Ending on the Opening Talk

I’m ending with the beginning. The Keynote Speaker Bruce Coville was fantastic despite the microphone issues. And besides, I don’t REALLY think he needed a microphone anyway as his presence, his CHARACTER, filled the room and got the audience’s attention immediately.

Speaking of character, that was the topic he chose to open the conference with. Character is ultimately what keeps the readers and listeners coming back for more. Even if you’ve read all the blogs with all the tips on how to make a good story, even if the concept is intriguing or the art phenomenal, a good main character is the key ingredient to the children’s book creation.

Below I will section off the notes in bullet points. Anything quoted is directly from him, or my attempt to quote the fabulous things this man says haha.

Take that character you love and give them trouble:

  • Make a “scary” story. “What is a scary story? A scary story is when a character you love is in trouble.”
  • “A perfect ending has both a surprise and the inevitable. It’s not a coincidence.”
  • Coincidence can be used to get them into trouble, NOT OUT OF TROUBLE.
  • Make the audience HA (laugh), WAH (sorrow, relief, personal connection) and YIP! (GASP! The “scary” situation.)
  • Make your character face a tough choice.
  • Throw in what the character doesn’t want.
  • Make the character “need” as the need drives the action.
  • Character MUST solve the problem.

Coville said something similar to “A great story is well told.”

Of storytelling:

  • Female type of storytelling is the beauty of language and character.
  • Male type of storytelling is the action and energy, the tension.
  • A story needs BOTH types to become a great story.
  • Character IS plot.
  • Every payoff must be a set up, every set up must have a pay off.
  • Tell the stories clear to get the attention it needs.

Storytelling assignment:

  • Fold a piece of paper into 6 sections, or 12 sections if you’re writing for an older audience.
  • Write 1-6/1-12 in the boxes.
  • Write most potent memories in grades 1-6/1-12.
  • Write opposite point of view/varying different point of views.

He said something like this, “The right story at the right moment is like an arrow to the heart” and that sentence itself sent an arrow to my heart.

And that’s it! That’s all the notes I’m typing up on this blog. I hope they were even a little helpful to whoever reads this post.

Take a gander at one of my note spreads…

IMG_1474.JPG

ReFoReMo!

ReFoReMo  or Reading for Research Month, is a challenge that I’ve been wanting to do for about a year now so it is my first crack at it!

16939662_1644198852260986_4069827181151974949_n.jpg

Luckily I have some of the line up already, but most of these are from the library and others I’ll have to just plop my butt in a book store (yippee! don’t mind the adult sitting for hours in the children’s section reading picture books lol!)

I still want to continue my line up that I had before as well as covering the last of my big three, which is concept.

I’ll just say this next month is gonna be a doozy, and to add the MD/DE/WV conference  with portfolio prep to it…oh boy. It’s gonna be great.

 

The Sound of a Picture Book

The noise, the sound. What do I mean by the sound of a picture book?

I think I’m more questioning myself.

But really, what do I mean? Is it the noise, the volume, tone, rhythm, or dialogue when reading a picture book?

Is the sound of a picture book the interaction between the reader, the listener, and the story? There seem to be many different ways to have some kind of lively interaction.

The first obvious sound of a picture would be rhyme. A good rhyming picture book has a way of guiding the reader through the tale with it’s rhythm.

The book that immediately pops up in my mind when I think of great rhyming is There Once Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle. Through rhyme, Klostermann tells a story about a dragon who, yes, swallows a knight, and a steed, and a squire, and a few other things too. Try reading that picture book without a rhythm and a bob to your head! If you’re like me, it’s hard to do.

Hey prose can have a rhythm too! Just look at Pete the Cat; I Love My White Shoes, it has only one repeating sentence that rhymes throughout the entire book, but the rest of the story doesn’t rhyme at all. The big rhythm making sentence here is singing the song, “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes” or whatever color shoes he happens to have at the time.

UGGGGG 8.jpeg

While I’m thinking about non-ryhming rhythm, I can’t help but point out one page in particular of The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Nathaniel Stookey.

 

UGGGGG 9.jpeg

There is this lovely back and forth action between the names listed of the deceased composers and the word “dead,” and if you can pronounce all those names correctly, good for you because I can’t! I can still feel a rhythm here that I haven’t really seen anywhere else, and this particular page really brings out the peak of the story, the reveal of who killed the composer. Was it the strings, the brass, the woodwinds, or the percussion? You won’t know until you read!

Another sound of a picture book can be dialogue, or I’ve referred picture books written only in dialogue secretly as scripts.

Books like I Don’t Want To Be A Frog, written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt, or Thank You, Octopus , by Darren Farrell need some kind of acting involved because the reader is not just the narrator speaking for the character in the story. The reading IS the character speaking as the character. There is no narrator here that separates character and reader anymore. Now I’m not saying there is no “acting” involved in a normal picture reading during story time, it’s just when I read dialogue I think more in mind of the character.

