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Finding ‘Voice’ in Children’s Picture Books

We went to our grandson’s Kindergarten celebration the other day. When it was over he gave me a big hug and said, “You smell like you guys’es place.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the smell of an older relative’s house when I was a young child came to mind. Then I thought of the building where our granddaughters’ gymnastics classes were held and how it smelled like sweaty socks. I hoped I didn’t smell like either of those! But I think I was ok, since he gave me a loong hug.

Later that night I started thinking about voice, and how in the same way that you sometimes identify certain places with smells, you identify certain authors and their characters by ‘voice.’

When I think of Robert Munsch, I always think of his humor and use of onomatapoeia— ‘Varoooooooooommmm,’ and ‘blam, blam, blam, blam, blam!’

When I think of the Frances books by Russell Hoban I can’t help but think how the voice of Frances comes through in the short rhymes that she makes up when she’s thinking or talking.

No one can write about farm animals quite the way that Doreen Cronin does. And the voice of Steven Kellogg is unique, whether he’s writing about a snake eating the wash or bringing characters to life as in Johnny Appleseed or Pecos Bill.

Voice is the way that only you can write.

Laura Backes says in Writing-World.com— “Voice is like a fingerprint; it makes the story uniquely yours.” Click on the link to read Laura’s post on voice.

Voice is probably the least ‘teachable’ part of writing a picture book. Because it’s not really taught, it’s a part of you already. You just have to ‘find’ it.

The way to do that is to write. Write spontaneously, without thinking about a polished manuscript. Write your first drafts, and don’t go back until you’ve finished. Don’t stop to correct grammar, or to fix story or develop your characters. All of that comes later, with revision. The more you write, the more your ‘voice’ will come through.

Here are a few more books to look at—

THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Hensen is told in a narrative, Appalachian voice.
ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS by Lita Judge
HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODIGHT? and other ‘Dinosaur’ books by Jane Yolen
LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE by Kevin Henkes

Read more about Finding Your Voice at —

Highlights Foundation blog for children’s writers.

Lee and Low Books

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