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Ever been reading a picture book to one of your kids and thought to yourself, “Who wrote this garbage?” Ever walked the aisles of your local bookstore, stunned by the tonnage of tomes on the shelves, and thought, “I could do better than this.”
I haven’t done an official survey, but I imagine that most parents, at one time or another, have toyed with the idea of writing a picture book. Of course, like many things, it’s probably not as easy as it looks. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Again, no official survey here, but it seems to me that the more you model reading and writing to your kids, the more they’ll want to do it, too. In fact, if you share your great book idea with your kids, they’ll probably want to critique it, possibly even help you write it, or at least draw the pictures. So maybe it’s time to give that idea a try. If you do, here are a few things to bear in mind.
Picture books are almost always 32 pages long, but the first few pages are taken by the copyright and title pages.
Be clear on where the page breaks will occur. Some pages might have only a word or two on them; some can have up to a paragraph or more.
Think visually. You don’t have to draw the picture yourself, but it helps if your text suggests an image.
Yes, picture books are short. But it’s still nice when a story has a strong beginning, middle, and end.
One more thing: There are many companies these days who will publish a book for you – and even sell it online. Check out Xlibris. For less money than you might think, you can have your very own Amazon number. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, research the names of the kids’ editors at traditional publishers who’ve published books you’ve enjoyed, and send yours their way. Editors are always looking for the next big thing. You never know, right?
Does this scenario sound at all familiar?
It’s raining. You’ve been inside with the kids all day. You’ve already allowed them twice their usual quota of TV. You’ve baked cookies. You’ve played Candyland over ten times. You’ve read so many books that your voice is raw and both your index fingers are riddled with paper cuts.
Short of running out of the house, screaming, what next?The last time this happened to me I thought back to an assignment given our class by my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. D’Angelo, a largish man who also happened to be a blackbelt in karate. The guy once broke a cinder block in two with his bare fist. No fooling.
In any case, one day Mr. D. (as he let us call him) wrote this on the blackboard:
A Bermuda Onion
A pink ping-pong ball
The assignment was to write a story that included each of the listed details at least once. Being the Watergate era, a friend and I penned a tract about a politician named Richard M. Lindsay who searches the globe looking for the Purple Pickle of Peace, The Bermuda Onion of Crime, and the Pink Ping Pong Ball of Poverty. But I digress.
On a recent rainy day, it occurred to me that I could use the same game to get my own young kids to make up their own stories.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” I said. “We’re going to go in a circle and tell a story. The story has to include a yellow raccoon, a blue carrot, and an astronaut from France.”
I don’t remember all the details, but suffice it to say, the story we came up with – a tale of an astronaut named Jean-Claude who rockets with a yellow raccoon to Pluto in search of a magical blue carrot – was pretty darned funny. At least we thought so at the time. Better yet, when we were finished, my daughter, Cassie, decided to write it all down and draw pictures. One of her first books!
Now it’s one of those things we do when we’ve run out of other things to do.
Thanks Mr. D!