Rhyming Picture Books: Writer, Don’t Preach!

Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way

This month, we’re sharing a brief excerpt each week from our new book, Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way. At the moment, it’s Kindle only, though it will be available in paperback, too, before too long.

Here’s this week’s excerpt, our final one. We hope you’ve enjoyed them!

Because the first books written explicitly for children were intentionally didactic—with a goal of teaching children a moral lesson—writers still sometimes fall into preachiness when writing for children today. This isn’t an effective approach for any contemporary children’s books, but in our experience as Mentors for Rent, an overly preachy tone seems to be an especially big risk for rhyming writers—enough so that we felt it deserved special attention in this collection….

Basically, if you find yourself feeling like you must tell the reader how to interpret your intention for the piece, or stating a moral lesson outright, you have probably done too much telling and not enough showing. You can certainly have a clear and strong message for your work, even a strongly moral message if you choose—but you want that message to emerge organically through the action of the story.

For example, in Liz Garton Scanlon’s Think Big, different artistic endeavors are celebrated with every page turn. But Scanlon never defaults to over-explaining the importance of being creative. Instead, the message clearly emerges through her simple text, the exuberant illustrations, and even through the very sound of her playful rhymes: “Pinch salt / Dice, chop / Click, flash / Time stop.”

For more examples of great rhyming picture books with organic messages or truths, along with tips for avoiding that preachy feeling, check out our Kindle ebook ($2.99).

About Laura Purdie Salas

children's writer, poet, reader, visiting author, speaker/teacher, mentor, copyeditor, freelance writer
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