Here at the Rhyme Doctors, we love poetry and we love metaphor. When we find a book that combines both, like Katey Howe's A Poem Grows Inside You, illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee, our joy blooms!
In A Poem Grows Inside You, the seed of an idea waits for the rhythm of the rainfall to awaken it, then takes root and begins to grow. Katey's picture book is at once a celebration of the deep connection creatives have with their art and an acknowledgement of the courage it takes to let it into the sun. We've invited Katey to HOUSE CALLS to shed some light on how she
nurtured both poetry and metaphor in her breathtaking book.
At the most basic, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which one item is used to represent or symbolize something else. It’s often used to give a concrete feel to an abstract concept or experience. In children’s books and poetry, that can also make for exciting, funny, or unexpected illustrations that catch kids’ eyes and imagination.
While a simple parallel between two things can be engaging and entertaining, the more similarities and comparisons you can demonstrate, the more reach and range your poem or book can explore.
In the case of A Poem Grows Inside You, the metaphor began with a seed. Because seeds can lie dormant and wait for the right conditions to sprout, it felt like a strong, concrete representation of the way writers hold onto precious ideas until they find the right rhythm, the right words, the right energy to bring them to poetic life.
With that established in my mind, I began listing other ways writing a poem and growing a seed could be considered similar:
The list grew on and on. And the best thing was, each of these similarities had the potential to be represented in engaging visual expression - something illustrator Heather Brockman Lee did in an outstanding manner!
It was also advantageous that there was a recognizable order in which these things would most likely happen. This helped to set up the pacing and structure of the book, and brought a layer of predictability that children respond well to.
Of course, writers needn’t plan an entire text around a central metaphor - there are so many opportunities to introduce metaphor within your text in smaller ways. We can use it to surprise, to enchant, to inspire, to challenge, to ask readers to look from a new point of view. But when you do see potential for extended metaphor, I highly recommend:
After that, let your metaphor blossom!
More about our visiting HOUSE CALLS doctor:
Katey Howes is a haphazard gardener, a darn good rhymer, and a fun mother. She's also the award-winning author of RISSY NO KISSIES, BE A MAKER, and a growing assortment of other books. You can find Katey under a big tree on a small mountain in Eastern Pennsylvania with a bowl of popcorn, a notebook full of ideas, and a rescue pup named Samwise. Or find her on Twitter @kateywrites, on IG @kidlitlove, and at www.kateyhowes.com.
What gives a picture book more allure?
A guessing game; your format cure!
Guessing game picture books are a big hit with young readers. These interactive books allow kids to make a guess, then turn the page to discover if they are correct. Guessing game books also lend themselves perfectly to rhyme. When the last word of the question and the subsequent answer are a rhyming pair, readers get a clue to the solution.
The key to a successful guessing game picture book? Fresh and clever end rhymes. Readers enjoy rhyming answers that are guessable but not too predictable or cliché. Miranda does this well in Whose Hands are These? Here's an example from the book where Miranda rhymes two words that have rarely, if ever, been paired in a picture book, panic and mechanic:
Notice that Dianne also uses alliteration (cheer song calls) and assonance (a bright, WHITE-bellied diving) to enhance the lyrical, read-aloud nature of the text. (For more information on the power of these literary devices see the HOUSE CALLS post on alliteration (upcoming) and assonance.)
If you’re a picture book writer looking for a way to make your manuscript more engaging, a guessing game format might be the answer you’ve been seeking.
-RHYME DOCTOR Michelle Schaub