Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to Write a Children's Picture Book

Yesterday I read another section of the Eve Heidi Bine-Stock book, How to Write a Children's Picture Book, and in this chapter on transitioning from one sentence to the next, Bine-Stock focuses on actions and reactions.

What's an action?

A cat walked in front of the dog's house.

What's a reaction?

The dog growled at the cat.

What would be confusing for children at their more basic level of reading comprehension would be to reverse the order of the action - reaction. Bine-Stock instead, like most children's writing instructors, encourage authors to first state the action, and then the reaction. Here's how this could look:

Action - Reaction
The cat sauntered by the house, and the dog growled ferociously.

This shows the action, followed by the reaction.

Here is the opposite:

The dog growled ferociously at the cat sauntering by the house.

There is nothing wrong with this last sentence grammatically or otherwise. The question, however, is: what will help the readers best understand what is happening in the story? For very fluent or adult readers, action - reaction is not as important. The writing can be more free flowing without going back to the basics. But when writing for children, following guidelines like these can help children to grasp the meaning without a convoluted thinking process.

By the way, I recently discovered a new blog: Alice's CWIM Blog, written by the editor of Children's Writing and Illustrating Market. Check it out!

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