Whew.... March is almost over. I've read over 100 picture books and will have 100+ recorded on this blog. Like any goal, as the end looms near, I begin to wonder what comes next? One thing I know for sure, I have a ton of ideas and notes to get me started on new picture book concepts. Whether nonfiction or fairy tales, rhyming or repetitive, I hope other #ReFoReMo readers and writers find inspiration in these books as well!
Enjoy! ~ Juli
#81-85 FRACTURED FAIRY TALES, SONGS and NURSERY RHYMES
WHY: Fractured Fairy Tales, songs and Nursery Rhymes have always had a soft-spot in my writing. I’m a firm believer that young students should have a background in the basics and then be introduced to the same stories in all varieties. In middle school, teachers can introduce the term ALLUSION and reference these stories and variations in chapter books they may be reading.
81. OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON by Ken Baker Illustrated by Christopher Santoro 2012 Amazon Children’s Books (PB/3rd POV/Fractured Nursery Rhyme-Dragons-idioms-friends)
WHAT: I like that only one element was changed from the original song: BINGO. The author added a dragon. Simply by adding the dragon, everything else changes. In this case, it works because a dragon is an extremely volatile creature.
HOW: Using this knowledge, how can writers alter other classics? To make this successful, what is the most EXTREME difference that you can make? Add or delete a character. Change or switch personalities or actions. If the characters are animals (as many are) what if their characteristics are atypical for their species? Allow yourself to experiment with as many variations as you can dream up!
82. THE THREE BILLY GOATS FLUFF by Rachael Mortimer Illustrated by Liz Pichon 2010 Tiger Tales (PB/3rd POV/Fractured Fairy Tale-cooperation-neighbors- onomatopoeia)
WHAT: In this variation, the troll has the best voice. He is sensitive to his own mistake but at the same time, needs to make a change in his living conditions. The rhyming verses are fun and catchy which makes this an easy read-aloud.
HOW: I strongly suggest looking at original versions before heading to deeply into fractured stories. It’s such a basic story and the roles are much more fleshed out in most picture book adaptations. Essentially, by providing a BACKSTORY for the goats, the author has created a new solution. By asking WHY? the troll is bothered, the reader gets to surmise solutions. If the troll had been bothered by the smell of the goats, a different solution would be necessary. When reading this aloud, teachers might want to stop when the problem is identified and see what students come up with as possible solutions.
83. THE THREE LITTLE ALIENS AND THE BIG BAD ROBOT by Margaret McNamara Illustrated by Mark Fearing 2011 Schwartz & Wade Books
(PB/3rd POV/Space-Fractured Fairy Tale-friendship/family)
WHAT: I love variations on the “Three Little Pigs” story and find this one very different. The author has definitely taken care of every little nuance that fits the “outer space/alien” theme and notes how the illustrator also added features that supported the magical realism.
HOW: As a mentor text, this is one that demonstrates how thorough in theme and consistency is important, even when retelling a basic story. The reader must believe that the situation is possible. In order to do that, word choice must be on point.
84. CINDERS: A CHICKEN CINDERELLA by Jan Brett 2013 G. P. Putnam’s Sons
(PB/3rd POV/Fractured Fairy Tale-Cinderella-fancy chickens)
WHAT: Jan Brett is amazing at turning classics into something new and interesting. While I’m not a fan of chickens, fancy or not, the book has a charming quality, only intensified by her gorgeous illustrations. In typical fashion, Ms. Brett takes a story-within-a-story approach with Cinders. The outer story is about a young girl tending her fancy chickens and her father, who is bringing home a newcomer. The inner story is the Cinderella tale, told as if the entire hen house is part of the fairy tale.
HOW: This book belongs in any classroom unit on fractured fairy tales. It’s inspiring to look at animals in the roles of beloved characters. As writers, we need to step outside of that “people” narrative and try replacing words (nouns and verbs) with those that reflect characteristics typical of an animal group.
85. HOW THE LIBRARY (NOT THE PRINCE) SAVED RAPUNZEL by Wendy Meddour Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown 2014 Janetta Otter-Barry Books
(PB/3rd POV/Fractured Fairy Tale-Rapunzel-reading-libraries-depression/boredom)
WHAT: This book was not what I expected. The author took the character of Rapunzel and instead of making her a prisoner against her will, she was in complete control and chooses to remain at the highest level, in her apartment. By altering this element, the story completely changes. It’s up to the other characters to convince her to come DOWN.
HOW: In this story, the alteration is all about character motivation. WHY did the main character do what they have done? (And also, what if the main character’s position changes from the original?)
#86-90+ BOOKS about BOOKS
WHY: There is something I find charming about books that teach us to love words. Whether they are books about writing or reading, these books are essential for writers and readers of all ages to have on their shelf!
