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Word-Painting 

A Poetry site

by Joy Moore

Why does this work and how can it help you?

Example: Picture Book Poem


ALL ABOARD THE MOONLIGHT TRAIN 

By Kristyn Crow art by Annie Won 

If you’re/ restless/ and can’t/ sleep, /-/-/-/+

come ex/plore the/ jungle/ deep, /-/-/-/+

where the/ beasts and/ critters/ creep. /-/-/-/+

All a/board the/ moonlight/ train. /-/-/-/+


There's a/ toucan/ at the/ gate- /-/-/-/+

Takes your/ ticket/, checks the/ date. /-/-/-/+

March a/board! Wild/ things a/wait. /-/-/-/+

All a/board the/ moonlight/ train. /-/-/-/+

Why does this work and how can it help you?


Do all rhyming picture books have to have a story structure? No. In fact, rhyming picture books work best when written in a poem structure. You are not forced into making a story to serve the rhyme. The above poem is beautiful, is it not?

  • Are you not transported into a dream like world?
  • Did you notice the poem is just exploring the sights and senses aboard a moonlight train?
  • Did you notice the refrain at the end of each stanza?
  • Do you not feel good dreams awaiting?

Poetry helps develop an awareness of language, phonic patterns, and rhythms. I like to think of it as power food for the brain waves. Poetry can transport children into delightful worlds of imagination and silliness. In time children acquire a palate for the poignant written word. 


Are you having trouble with that plot? Can't find the right rhyming word to tell your story?  Why not restructure your story into a poem? 


Example: Cumulative Story Structure


THIS IS THE MESS THAT WE MADE

by Michelle Lord art by art by Julia Blattman

This is the mess that we made.

These are the fish that swim in the mess that we made.

This is the seal that eats the fish that swim in the mess that we made.

This is the net that catches the seal, that eats the fish that swim in the mess that we made.

This is the boat of welded steel, that dumps the net, that catches the seal, that eats the fish

that swim in the mess that we made.

Why does this work and how can it help you?

A Cumulative Story is a story that builds on a pattern. It starts with one person, place, thing, or event. Each time a new person,

place, thing, or event is shown, all the previous ones are repeated.


Each event reinforces the initiating problem of the story and a new attempt at solving it. It helps children to think of different solutions.

  • Did you notice the problem, initiating event, character intentions and desires, and moral are there?
  • This is fun because children soon pick up on the refrain and increase their own vocabulary.
  • Did you notice how each event add momentum? Thereby increasing tension

Example: Picture Book Poem


FINDING KINDNESS

by Deborah Underwood art by art by Irene Chan

Kind/ness is some/times /--/-

a cup/ and a card -/--/

or a lad/der, a truck/, and a tree; --/--/--/

a scratch/ and a cud/dle, -/--/-

a rake/ and a yard, -/--/

a cook/ie, a car/rot, a key. -/--/--/ 

Why does this work and how can it help you?

Poems are perfect when trying to use rhyme in picture books. Why?


  • Did you notice that you are not forced into a dramatic arc.
  • Did you notice that this is a list poem?
  • This sets a lyrical, rhythmical tone. Not heavy in end rhymes. The rhyme is gently interspersed, like a flavorful spice.
  • This poem does all the heavy lifting of a story book. But it does more, it tells us how to be kind and compassionate while making us feel good.

Example: Poetry within Prose


LITTLE RED RHYMING HOOD

by Sue Flies art by Petros Bouloubasis

Once there was a girl who spoke only in rhyme. This drew attention.


Want to/ ride the/ swings with/ me? /-/-/-/

Race our/ bikes or/ climb a/ tree?/-/-/-/


“Look, everybody, the sad little rhymer has no friends,” teased the Big Brad Wolf.


