First of all I want to say that if you think writing a picture book is easy — ha! — think again. It’s far more difficult than writing a complicated poem such as a sestina or a villanelle. You need to incorporate elements of poetry, an attention-grabbing story line, action with lots of visual possibilities, layers of meaning, and whimsical creativity within a limited word and page count. Plus you must appeal to young readers and their parents, and your message must not be didactic or condescending. A picture book writer has many balls to juggle!
The following two sites offer good information on the genre:
I chose Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as the notable picture book I wanted to analyze because it contains all the elements I listed earlier. (And because it’s a awesome read.)
Here’s a fun reading of the book by Christopher Walken:
And here’s an interesting psychological analysis of the book:
Here are some of the rhetorical devices I noticed in the text:
1-examples of alliteration:
-wore his wolf suit and made mischief
-the walls became the world
2- examples of repetition
-a forest grew and grew – and grew
-they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
3- examples of internal rhyme
–till Max said “BE STILL!”
-and made him king of all the wild things.
4- examples of assonance and consonance
night – kind
sent – bed
came – place
start – are
wolf – mischief
year – are
5- examples of rhythm (all the sentences have rhythm)
-But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go —
we’ll eat you up — we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
6- examples of word play
-and he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
7- examples of figurative language
-an ocean tumbled by
-and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room
8- examples of onomatopoeia
they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
And here’s a fabulous example of sentence fluency:
But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go — we’ll eat you up — we love you so!” And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws, but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him and it was still hot.
Maurice Sendak makes it seem so easy, doesn’t he?
The point of this exercise was to notice how rhetorical devices enhance the rhythm and flow of sentences, and then apply these strategies to our own work.
I’m revising a couple of picture books right now, so I’m going to stick to this exercise for one more week.
Talk to you next Monday! 🙂