My nonfiction book SWEET DREAMS, WILD ANIMALS (illustrated by Laurie Caple) uses rhyming stanzas to detail the different ways some animals fall asleep. Here is a line about the Magnificent Frigatebird:
This seabird soars high in the sky
She glides with grace and flair . . .
I use repeating “s” sounds to create a softer, peaceful mood to match the feeling of seeing a bird soaring in the air.
Take a look at the poetry collection FINDING TREASURE: A Collection of Collections by Rhyme Doctor Michelle Schaub (illustrated by Carmen Saldana). In the poem, “Whose Forgotten Treasures?” consider this stanza:
Stashed in the attic,
a small shadow box
holds rows of old keys
long lost from their locks.
I so enjoy the repeated “l” sounds in Michelle’s final line of the opening stanza. This use of alliteration adds a lilting mood to this piece celebrating old treasures discovered in the attic.
Ask Mr Google for the "definition of a lyrical book" and you will not get a definitive answer. The top results on my search turned up phrases like:
song-like, poetic, deeply evocative
beautifully full of emotion
effective use of poetic techniques
To the above, I say YES,YES, and YES! A well-written lyrical book contains all of these.
Two of my favorite lyrical books were written by Julie Fogliano. She is a former kindergarten teacher and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. Her picture books include a poetry collection and picture books that are rhyming and lyrical.
For me, two of her lyrical picture books stand out as stellar examples of how to incorporate the musicality of meter with occasions of rhyme and clever use of poetic devices. This combination results in these two books that emotionally connect with the reader and are so very satisfying to read.
The repetition is a poetic device called anaphora. In this case it emphasizes the child's barely-containable excitement. The last line here stops the reader one beat short of the established rhythm, which allows for a pause and breath before launching into the next burst of comments from the birthday child.
(Notice also the assonance of the vowels in "wishes" and "kisses", as well as the alliteration of B in berries/birthday and S in sandwiches and soup. More poetic devices!)
Altering line length
The last lines in the book are shorter than the preceding ones, which quickens the pace - the final push before the satisfying ending. They are infused with giddiness:
Can you feel the meter? The first word is a stressed syllable that is followed by two unstressed syllables. This pattern generally continues through the book.
Julie Fogliano uses more rhyme in this book than the birthday book. When the children in the book are finished with their imagining, they depart:
So back through the window
we climb as we wonder.
Back down the path that is tangled with thorns.
Back to the house where our dinner is waiting.
Back to the home that is cozy and warm.
(The rhyme here is a near rhyme ("thorns/warm"). An occasional use of near rhyme can work when it follows many pages of exact rhyme.)
The book ends by circling back to the original opening, contrasting the coziness of the children's home with the abandoned one they had found. This contrast stirs up emotions of both comfort and loss or sadness.
If you are interested in writing lyrical picture books, study books by authors like Julie Fogliano to see how they use meter, rhyme, and poetic devices. Rhyme Doctor Eileen Meyer has also been explaining poetic devices in a series of Poetry Prescription posts here on the HOUSE CALLS blog. Click here to read the post about anaphora.
I’m back with my series of blog posts about the use of poetic devices in picture book writing. We use poetic devices to enhance our written work and create a deeper connection for our reader.
Today, we’ll take a look at the poetic device: Simile
Simile is a comparison of two dissimilar things, using the words like, than, or as. Similar to a metaphor, the effect of a simile is to:
Can you find a way to use simile effectively in any of your current projects?
See you next time.
by Eileen Meyer, Rhyme Doctor
Goodnight Moon. Time for Bed. The Going to Bed Book. Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story?
With soothing language and a soft cadence, bedtime books can be a great genre choice if you’re a children’s authors who enjoys writing rhyming and lyrical picture books. You can even mimic the rhythm of a traditional lullaby like “Hush, Little Baby” or “Rock-A-Bye Baby” to build your book around a set structure.
Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? But before you snuggle up to write your own bedtime book, consider this. There are MANY bedtime books on the market. In order for your book to stand out, it needs to be about more than just settling in for bed. You need a fresh angle. An intriguing, kid-friendly topic to weave into the fabric of your bedtime quilt. For example…
Let’s take a closer look at some of the strategies I use in Dream Big, Little Scientists to provide a unique take on bedtime.
I balance bed-time-focused language with tangible science words. The illustrations then dig deeper into specific scientific elements.