86. ONCE UPON A TIME : WRITING YOUR OWN FAIRY TALE by Nancy Loewen illustrated by Christopher Lyles 2009 Picture Window Books
(NF/PB/3rd POV/writing instruction-fairy tales-story structure)
WHAT: This is one in a series of many in the WRITER’S TOOLBOX series. I love them all! The story isn’t different than the one everyone knows, but the hints and guides that follow along are beneficial to all levels of writers and readers!
HOW: Don’t look at this picture book and think it’s just for kids. Adult writers will benefit from the wise advice and suggestions as well! For teachers who are hesitant to teach creative writing, this is the series for you! The “Getting Started Exercises” at the back are wonderful ways to experiment with the classics!
87. ROCKET WRITES A STORY by Tad Hills 2012 Schwartz & Wade Books
(PB/3rd POV/writing-inspiration-word collecting)
WHAT: Rocket is the perfect pup to inspire young readers to write (and read). What I find most interesting about these books though, is that if we take away Tad’s illustrations, and change a few key words “little yellow bird” to “teacher”, the story is about ANY child in ANY classroom. While this story is similar to many instructional text, the narrative carries it and lets the nonfiction become the “finds” hidden within the story of Rocket’s own writing success.
HOW: In the primary grades, this book would be a great introduction for daily journal writing. Slightly older classes could identify the steps that Rocket takes as a writer. Children could even discuss what writer’s block is and how Rocket solves his own writer’s block. As a mentor text for my own writing, I’m inspired by the small details that (again) the author uses to change a simple text into something magical.
88. MY PET BOOK by Bob Staake 2014 Random House Children’s Books
WHAT: What I love about this book is the feeling that Bob Staake has captured--the love. Most children identify with the emotions of loss and this book deals with loss (and the joy of the find!) without overwhelming the reader. Emotions are paramount throughout the text
HOW: As a mentor text, I re-read through many times. The word love is never used, but it’s clear that the character loves his book. How does Bob do this? He uses synonyms and antonyms for descriptions of a “pet book”. By telling the reader what a pet book is not, the author has allowed us to create our own understanding of what it is!
Additionally, this story is a perfect example of narrative plot. Try it yourself! Grab a plot structure like this one and match the points! (Hint: Dad suggests the conflict/problem at the very beginning!)
WHAT: I love books that build in structure. This book builds with each page. It builds tension; it builds pace, it builds story. My guess is that Cece’s mentor text was the classic GREEN EGGS WITH HAM. When the boy/child finally decides to read the book with someone else, YOU ...the fourth wall is broken.
HOW: Like another great “building” book, STUCK, this book starts with a simple statement: “I will not read this book.” After a brief introduction/setup for this character and problem, each subsequent page then repeats the previous and adds one more detail until the climax (when it all changes). As a writer, this is a structure that demands for you to experiment with it!
90. THE BOY & THE BOOK (A WORDLESS STORY) by David Michael Slater Illustrated by Bob Kolar 2015 Charlesbridge (PB/Wordless/Cooperation-understanding-reading)
WHAT: Sometimes wordless stories present multiple views or different ways a story can be told. This book keeps to one simple plot: Boy wants specific book BUT he damages the book each time he “reads” it SO the other books “rescue” the injured book THEN they realize that both the book and the boy need each other in order for reading to be successful. This is the lesson any teacher/parent/adult must remember when working with children. Sometimes reading is a struggle, and can be rough on all materials involved. But in the end, the outcome is glorious!
HOW: After reading Lori Degman’s post about what is left out, I’m questioning whether anything is in this book. WHICH leads to ways to look at this text critically: What is the boy’s motivation for this specific book? Why is he upset? Why did his mother bring him here? Where are they? The illustrations provide so much back story, I’m left to believe that nothing was truly left out of importance that we need to create the “words” to this wordless book!
90.+ READ ME A STORY, STELLA by Marie-Louise Gay 2013 Groundwood Books
(PB/3rd POV/story inspiration-reading)
WHAT: I chose to include this book because it’s so strange and beautifully interesting to me. The narrative is simple: Girl and boy are enjoying the day. Boy is curious (outside) Girl is curious (within the confines of the book). Both are aware of each other. Eventually the stories collided. The girl acts out and blends the details in her book with the outside while the boy wants to check with what she’s reading. At the end, they are reading together about their adventures and the story they have created.
HOW: While I’m not sure what I would use from the structure of this book (other than the two narratives crossing paths and combining) I do love what it teaches us about writing inspiration and reading. By noticing the things around us, writers re-create the world in their books. That is why I love to write.