Saturday, April 10, 2010

Picture Books Outside the Box

Writing a picture book outside the box takes a big idea -- the concept makes or breaks a book like this!

Techniques to achieve this... with fun examples!

1. Dialogue that directly addresses the reader
The Monster at the End of This Book - Jon Stone, Michael Smollin
(We passed the book around and read it aloud. I LOVE THIS BOOK!)
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! - Mo Willems

2. Only dialogue between characters
Not a Box - Antoinette Portis
The Three Pigs - David Weisner

3. Playing with the physical nature of the book
The Three Pigs - David Weisner
(OMG I forgot how awesome this book is. Seriously. How does he come up with this stuff?!)

4. Premise-based book
Open Me... I'm a Dog - Art Speigelman

5. Book that apes another kind of book
i.e. - use an existing type of literature (how-to book, cookbook, etc) to give your story structure

6. Poetic language
- Language is the focus, the originality - not the story itself
Black is Brown is Tan - Arnold Adoff, Emily Arnold McCully

7. Repetition and change
- Don't necessary have a story/narrative, but the repetition pulls you to the next page
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Laura Joffe Numeroff, Felicia Bond

8. Theme and variation
Chicken Soup with Rice - Maurice Sendak
When You Were Small - Sara O'Leary, Julie Morstad

9. Silliness (hard to label this one!)
Guess Again - Mac Barnett, Adam Rex
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd

(Honesty here -- I'm a YA writer and a complete YA addict, wholly oblivious to the art of picture books. And I'm ENTRANCED. I love this session, and even though I still can't imagine writing a picture book, it's making me want to plop in the middle of the picture book section of the library or bookstore and just READ. These books are so much fun!)

NONE of these books have a traditional narrative... BUT they all do things a traditional narrative does because they create a sense of change and builds tension via changes in...
- Character
- Situation
- Intensity (level and pitch)
- Font (not for authors to worry about, but worth noting)

You can't just have a great concept -- you must develop it somehow, build it up like a story arc, but using different techniques.

For the second half of the session, everyone split into groups to discuss their out-of-the-box concepts and help each other with them. They came up with some great stuff!

In conclusion -- I'm a HUGE fan of the hilarious books used as examples, and you should check them out if you haven't already. And I think I may suggest a picture-books-and-wine party, because I'm dying to read some more aloud! As for the wine... well, why not?

1 comment:

  1. hehe this one comes rally handy.
    While reviewing I was in doubt whether the dialogue in my picture book was right.
    Since it's only between characters it should be ok, I guess.
    Plus now I have a whole bunch of books to add to my whishlist, so double kudos for you:)


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