For example, in this spread focused on geology, I use the kid-friendly geology-related words mountain and earth and the bed-time words quilts and snuggle. The illustration shows more about what geologists study and introduces a famous modern-day geologist, Jess Phoenix.
As you consider your own bedtime book topic, think about how your illustrations can add layers of information to your topic.
I rely on assonance to create a gentle lullaby tone. (See this Rhyme Doctor’s Post for more information on how to use assonance to enhance the read-aloud quality of your picture book.)
I use back matter to further strengthen the science angle of the book.
I challenge you to DREAM BIG and try writing your own bedtime book. Just don’t forget to give it a fresh twist!
Rhyme Doctor Michelle Schaub
It’s time for another blog post about the use of poetic devices in picture book writing.
“Poetic devices are tools used to create rhythm, enhance meaning, and intensify mood using a variety of writing strategies.” (Shared from Linsey Betts and Kara Wilson at Study.com)
Today, we’ll take a look at the poetic device: Metaphor
A metaphor suggests a comparison but isn’t directly stating one. (See Simile post next month, which is a direct comparison.) Instead, it describes an object as though it is something else. Its effect is to:
A bracelet that hangs off the arm of the Thames,
its pods, filled with people, all dangle like gems. . . .
I've long been a fan of Deborah Underwood's books. She has written/co-written
36 fiction books and 28 nonfiction books for children.
Among her many titles are lovely, lyrical picture books:
And these rhyming fractured fairytales, too:
When I spotted her new book, BEARPLANE, illustrated by Sam Wedelich, and I learned it was written in rhyme, I had to have it!
Below is a list of wonderful things I discovered while reading BEARPLANE:
1) I love BEARPLANE's clever title. Deborah Underwood took a familiar compound word - airplane - and replaced part of it with a rhyming word to create something new - bearplane - which serves as the inspiration for the fun that follows. This is a trick that I'd like to try myself!
2) BEARPLANE is written in second person, addressing the cub as "you." This invites the reader to identify more closely with the cub, and it also allows the cub to be seen as any gender.
4) An additional story plays out in the illustrations. A grumpy gentlebear (easy to spot in his green fedora) is flying, too. He has difficulties along the way - a stubbed toe, suitcase malfunctions, etc. A slight tension builds when the cub is the source of several problems. But in the end, the cub's generosity and friendliness win him over.
On my first read-through, I mispronounced the word "basses" using a long A vowel and wondered why Deborah Underwood (and her editor) would find this non-rhyme acceptable. Then I saw the fish in the bear's arms and laughed at this brilliant choice!
6) The ending extends the story beyond the bearport and bearplane ride. The bear pair's final destination is a family reunion, which adds depth to the story and is sweetly satisfying.
I recommend you check this one out! Read it bearfully, and see which techniques you might use in your own picture book.
I’m back with my series of blog posts about the use of poetic devices in picture book writing.
“Poetic devices are tools used to create rhythm, enhance meaning, and intensify mood using a variety of writing strategies.” (Shared from Linsey Betts and Kara Wilson at Study.com) We employ poetic devices to enhance our written work and create a deeper connection to the piece for our reader.
Today, we’ll take a look at a poetic device: Assonance
Assonance is a repetition of vowel sounds within words and phrases. It
Fellow Rhyme Doctor Michelle Schaub employs assonance effectively in her bedtime book, DREAM BIG, LITTLE SCIENTISTS (Illustrated by Alice Potter). Take a look at how beautifully she enhances the mood by repeating the soft “u” sound in this lovely line from her picture book to create a lullaby effect:
Under rumpled mountain quilts, the earth is snuggled tight.
Reminder: It's key to repeat the same vowel sound - here a soft "u" sound. A hard "u" sound as found in the word "unicorn" would not work.
Rhyme Doctor Patricia Toht uses assonance to advantage in her poetry collection, ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS (Illustrated by Sam Usher). Review this energetic and lively line in the poem, “Changing of the Guard.”
I can hear a rum-pum-pum—steady thumping of a drum,
The repeated soft “u” sound (and also repeating the consonant “m” in each occurrence) enhances our reading experience. We hear the drumbeat, and it makes us feel that we, too, are watching and hearing the ceremonial changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
In the poem “Best Lumberjack” from my poetry collection THE SUPERLATIVE A. LINCOLN: POEMS ABOUT OUR 16TH PRESIDENT (illustrated by Dave Szalay) I also used this poetic device. Notice the long "a" sound repeated in the words blade, underpaid, Abe and labor in this limerick. You can sense his hard labor with the repeated heavier long "a" sounds that sound weighty as they are read aloud.
