Friday, May 31, 2013

Learning from Picture Books: No Bears

Since I’m inescapably drawn to writing picture books when I'm not working on my middle grade novels, I decided I’d better start reading more of them and figuring out what makes them work. So every other Friday, I'm posting "Learning from Picture Books" to share what I've learned.
No Bears
written by Meg McKinlay

illustrated by Leila Rudge

US edition published by Candlewick Press

From Amazon:

Ella is in charge of this book, and she will tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.

My thoughts as a writer:
The concept catches my attention – it’s simple and well-defined. The book appeared to have a lot of text, but it’s actually under 500 words. It has a story within a story, which is interesting, but I think it’s a difficult one to learn from in terms of structuring a picture book. The key learning for me was that a strong concept gives you room to build an interesting story.

My thoughts as a teacher:
I love the way this book models writing and using your imagination, as well as the key words that signal you’re reading a fairy tale. It paves the way for a discussion and possibly some list-making about what kids would like to write about themselves.  It also gives an opportunity for talking about how the pictures tell part of the story. Some children might be confused by the ending if they aren’t careful to pay attention to the pictures.


  1. I love it when picture books are tied in so intricately to the illustrations.

  2. It sounds like it would be very stimulating to be able to trade off between novels and PBs. Nice change of pace! I'm not a PB writer however. I've tried 2-3 times, and even got good rejections on one, but in the end it's not me.

    1. Interesting, Marcia. It's so important to know our own strengths as writers. I'll probably get lots of rejections, too! But since I'm around kindergarten students all the time, it's a natural fit.

  3. This book sounds adorable, but I see what you mean about the story within the story. Most picture books aren't that complex.

    I've had plenty of rejections on my PBs! That's when I started writing MG. It's so very hard to write a good picture book. I'll keep trying, as I know you will, Andrea.


I love to hear your responses and thoughts! Your comments will appear after moderation (I've decided to enable moderation due to excessive spam).