each stanza? Also known as a catch phrase.  

  • Did you notice that this refrain has a different number of feet? It shocks you out of your boredom. Makes you pay attention. 

  • Did you notice that the refrain does not rhyme with all of the verses?

  • These techniques turns a story that is good into something exceptional. 

Example: Picture Book Poem

Finding Kindness


by Deborah Underwood


art by Irene Chan



Kindness is sometimes  /--/-


a cup and a card -/--/ 


or a ladder, a truck, and a tree; --/--/--/ 


a scratch and a cuddle, -/--/- 


a rake and a yard, -/--/ 


a cookie, a carrot, a key. -/--/--/ 


it’s seeds and a feeder, -/--/- 


A seat on the train, -/--/ 


A daisey, A peach, or a pie; -/--/--/ 


A wave at a baker, -/--/- 


a boost on a crane, -/--/ 


A sandwich shared up in the sky. -/--/--/ 


Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Concept poems are perfect when trying to use rhyme in picture books. 

  • Did you notice that you are not forced into a dramatic arc. 

  • Did you notice that this is a list poem?  

  • This sets a lyrical, rhythmical tone. Not heavy in end rhymes. The rhyme is gently interspersed, like a flavorful spice. 

This poem does all the heavy lifting of a story book. But it does more, it tells us how to be kind and compassionate while making us feel good.

Example: Poetry Within Prose

Little Red Rhyming Hood


by Sue Flies


art by Petros Bouloubasis


Once there was a girl who spoke only in rhyme. This drew attention.


“Want to ride the swings with me? /-/-/-/


Race our bikes or climb a tree?” /-/-/-/


“Look, everybody, the sad little rhymer has no friends,” teased the Big Brad Wolf.


“You don’t bother me, big Brad. /-/-/-/


Nasty words won’t make me sad.” /-/-/-/


But his word did bother her.


One day after playing at the park, she said to her grandma,


“I wish I was not this way.  /-/-/-/


May I hide in here today?” /-/-/-/


Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice this has tension, page turns and an emotional arc?

  • Did you notice that the rhyme happens only when the girl is speaking? This works because there is a reason for it. In this story we are learning about a girl who can only speak in rhyme. How this causes her problems and how she overcomes these problems.

This works because the story is not serving the rhyme.

Example: Cumulative Story Structure.

Kate who Tamed the Wind


by Liz Garton


art by Lee White



Once there was a man


living all alone in a creaky


house on the tip-top


of a steep hill.



The man lived all alone


in the creaky house on the


tip-top of a steep hill where


a soft wind blew.



The man lived all alone


in the creaky house where the


curtain swung and chimes spun


as a soft wind blew…


and blew…


and blew…


A cumulative tale is one that builds on the strength of repetition and theme.


Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice that a cumulative tale can rhyme, or not. This story has rhyme lightly sprinkled making it lyrical and fun.

  • Because you are not restrained by the formulas of rhythm, it enables you greater liberty in telling your tale. 

When children know what to expect in a story, they become familiar with language. Familiarity with language enhances their ability to read. 


Ability to read makes them more confident learners. Thus, ends my short cumulative explanation.

Example: Lyrical Prose

Loving Hands


by Tony Johnston 


art by Amy June Bates



A child/ is born/ one win/ter day -/-/-/-/


His moth/er calls/ him lamb. -/-/-/


She hums/ a tune/ that has/ no words -/-/-/-/


and holds/ her bab/y’s hands. -/-/-/



The bab/y wakes./ The bab/y sleeps.-/-/ +-/-/


And grow./ One day/ he stands.-/+-/-/


He falt/ers like/ a wob/bly colt. -/-/-/-/


His moth/er holds/ his hands.-/-/-/


Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice that the first stanza has two near rhymes and the second stanza has true rhymes.


  • Did you notice it holds its rhythm all the way through?


This concept book has more near rhymes that true rhymes. A rhyme crime in poetry. 


However this is lyrical prose, that just happens to have a rhythm of iamb and anapest. Something that confuses the poet, 


yet, engages the reader. 


A poignant story that in my opinion, is well done!

Example: Spondee

just add


GLITTER


by Angela Diterlizzi 


art by Smantha Cotterill 



Bored,/ ignored,/ or feel/ing down? -/-/-/-/


Need/ some fanc/y in your/ town? -/-/-/-/


Want/ some shine/ upon/ your crown? -/-/-/-/


Just add glitter! / / /


Why does this work and how can it help me?


  • Did you notice the use of the Spondee in the last line? This gives a heightened feeling. Giving an emotional experience for the child. 

  • Did you notice that the last line rhymes with nothing? 

This gives the writer greater freedom. Children love repeating the line with you.

Example: Metrical Variance

Bear Can't Sleep


by Karma Wilson 


art by Jane Chapman



In his home/ in the forest,  --/--/


While the cold/ + wind blows, --/--/


+ Bear snug/gles in his/ + quilt +-/--/+/


From his nose/ to his toes.--/--/



While the snow/+ flakes fall--/+-/


And the drifts/ + pile high. --/+-/


+ Bear toss/es and he/ + turns, +-/--/+/


+ Bear moans/ and he sighs. +-/--/



He stares/ at the wall; +-/--/


he’s not tired/ at all. --/+-/


And the bear can’t sleep! --/ / /


Why does this work and how can this rhyme scheme help you?


  • Did you notice the metrical variance of two beats, two beats, three beats, two beats.


  • Did you notice the refrain and the use of the spondee? 

  • Did you notice the variance with in the refrain, with two beats, two beats, three beats.