Front and Back Cover
Writing Lesson Week Three: Breaking the Fourth Wall and Narrative Story Structure
Voice and tone can make a children's book fun and delightful.
This week includes:
• Examples of Lists in Children's Books as a cohesive story structure.
• Examples of voice and point of view
• Examples of breaking the fourth wall.
• Your assignment
How question and answers play into picture book structure.
The Storyclock Method
I found this method works nicely for children's books to brain dump your themes, characters and actions so that you can start to organize your storyplot. I've plotted some story favorites for analysis.
The Book Dummy
Once I have an idea of some characters and some actions that will take place in the book I like to move to a book dummy because as you turn through the pages it's obvious what is working and what is not. Each time you turn through a dummy; little changes become obvious and each pass through tightens up the story. My heart does a little dance when the book is working and throws little jabs at me when it's not. (Tip: read to the age appropriate audience for insight on what's working and what is not—it's amazing the clarity that comes to you when sitting with a 4 year old.) I keep reworking my book dummies until they're tight, feel fluent and don't "jab" at me as I read through them.
Along a Long Road by Frank Viva
JOURNEY / CIRCUALR: This road is circular, literally. This road lines up physically page to page, around the end papers, and across the cover to meet up to the endpapers on the other side.
REPETITIVE PHRASE: Along a long road.
JOURNEY: Another book by Frank Viva, this book is also designed around spacial play. The yellow arrow begins the path. The path physically lines up page to page.
JOURNEY: This is our main character that begins a journey.
That's the end, but that's not all....
PARALLEL JOURNEY: ...This arrow marks the beginning of the path. You can now read the book in the other direction as well! I've seen other books visually read two different ways, but to be able to read text back and forth page to page is an interesting push in the boundary of a picture book.
The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathmann
What a troublesome butterfly.
FRONT MATTER: This book has an extra page of front matter to get a feel of the whole town—setting the scene.
JOURNEY: Here begins with the main character. We can tell there is a main character, because the text addresses "you". In the illustration you see one child noticing the babies.
REPETITIVE PHRASE: The book begins with repeating the phrase: "Do you remember..." Also the phrase "What a day When the babies crawled away!"
COMPARISON: There is a comparison by repeating the words "They took a short nap in a pile on you"
COMPARISON: The child was taking care of the babies the way the mom is taking care of the child. Before read: "They took a short nap in a pile on you" And here where the mom is taking care of the child it reads: "you fell fast asleep in a small pile on me."
The book ends with repeating the phrase: "What a day When the babies crawled away!" The repetition draws the story together circling back around to the beginning, but it also makes the differences stand out as in here when it says: "Shhhhh! I say,
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson Illustrated by Beth Krommes (The Caldecott winner for 2008)
CUMULATIVE: Notice the two-color illustrations and how the limited color palette help tells the story. This is page four-five and intro to our main character—the child, not the key.
CUMULATIVE / CIRCULAR: Remember last week that the end of the sentence leaves a lasting impression on the reader? This book is a perfect example. The sentences transition to each other by picking up the last word of the previous sentence and using it to start the next sentence.
JOURNEY: This begins to create a feeling of a journey.
CIRCULAR: This story builds up to this point then moves through the elements in reverse order.
CUMULATIVE /DE-CUMULATIVE: This story builds up to this point then moves through the elements in reverse order. It also uses the structure from last week as well as a circular structure.
The story moves back through the nouns
These last two lines read so well together.
Question: What is inside the house? Answer: Order and a comforting Universe.
Not A Box by Antoinette Portis
QUESTION AND ANSWER: Here an unseen narrator is asking a question....
... and Bunny is answering.
This concept creates a very cohesive story. Not to be confused with the overall view of how your story asks and answers a question.
Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
CIRCULAR STORY STRUCTURE / JOURNEY Trashy Town is a distinctly circular story, but it could also loosely be thought of as a journey.
Page four-five: Meet Mr. Gilly.
Page six-seven: Here is the set up.
REPETITIVE PHRASE: The refrain: "Dump it in, Smash it down, Drive around the Trashy Town! Is the trash truck full yet?" is fun to read and ties the story together. Sometimes we think more is better instead of appreciating how wonderful simplicity can read.
Count how many times Mr. Gilly cleans up. This page is the second.
This page is third.
This page is fourth.
This page is sixth.
ILLUSTRATED COMPANIONS: If you look back through the illustrations, you will notice that the rats have been with Mr. Gilly all along. Even at home in the bath! This page is seven.
Story Question: What's it like to a trashman in Trashy Town? Answer: It's fun to clean up Trashy Town.
This book is only 24 pages, but this is the conclusion.
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