“You don’t/ bother/ +me, /big Brad. /-/+/-/

Nast/y words/ won’t make/ me sad.” /-/-/-/

Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice this has tension, page turns and an emotional arc?
  • Did you notice that the rhyme happens only when the girl is speaking? This works because there is a reason for it. In this story we are learning about a girl who can only speak in rhyme. How this causes her problems and how she overcomes these problems.
  • This works because the story is not serving the rhyme

Example: Lyrical Prose


LOVING HANDS

by Tony Johnston art by Amy June Bates

A child/ is born/ one win/ter day -/-/-/-/

His moth/er calls/ him lamb. -/-/-/

She hums/ a tune/ that has/ no words -/-/-/-/

and holds/ her bab/y’s hands. -/-/-/

Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice that the first stanza near rhymes?
  • Did you notice it holds its rhythm all the way through?

This concept book has more near rhymes than true rhymes. How can a rhyme crime such as this be published! However this is lyrical prose, that just happens to have a rhythm of iamb and a rhyme or two spattered in between here and there. Something that confuses the poet yet, engages the reader.


A poignant story that in my opinion, is well done!


Example: The Refrain


A SOUTHERN CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES

THE HOUSE ON WISDOM HILL

by David Davis art by Herb Leonhard

Far down/ the road, -/-/

past Bird/song’s mill, -/-/

near Caut/hen Pond, -/-/

so deep /and still, -/-/

I climb/ the path, -/-/

in aut/umn’s chill, -/-/

to the house/ on Wisd/om Hill. --/-/-/

Why does this work and how can it help you?


  • Did you notice the refrain at the end of each stanza? Also known as a catch phrase.
  • Did you notice that this refrain has a different number of feet? It shocks you out of your boredom. Makes you pay attention.
  • Did you notice that the refrain does not rhyme with all of the verses?
  • These techniques turns a story that is good into something exceptional

Example: Caesura


POEM IN MY POCKET

by Chris Tougas  art Jose'e Bisaillon

I had/ a po/em in/ my pock/et, -/-/-/-/-

+but/ my pock/et got/ a rip. +/-/-/-/

Rhymes tumbl/ed down/ my leg, -/-/-/

and trickl/ed from/ my hip. -/-/-/


+Slip/ping, slid/ing, dip/ping, div/ing, +/-/-/-/-

+rhyt/hms hit/ the ground. + Then... +/-/-/+ /

A whirl/ing, twirl/ing, swirl/ng wind -/-/-/-/

Blew all/ my rhymes/ a round. -/-/-/ 

Why does this work and how can it help you?


Everyone speaks, and everyone breathes while speaking. Poetry also uses pauses in its lines.


One such pause is known as “caesura,” a rhythmical pause in a poetic line. Though it can occur in the middle of a line, or sometimes at the beginning and the end. At times, it occurs with punctuation; at other times it does not.  


  • Did you notice the caesura in the second line of the second stanza?
  • Did you notice how this caused you to pause?
  • Did you notice the expectation this created? 

It can create drama, enhance momentum and complexity. Make your poem stand out by means of a caesura. 


Example: Lyrical Prose


THE NIGHT IS FOR DARKNESS

by Johnathan Stutzman art Joseph Kuefler

​The night/ is for dark/ness. -/--/-

And bright gold/en beams. --/-/

For dis cov/er ing eyes --/--/

are not/ what they seem. -/--/

Why does this work and how can it help you?


This book is a concept book. With the added hook of being lyrical poetry. Concept books can open a window, help children to see beyond the ordinary. It allows for a fresh look at a familiar view.  

  • Did you notice that this is written in metered form, but there are no end rhymes?
  • Did you notice that this concept poem is written like an essay?
  • The first sentence states the topic.
  • The following sentences describe this topic.
  • It allows for images in the mind and use of the senses.  

Because the child soon begins to recognize a pattern, a concept book also helps a child to develop memory. When brains are enjoyably engaged, learning becomes a pleasure. 


See if you can take one of your worn out and rejected manuscripts and give it a different dimension. Turn it into a concept story. 


Example: Breaking the fourth wall by means of the aside.


THE LYING KING

by Alex Beard

There once/ was a king -/--/

who liked/ to tell lies.-/--/

He said/ it was day -/--/

Beneath/ the skies. -/-/

“Good Morning."

