Thursday, June 12, 2014

ANALYZING PICTURE BOOKS—THE BEST BOOK TO READ


THE BEST BOOK TO READ was written by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom, published by Dragonfly Books, 2008, and illustrated by one of my favorites, Michael Garland. The book has approximately 420 words spread over fourteen out of twenty-five pages. Six pages have four lines of text, seven pages have five lines, and one page has six lines.

THE BEST BOOK TO READ opens with a beautiful picture of a school bus dropping a line of children off at the library, so it starts right where the story is to begin—at the library. There is no time wasted showing a character anxious to go to the library.

The first line has two short sentences, “Hooray,” and “It’s a trip to the library today.” Note the rhyme in hooray and today. The next sentence ends in the word bus, which rhymes with the word used in the last line on the page, two lines (but three short sentences) down.

On the third line, two sentences end in rhyme. “We’ve been specially invited. Our class is excited.”

The next page also utilizes rhyme, but not in the first sentence. The second line rhymes with the fourth line, and the third line rhymes with the fifth.

The variation of rhyme placement intrigued me, first annoyingly and then with appreciation. The words on the second page follow a different rhyming pattern than that of the previous page—no rhyme in the first line, but the second and fifth lines end in rhyme, and the third and fourth lines end in rhyme.

Changing up the rhyme placement in this book makes it read more like a story rather than sing-songy verses, because we quickly see that we can’t stick to any specific pattern for the rhymes.

I have to admit that because rhymes on different pages fell in a sequence that didn’t follow a previous sequence, I sometimes tripped on reading in any lyrical way at all.

But the story itself is entertaining. Different pages show what different books are about, one on bugs, one on baking cakes or desserts, one on magic tricks, and another on dinosaurs, and some on other topics. This is a wonderful way to show a child that there is truly a “best book” for every youngster, regardless of different likes. Personally, I’d have to choose THE MAGIC TRICKS by Harry Huckster. I was disappointed to look for this one on Amazon only to see that it doesn’t exist—the titles are made up. I guess I would’ve figured that out had I been interested in the book, MAKE IT YOURSELF, by Martha Muffins, or the book about dogs written by Professor Barker. But I thought Harry Huckster might be a neat pen or stage name by a real author and magician.

I don’t think this will be a problem for children, because each book covers a different interest, and there will be real books on the same topic that grandparents can check out for their little darlings, perhaps some with just as beautiful of pictures.

Michael Garland’s illustrations are animated in such a way as to give life to what’s going on in some of the make-believe books shown, such as showing a boy magician holding a hat with a rabbit jumping out of it. THE BEST BOOK TO READ will definitely entice children to want to make a trip to the library, so, grandparents, I suggest only reading it when you have the spare time to venture downtown.

Just as it would happen in real life, a few children in the story want the same book. The authors address the problem right away, mentioning that often libraries have more than one copy of certain books.

There is also an illustration showing children raising their hands, everyone who wants a library card. I would’ve liked something either said or shown in the illustration about the excitement the children feel when they hold that new card—shiny and smooth—for the first time. I know my kids felt important having their very own library cards.

Still, this is a good picture book and one we can learn from. The neat thing is that children will learn something too, and yet it doesn’t feel or read like any sort of lesson at all.

The same authors wrote THE BEST PLACE TO READ, which was published in 2003 by Dragonfly Books. This first book also used the same illustrator, Michael Garland. The same style is used, but this first book shows a main character traipsing through the house room by room, looking for the best place to read. The table is sticky, springs poke through Grandpa’s chair, and big sister’s stereo makes another room too noisy. Finally, (and adorably), the child settles on Mom’s lap. What a nice and realistic way to settle the dilemma.

Consider the rhyme placement in your picture book and question yourself on the reason behind the decision. Do you want the listener to focus mostly on the lyrical beat, or do you want that focus shared more equally with story content and plot?

Happy writing!

32 comments:

  1. Hmm, I'm not sure. I would think a lyrical beat would be easier to read to a child, but story content and plot are probably more important. A very nice analysis of this book, and it sounds like a great one. What could be better about a children's book about libraries and getting children excited to read? :)

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    1. Yes, I love the look on a child's face when they open a new book.

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  2. Hi, deb,

    Since I've never written a picture book, I find this observation and crit very interesting. I illustrate as well and hope to create a pb on these days. Thanks for your thoughts! It was very helpful!

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    1. Generally, from my experience reading to wee ones, it is the pictures that have to grab them first. I envy your talent. :-)

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  3. I agree that anything that encourages a child's interest in reading is a good thing.

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    1. Yes! It sets long lives of reading into motion. :-)

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  4. How delightful! This morning on Skype my daughter Mary read to 2 yr. old Benjamin (at his insistence!) Enough to bring tears to my eyes!

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  5. It sounds like a happy read that will engage a child in wanting to do something besides go play a video game.

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    1. Yes, but this one is definitely a good book to pique another interest. :-)

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  6. Anything to engage is grand indeed, many a factor which I know well at my feed

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    1. Yeah, your feed is a rhyming bonanza! :-)

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  7. I wish I had known about this book last week when my nephews were visiting and I took them to the library to check out books. they would've loved it.

    I think some stories are better for their rhymes, and other stories don't need them at all. It all depends. :)

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    1. Yes, it does depend. Keep the book in mind for your next visit with your nephews. :-)

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  8. The story and plot is what gives the "guts" to a story and the lyrical aspect just is an added enticement. As long as it gets children to a library or book store instead of their computer, I-pad, phone-thingy, TV etc...has me in spades:)

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    1. I agree. I love books that grab young readers and keep them wanting to read more and more, and the added benefit of adding a new activity to their week--going to the library instead of the video store! :-)

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  9. Children books make me happy, even all those years later. Sounds like a great one, Deb.

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    1. This is a great book, and in the photo I used, that's my grandson on his daddy's lap. :-) cute, huh?

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  10. Will have to put this on my library list!

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    1. It is a great book. Kids almost always want to go to the library after they hear it, and they want books AND a library card. :-)

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  11. This sounds like a delightful book! Right now my gr-kids are between a 2 yr. old and sisters (8 and 9.5 yrs.). In a few years, I can start shopping for the 5-6 year olds again.

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    1. How nice to have the variety in ages. That must keep you active in LOTS of activities. :-)

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  12. Great review! I like the idea of a book that introduces kids to libraries at a young age.

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  13. I admire anyone who can write picture books, but rhyming picture books that work receive even higher praise.

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  14. This is so cool!

    My daughter is 16 and I no longer volunteer in a school so I don't read picture books very much anymore, and I've certainly never read a picture book review before but I really enjoyed this. I think there might be a lesson there for all writers about word choice... even if those words don't rhyme ;)

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    1. Yes. Try writing a picture book. It's great practice on brevity and word choice, and much harder than it looks. :-)

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  15. I'll have a look at this for my granddaughter.

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    1. It's an adorable book. The little guy sitting on daddy's lap in the photo with this article is my grandson. Not quite ready for his own library card, but he is certainly ready to grab books of a shelf. :-)

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  16. I think that story content and plot are important, but the lyrical beat would capture the kiddies attention first... though it also depends on the age.
    Kids are receptive to anything with rhythm or that's delivered in a sing-song style.
    Sounds like a delightful book!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Yes, and there are so many different style that any single one never gets old, because you read others in between.

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