Archive | November, 2015

Bridging the Generations

14 Nov

When writing for children, especially picture books, we need to remember the adult as well. We’ve often heard, it’s the adults who are the gatekeepers to children’s literature. Will they read this book repeatedly? Will they purchase this book? Today I want to add one more, Will they find themselves in this book? Today I did just that.

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Little Tree is a book about holding on and letting go. It’s a book about facing an unknown future. It’s a book about growing up.

It’s written for children. It’s written for adults. I’ll bet, it’s written for you.

For a summary of the story and suggested activities for Little Tree look HERE.

I met Loren Long, author and illustrator of Little Tree this morning. He was kind and giving with his audience. He shared his story of a little tree with us. It’s a story of watching his firstborn embark on his school career. Not once, but twice. He retold how frightening those experiences were for him as a parent watching his son go off to kindergarten… and then to college. And, we got to meet his son the college student and inspiration for the story, and see what a wonderful relationship they have and watch them work together on a piece of art for the bookstore.

 

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Here’s a picture of Loren sharing my favorite page:

“As his last leaf floated to the ground, for the first time Little Tree felt the harsh cold of winter.”

The artwork is stunning. And the text reminds me that when you finally let go of something that’s been holding you back, it can be cold and scary. But in the end, you know you that in order to grow… you must first let go.

Think back to the times it was hard for your little ones to let go… let go of their binky, let go of diapers, let go of their afternoon naps, let go of your hand in the school parking lot. It was a cold and scary time for them. You were there to dry their tears, give them comfort, help them through it.

And think of the times it was hard for you to let go and watch them grow. I think about the times when they fell and scraped their knees, when they boarded their first school bus, when they wanted to be dropped off at the mall without me, when they got their hearts broken for the first time, when they moved out of town. It really did feel like a harsh cold winter. I thought my heart was dying. But each time they came back to me taller and stronger… more of who they were and less of who I was. And it felt good.

See, what I mean about writing across generations? Loren Long has done that beautifully. I hope you pick up a copy for yourselves and feel the splendor of letting go as a wonderful thing.

 

 

 

Leave Room For The Reader

12 Nov

As writers we are constantly being told to leave room for the illustrator. Basically, that just means that we don’t put every single detail in the text. The illustrator can show most adjectives and adverbs in the artwork, and many times better than we might have imagined ourselves because they use another part of their brain when telling a story. We each have our own talents and we respect each other enough to leave the other room to tell their part of the story.

After a Facebook conversation this evening, I want to talk about the most important, person in the reading experience… the reader!

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The reader brings much to the reading experience: prior knowledge, emotions, and bias. That’s why everyone who reads a book has a different idea of what it is about, and feels differently about it  than anyone else. Of course there are some common generalities too… Is a book funny, sad? Does it make you feel happy, insignificant, proud? Will it affect a change in how we think of things?

Children are no different than adults in this respect. Children’s literature evokes deeper understanding of a theme (friendship, fear, sibling rivalry, loneliness, kindness, change) or concept (animals, new baby, trucks, bedtime, grandparents, school, the environment, holidays) for young readers.

When writers and illustrators leave room for the reader, they open new avenues for learning and growing.
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The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, allows children the freedom to believe or not, yet leaves them with a sense of hope and wonder.

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In a Cloud of Dust, Alma Fullerton and Brian Deines empower children to show compassion and make a difference in someone else’s life by the example of the characters in the story.

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Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton encourages children to dream and be imaginative, but also to look at ordinary things as extraordinary.

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Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood lets children discover that when you accept change you open the possibility for new and fun opportunities that you might otherwise miss out on.

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Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner and Maggie Smith give children a moment, right before they go to sleep to talk about their day. As the main character recounts her daily activities, the reader can make connections to themselves by reciting bits and pieces of their own day as well.

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Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley does not specifically say what happened to the missing parent, leaving the experience within reach of many children who are missing parents through divorce, military, death, incarceration, or abandonment. Readers are left to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Children can be taught critical thinking skills through good children’s literature. Excellent stories provide just the right amount of text and illustration for the reader to grasp the meaning, and just enough freedom to make their own connections and experience deeper understanding. Children who think critically, do more than restate the text or describe the illustrations, they interpret the story given their own life’s experiences. They make inferences about what was left unsaid and unshown. And they make connections with themselves, the world around them, and other books.

And all of this happens when we leave room on the page for the reader.

Participation Badge v Prizes

5 Nov

Have you grabbed your Official Picture Book Idea Month Participant badge yet?

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Find Out More Here and Here.

 

This is my third year participating, and I can’t say enough about it! Every year I come away with more ideas and more inspiration to keep going. I’ve settled into a rhythm that works for me and I’m happy say I’m on target for completing the challenge again this year.

There are no first, second, or third prizes. There are no honorable mentions. Everyone participates on the honor system. The prizes come to all who participate in the form of inspiration and picture book ideas. Of course there’s always a chance you’ll win one of the random drawing prizes… fingers crossed, these prizes are awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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