Writing in terse rhyme is a great way to energize your picture book manuscript!
beneath the sea…
Why try terse rhyme?
If you’ve been working on a picture book manuscript that seem text heavy and lacking energy, consider rewriting it in terse rhyme. Terse rhyme forces writers to distill their stories to the most important elements. What are the essential nouns, verbs, and adjectives? Short, crisp lines create an upbeat cadence. With the focus on verbs, terse rhyme lends itself especially well to topics that involve many actions… like an island forming… or...
a walrus surviving in the Arctic!
WALRUS SONG by Janet Lawler, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering,(Candlewick Press, 2021) is an excellent mentor text for terse rhyme. In WALRUS SONG, Lawler explores the wonders of this cumbersome sea mammal.
Let’s look at how Lawler constructs the lines in WALRUS SONG. Here’s an excerpt from the middle of the book:
(Notice the vibrant, specific verbs. This focus on verbs really showcases the fascinating (and often funny) behaviors of walruses.)
Lawler also uses short lines infuse the text with energy and motion.
With terse rhyme, since there are fewer words on the page, it’s even more important that every word count. In the previous lines, notice how Lawler uses alliteration ("blubbered, bashing"; "clashing, crashing) and assonance ("walrus, blubber, tusks"; “fight, might “clashing, crashing, bashing.") Lawler chooses words whose sounds echo the intensity of male walruses sparring. Every word is percussive and engaging.
Besides the masterful use of terse rhyme, other elements make WALRUS SONG a great mentor text. Lawler provides engaging nonfiction back matter to support each spread. Also, the story begins with a question “Where is walrus?” and ends with a question “What will his tomorrow be?” This is a great example of “bookending” a story.
Sink your tusks into WALRUS SONG and get a feel for terse rhyme. Then try it out on your own picture book manuscript. It may provide just the vibe your story needs!
-Rhyme Doctor Michelle Schaub
Today, we’ll take a closer look at a poetic device: Anaphora
Anaphora is the repetition of a word or set of words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines. It:
In the poem “Least Favorite Nickname” from my poetry collection THE SUPERLATIVE A. LINCOLN: POEMS ABOUT OUR 16TH PRESIDENT (Illustrated by Dave Szalay) I used this poetic device. The poem is about Lincoln’s dislike of his childhood nickname “Abe” and emphasizes the fact that he really preferred other forms of address, such as Lincoln or Mr. Lincoln. To play up this point, I repeated the phrase “call him,” creating a distinct rhythm and also heightening the emotion about this phrasing for the reader.
Call him Mr. President, the leader of our states.
Call him a great orator, well known for his debates.
Call him neighbor, father, son—all labels he could claim.
Know that when folks called him Abe, he didn’t like that name.
One bright fall day, Sophie chose a squash at the farmer’s market.
Her parents planned to serve it for supper, but Sophie had other ideas.
It was just the right size to hold in her arms.
Just the right size to bounce on her knee.
Just the right size to love.
Pat’s use of anaphora to open her book helps us feel the intensity of the little girl’s love for the squash more deeply and better understand the emotional connection. The reader forms a stronger bond with Bernice, too.
A parody is "an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect" (Oxford Dictionary). Have you read any picture book parodies? Some are "adult" versions of popular classics, such as GOODNIGHT IPAD. But you'll also find parodies of fairytales, folktales, and nursery rhymes aimed at young audiences.
If you like writing in rhyme, it's an enjoyable exercise to try a parody. Your version doesn't need to be overly comic; picture book parodies often bring smiles with clever twists or use of language. Many picture book parodies have been picked up for publication and can be especially popular as read-alouds.
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMP by Jack Lechner and Bob Staake immediately brings in humor when the opening spread swaps out Mary's loyal lamb for a desk lamp.
The next two spreads give small, specific details that explain Mary's love for her lamp. The author then returns to the original nursery rhyme, as Mary takes the lamp to school with disastrous results. Humor builds as her worried parents seek professional help:
The kids gain control, and the book ends with them creating items with sheep fleece.