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Are picture books with rhyming verse considered poetry?


I’ve always thought of picture books in verse as poetry. But apparently not everyone agrees. And what about picture books in which there is a rhyme, sometimes repeating, within the story?

Some of my kids’ favorite books were the Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is a badger, and her stories relate to some of the insecurities that young children experience. Titles about Frances include BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, A BABY SISTER FOR FRANCES, and BEDTIME FOR FRANCES.

A common trait in the books is that, at times, Frances makes up rhymes. For my kids, a favorite Frances rhyme (BEDTIME FOR FRANCES) goes like this—

“S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier…”

They would read that line over and over! I’m sure the rhymes in these books played a part in their enjoyment of poetry as well as honing their reading skills. The rhymes, and the humor, make these books fun to read.

BELLA & BEAN by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is a story about two mice with different personalities who are friends. Bella is a poet. In this book, not all of the poems that Bella writes rhyme. She writes lists of words, and then uses them to create a poem. At the end she writes a poem about the two friends. It begins—

“One blanket
holds two friends
calm and cozy
at the edge of a pond….”

To me this book is about creating a poem as much as it is about friendship. And it brings home the point to young children that all poems do not have to rhyme.

Please stop by this Wednesday for an Interview with Donna M. Bateman, author of two wonderful picture books in verse about nature!

The Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams, HarperCollins Publishers 1960’s
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009

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Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference Wrap-Up

Kerry Martin, Mary kole, Lisa Yoskowitz, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich at the Panel Q&A (questions & answers)
April came to a close for Indiana SCBWI at our Spring Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Indianapolis. We welcomed the spring weather, and renewed our spirits with inspiration as well as information coming from experts in the field of children's writing and illustrating.

Our speakers included--
Lisa Yoskowitz, editor at Disney*Hyperion Books for Children,
Kerry Martin, Book Designer for children's picture books at Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Mary Kole, literary agent for children's writers at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, poet and children's author and Golden Kite Honor recipiant for her picture book, "Bella and Bean."

We kicked off the week-end on Friday evening with open mic readings by attending authors, and portfolio reviews by illustrators who were there. A great way to get some quick feed-back from other children's writers and illustrators, as well as from the speakers.

Saturday morning got us into the meat of the conference.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich started us out with a peek into her writer's studio. She talked about how she writes, and her journey to publication--the ups and downs, rejections and then the acceptances--and gave tips for aspiring writers.

Lisa Yoskowitz then talked about creating suspense in our stories. Some advice she gave--
*Stay true to the world and the characters that you've created.
*Create strong characters that will make the reader care about what happens to them.
*Introduce conflict, to stir up the plot, and to stir up the characters
*Keep the stakes high; good suspense stirs up the reader's imagination.

Mary Kole talked about what an agent does, and how to choose an agent that's right for you. She shared some tips on writing a query letter to an agent, including--
Always follow the agent guidelines.
Personalize your query to the agent.
Include what you think the selling point of your manuscript is, who your audience will be, and the word count.
Include a short bio related to your writing.
Be brief and professional.
She then read some query letters submitted by attendees, and talked about the strong and weak points of each.

Other breakout sessions to chose from (such a difficult decision!) were offered--
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, on A Banter of Basics, for beginning writers.
Lisa Yoskowitz, on Marketing your Manuscript to Stand Out in the Sluch Pile.
Kerry Martin, on How to Make the most of Your Illustration Marketing, using some real-life illustration submissions as examples.
Mary Kole, on what Separates Aspiring Writers from Published Authors.
And Kerry Martin again, on The Lauguage of Picture Books, interesting to writers as well as illustrators.

All of our speakers listened to anonymous First Pages of a manuscript submitted by attendees, and looked at illustration submissions. The speakers commented on whether they would be drawn in by that first page and continue reading, and why they would consider an illustrator based on their illustration sample.

In between sessions, four published Indiana authors were spotlighted and we heard a five-minute account of their journey to publication.

And at the end of the day, all of the speakers formed a panel to answer questions from attendees.

Sunday morning highlighted the writer or illustrator intensives, with another opportunity to receive input on manuscripts or portfolios.

Part of the value of the conference experience was to meet and talk to other children's authors and illustrators who were attending the conference, which adds to the value of the conference. Great feed-back after the conference confirmed that attendees came away encouraged, and committed to their work.

Thanks to all of the speakers, and the wonderful volunteers who helped make the week-end a success. Happy writing or illustrating to all!  Read More 
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Family Book Basket

I believe the Christmas season brings out the best in people, and there are always those who stand out among the rest for their generosity. The Belles of St. Mary's Church in Kouts, Indiana raffled off themed gift baskets once again this year in early December as a fund raiser. One of the baskets was a Family Book Basket. The books included in the basket would be a prize by themselves, but what made this one so special were the books that were donated and autographed by the authors and illustrators. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the following authors and illustrators, as well as a children's book reviewer and a bookseller, who very kindly donated books for the basket.

Nathan Clement, author and illustrator, for his picture book, DRIVE published by Front Street/Boyds Mills Press. Find out more about Nathan, including his up-coming book, at his website, http://stickman-studio.com/.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, author, for her picture book, GRANDPA LOVES, published by HarperCollins. Visit Rebecca and her books on her website at http://www.rebeccakaidotlich.com/.

Esther Hershenhorn, author, for her picture book, THERE GOES LOWELL’S PARTY!, published by Holiday House. You can find Esther and view her books on her website at http://www.estherhershenhorn.com/lucky.html.

Kristi Valiant, author and illustrator, for the following chapter books which she illustrated and that accompany the Our Generation dolls: THE MYSTERY OF THE VANISHING COIN and THE ADVENTURES AT SHELBY STABLES. Find Kristi and more about her books at http://www.kristivaliant.com/.

Mary Harris Russell, children's book reviewer, who donated several picture books which she recently reviewed for the Chicago Tribune. See http://articles.dailypress.com/2002-12-24/news/0212240020_1_eric-carle-sloth-jack-prelutsky.

And finally, Darlene McDonald of Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso, who donated several books for different ages to the book basket. Find out what's happening at B&N in Valpo at http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2138.

One of the un-anticipated pleasures of writing for children has been meeting the many wonderful people in the world of children's books. And that alone is its own reward.  Read More 
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