Could just be me!

Perhaps I could go a little bit further and say that the sound of a picture book is a type of reader manipulation. A good picture book, or story in general,  seems to manipulate the reader into doing what the story wants them to do, either by feeling what the story wants the reader to feel, or make the reader read the story a certain way.

Manipulation from a picture book? Sounds kind of obscure.

It’s like when I’m reading Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Every page shows the bull getting bigger and BIGGER and every page I’m reading louder and LOUDER until everything deflates and you return to normal speech, maybe even quieter as the bull main character is feeling the ashamed by how much of a bully he has been towards his friends.

UGGGGG 10.jpeg

UGGGGG 8.jpegUGGGGG 9.jpeg

 

I wanted to focus of these stories because they made me realize what I enjoy about the interaction of reading a story aloud.

So, what is the sound of a picture book?

Eh I still don’t really know, but I think it’s the auditory interaction between story, reader, and listener.

And it was phrase I thought just sounded good at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pause

The Pause is personally one of my favorite techniques an illustrator could use. Please pause that writing, let the illustrations take over in the silence. Let me as the reader understand, realize the moral of the story the writer and illustrator has worked so hard to bring together.

I’ve written about how A Sick Day for Amos McGee creates the pause in it’s pages. A story about an elderly zoo keeper visits his animal friends at the zoo, but then he becomes sick! So what do the animal friends do? They visit him. The turnaround in the story is shown with four page spreads, two of those pages lacking words and altogether only nine words on the eight pages of content. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is only one example of the pause. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is another. 

extrayarn.jpg

 

Throughout Barnett’s work, the play between color verses black and white sets the concept of adding a little color with creativity into the world where color and creativity may be lacking. Each page spread has text all except the second image above. 

To shorten the story, the main character finds this box of never-ending colorful yearn and uses it to change her grey environment. A Duke learns of this never-ending colorful yarn and steals the box. However, when he opens the box for himself, it is empty and he throws it away. The box eventually comes back to our main character and again it is full of the colorful yarn. 

The pause here only uses the word “But” and then silence as the reader knows that box is going to end up back where it began, to the creative individual who has never-ending creativity, finding value in the “empty” box. If that pause wasn’t here the ending wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it was. Perfect example of show, not tell. 

So there are pauses like the two examples above, and then you have a pause like in Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 

dragonslovetacos.jpg

In this entire story, the narrator constantly reminds the reader that while dragons love tacos, never ever EVER give them spicy ones. This pause here is to simply give the reader a comedic, complete and utter visual effect of just why you should never give a dragon a spicy taco. 

Even Maurice Sendak used the pause in Where the Wild Things Are.

wherethewildthiingsare.jpg

This pause lasts for three page spreads of Max and the wild things romping around and being…wild. Another example of show not tell until the last image shown above where Max is beginning to miss home. 

The moral of the story? There is no place like home. One may wander away from a familiar setting, get lost in day dreams and adventures, however they always return.

I think these four page spreads really dig this theme in deep. The wild fun, the lost in time adventure that Max has becomes stale and his reaction is illustrated in that sitting pose and home sick face.

The last one I want to look at is very different from the four mentioned above. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen pauses the illustration, not the text. 

 

Thedark.jpg

 

Above you have three images that represent pretty much what the entire story looks like. Abstract illustration compositions, lots of space, little text throughout the entire story…except for one page.

UGGGGG 5.jpeg

Space, space, space and then…BAM! Wall of text, a pause in the illustration and design! What? Who does this? Is this acceptable within the picture book world nowadays to have a a wall of text like this? 

This wall of text symbolizes confrontation. The main character is confronting his fear of the emptiness, the darkness. The wall of text is confronting the reading, interrupting that abstract, design based flow. The main character realizes the dark isn’t all that bad and this text makes the reader realize this as well. 

I’m still not sure if this text would be appropriate to some readers. Text ultimately should be evenly spaced throughout the book, not forced in on a single page. However, without this pause in illustration, I don’t think the point of not fearing the dark would have come across as well as it did. 

So that’s it folks! The pause is a technique that I’ve tried using as well. I may not have it down as masterfully as the creators did mentioned above, but I might make a great pause one day.

The Pause, The Noise, The Concept

As I’m going through these picture books that I love on my list I’m noticing a few similarities.

I felt like I was repeating myself when writing reviews.

So I’ve been doing something different. 

The Pause is something that grabs my attention quickly to any picture book that does this. It’s the turnaround in the tale, the “Ah ha!” moment, the pause in time and space when the viewer can finally come face to face with the moral of the story. A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Extra Yarn, Where the Wild Things Are, and Dragons Love Tacos are a few examples of this technique. 

