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To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

What works and what doesn’t work when writing a picture book in verse?

When researching on line for information about writing picture books in verse, I came across several very good articles. The three that I chose to highlight were posted by a children’s author, a children’s author/illustrator, and an independent publishing company.

To get the complete picture, you’ll need to click on the links to read the full articles. But here is a sampling of some reasons for rejection that I plucked from their articles.

--Common rhyme schemes can be stale
--Forced rhyme or near-rhyme can ruin a story
--The meter (or beat) is not spot-on
--Awkward word order for the sake of rhyme
--The rhymes don’t make sense
--The story doesn’t stand on its own without the rhymes; there should be a real story
--Rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages

In her blog post, Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme, children’s author Tara Lazar tells us “It’s not that editors don’t necessarily LIKE rhyme. It’s just that it is very difficult to do well.” She gives some reasons why editors reject rhyming picture books.

For some great insight into writing rhyming picture books, visit Tara’s blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), and read her complete article, which also includes examples from successful picture books in rhyme.

In an article posted on her website, PJ Lyons gives readers some “parameters by which to judge picture book texts that tell a story in verse.” Lyons says, “Poetry is like music. You write it with a conscious ear to its sound, and use the tools of analysis if something doesn’t work to assess why.” Some of the points she makes apply to writing poetry as well.

Read the article on her website, Writing in Rhyme, to learn more about her paremeters for writing picture books in rhyme.

Nosy Crow is an independent company, which publishes children’s books and apps, and has published children’s books in rhyme. On their website, Kate tells us three things that editors look for in rhyming texts.

Read the complete article for an editor’s inside look at rhyming picture books at A View From the Crow’s Nest.

Some other great web resources on rhyming picture books are:

from CBI: The Fighting Bookworms, by Laura Backes
Writing in Rhyme
http://write4kids.com/rhyme.html

from Margot Finke on Harold Underdown's website
How to Write a Picture Book with Fabulous "R & M"
http://www.underdown.org/mf-rhyme-and-meter.htm

from Tracy Preston Cook
Rhyme = Rejection Letter? Rhyming Children’s Picture Books
http://traceyprestoncook.com/?p=123

from Tamsom Weston Books
Rhyming Picture Books Aren’t So Scary
www.tamsonweston.com/blog/rhyming-picture-books-arent-so-scary

In her picture books about nature, Donna Bateman’s rhythm and rhyme add so much to the book (See an interview with Donna in my previous post)! Here are some other rhyming picture books that I enjoyed:

GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books LLC 2011.
First line: “Down in the big construction site,/ The tough trucks work with all their might…”
At sunset, when their work is done for the day, a crane truck, a cement mixer, and other pieces of construction equipment make their way to their resting places and go to sleep.

BEAR SNORES ON, by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Margaret K. McElderry Books 2002.
First line: “In a cave in the woods,/ in his deep, dark lair,/ through the long, cold winter/ sleeps a great brown bear.”
On a cold winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear, who then awakes and protests that he has missed the food and the fun.

HUSH! A Thai Lullaby, by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade, Orchard Books 1996.
First lines: “Hush! Who’s that weeping in the wind? Wee-wee, Wee-wee,/ A small mosquito.”
A lullaby which asks animals such as a lizard, monkey, and water buffalo to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping baby.

THIS LITTLE CHICK, written and illustrated by John Lawrence, Candlewick Press 2002.
First line: “This little chick from over the way/ went to play with the pigs one day./ And what do you think they heard him say?”
A little chick shows that he can make the sounds of the animals in his neighborhood.

BINK AND SLINKY’S ARK ADVENTURE, is a new picture book written by my friend, Donna Arlynn Frisinger, and illustrated by Monica Gutierrez, Standard Publishing 2013.
First line: “What is this strange message two groovy snails found/ at the Garden of Chewies, in slime on the ground?”
Two small snails overcome obstacles and, with the help of others along the way, find their way to the ark before it’s too late.

If you have a favorite picture book in rhyme, feel free to let us know in your comments here!  Read More 
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