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.