The Noise is just simply sounds that make a scene in a book worthy of attention. This includes shaping words, dialogue, and words molded into the illustrations. Bully, There was an Old Dragon who Swallowed a Knight, Pete the Cat, Iggy Peck Architect, and Bloom are a few. 

The Concept is the idea of the picture book. Most of the stories I love have characters that learn how to deal with themselves, who they are, what they are afraid of, and how they interact with the world around them. Most of these concepts almost have a bitter sweet tone to them.  I Don’t Want to be a Frog, Please Louise, The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty, and The Dark all kinda deal with facing oneself, fears, and the world. 

These are the big three. I could totally get into more themes like stories that end full circle, stories with interesting narration, stories with only dialogue, stories that rhyme vs prose, and some others.

Instead of doing the  stories separate I’ve created some posts that deal with these three themes. I feel like this has helped me with STORYSTORM this month a great deal. 

 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Amos McGee loves visiting his friends at the zoo while he works. But one day the zookeeper wakes up sick and his friends the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl decide to visit him instead.

UGGGGG 6.jpeg

The Stead’s work brings you a wonderful story with a great friendship, splendid pacing, cute animals, and the charming Amos McGee all rolled into one. With Philip C. Stead’s wonderfully written work and Erin E. Stead’s beautifully illustrated woodblock printings and pencil, you have a timeless work of art here.

Now I’m going to be steering a bit from my usual review formula because it is the month of STORYSTORM. These are the books I love and cherish.

I would like to start off with looking at the great characters, the main character being an elderly man instead of a child and IT WORKS. There are tons of children’s books out there that have animal and child characters that work but not many with an elderly old man who is sick for a day. During the thousand times I’ve heard or read that I need only children and animals (that’s it!!!) in my illustration portfolio, I always think back to Amos McGee and remember there are exceptions.

Aside from great characters (hey the animals are great too) the pacing is wonderful. I’m talking mainly about the images below…UGGGGG 7.jpegUGGGGG 8.jpegUGGGGG 9.jpegUGGGGG 10.jpeg

Only nine words here and that is eight pages worth of story and it is the best thing these creators could have done. Sometimes when there is a turning point in a story, the best thing is to allow the illustrations take control to set the mood. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, also does something similar with their turing point. I will show that later.

And to wrap up, the Steads’ work really is a timeless story. Most people who do read pictures books (teachers, parents, kids, book lovers, creators…) have read this book. And if you haven’t and you are interested in writing and/or illustrating picture books I highly recommend it.

The good list:

  • GREAT bedtime story
  •  Short, sweet, to the point
  • Illustrations are marvelous
  • Good story time material as well I would think
  • Lovable characters
  • Pacing is good enough for taking notes on a way to pace a story
  • The story is simply about a good friendship.

That’s it for today! Hopefully these images remind or inspire anyone who is reading this and is doing the STORYSTORM challenge. They most certainly inspire me!

Oh! Philip Stead’s website

 

Line Up Reads for Inspiration

This month is the month of STORYSTORM, a whirlwind of idea generating madness.

To try to gain some inspiration for the next month, I will be adding a list of favorite picture books  and reviewing them. Some old, some new, but all good stuff.

Writing reviews for my favorite picture books will give me a closer look into how they make me love them and will hopefully inspire new ideas. Unfortunately I’ve already reviewed Pete the Cat and Dragons Love Tacos, because they would totally be on my list, but I still have plenty to go!

Here is the lineup:

  1. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin E. Stead (2010)
  2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, ill. by Jon Klassen (2012)
  3. Ramble of one of childhood favorite Author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, because I have to. (I have the 50th anniversary copy 2013)
  4. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, ill. by Mary Grandpre (2014)
  5. The Bear Ate your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach (2015)
  6. Thank you, Octopus by Darren Farrell (2014)
  7. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, ill. by Jon Klassen (2013)
  8. Bloom by Doreen Cronin, ill. David Small (2016)
  9. One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, ill. by David Small
  10. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, ill. by Brendan Kearney
  11. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen, ill. by Mark Teague (2000)
  12. Firefly Mountain by Patricia Thomas, ill. by Peter Sylvada (2007)
  13. Ramble about another childhood favorite The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, ill. by Lane Smith and more (25th anniversary addition)
  14. Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, ill. by Shadra Strickland (2014)
  15. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, ill. by Ben Mantle (2015)
  16. Ramble about Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats and why she inspired me to illustrate/write children’s books in the first place.
  17. Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light (2014)
  18. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, ill. by David Roberts (2013)
  19. The Grudge Keeper  by Mara Rockliff, ill. by Eliza Wheeler
  20. I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty, ill. by Mike Boldt (2015)
  21. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (but more just Shaun Tan work in general)

Okay! That’s a pretty big line up, but I’m ready to get to writing~