Why does this work and how can it help you?


Image a stage, where the actor stops and speaks directly to the audience. The invisible wall that separates the audience from the actor is the fourth wall.


An aside is but one way to break the fourth wall. But why would we want to do that in our writing? What are the benefits?

In story picture books with a character arc, you must have emotional resonance. This is the most difficult part of writing a picture book. It is made more challenging when trying to do so in rhyme.


The aside achieves this by speaking to the reader. The aside can communicate important information and makes the reader a confidante.


  • Did you notice that the aside does not need to rhyme?

  • Did you notice that The Lying King is expressing his emotions to the reader?
  • Did you notice how this technique pulls the reader into the experience?


Example: Rhyming Story Books


PIRATE NELL'S TALE TO TELL

By  Helen Docherty art by Thomas Docherty

The day/ Nell joined/ the pi/rate crew -/-/-/-/

was full/ of hope;/ a dream/ come true! -/-/-/-/


For great/ ad ven/tures filled/ her head -/-/-/-/

from ev/er y tale/ she’d e/ver read. -/--/-/-/


Nell won/dered what/ she ought/ to pack. -/-/-/-/

Of course!/ Her pi/rate’s al/ma nac. -/-/-/-/


It taught/ her all/ she’d need/ to know -/-/-/-/

from how/ to steer/ to how/ to row; -/-/-/-/


Which way/ was east/ and which/ was west... -/-/-/-/

But Capt/ain Gnash/ was not/ im pressed. -/-/-/-/

Why does this work and how can it help you?


Often picture book writers are told NOT to rhyme. Agreed, there are challenges to overcome. Challenges like: Is the story serving the rhyme, or is the rhyme serving the story. Are we losing the plot, tension and character arc in the process?

Do not lose heart for these challenges can be overcome.

Here are the "W" questions every story needs to ask.

  • Who is the main character?
  • Where is the story taking place?
  • What does the main character want?
  • Why does the main character want this?

Let’s see how these questions are answered with this story.


  • Who-Nell
  • Where- A pirate ship
  • Wants- To be a pirate
  • Why- For great adventure

Nell wants to have great adventures. To achieve her goal, she decides to join a pirate ship. We learn a bit about her character when she brings her almanac. But she is met with one large obstacle in the form of Captain Gnash. All these questions are answered within the first 69 words.


And we want to continue reading, do we not?


So, in the spirit of Nell, I say forge ahead! Don’t let anyone stop you. Write your story in rhyme. Make you character memorable and multi-dimensional. Answer all of the "W" questions in the first few paragraphs.


If someone tells you it is a hard sell to write a certain type of book, maybe it’s because they haven't seen YOUR book yet!


Example: Hypercatalectic/catalectic


WAYS TO WELCOME

By Linda Ashman art by Joey Chou

Waves and / shakes +/-/

And/ hel/los +/-/ 

Eye to /eye +/-/

And nose/ to nose. -/-/

Sooth ing/ words +/-/

An ex/pert guide -/-/

Step/ by step +/-/

And side/ by side. -/-/

Why does this work and how can it help you?'


When it comes to rhythmical poetry we only count hard beats.


Poets have a variety of tools at their disposal. One of which is rhythm. Poetry is an art form where each word is weighed and measured. It can set a tone, spur emotions, make ideas memorable and create music.

Hypercatalectic is when a soft beat is added. Catalectic is when a soft beat is subtracted. Notice how this is done in the poem above.


I have scanned it as iambic/dimeter. That means the first syllable has a hard beat followed by a soft beat. Each line has two hard beats.


  • Did you notice that the first line in the first stanza is missing a soft beat at the end? That is catalectic.
  • Did you notice that the last line in each stanza has an added soft beat added at the beginning of the line? That is hypercatalectic.
  • Important to note is usually no more than two hypercatalectic/catalectic beats per line. Otherwise the poem loses its musicality.

When we introduce children to the music of reading, it becomes a pleasure. They will go on to read chapter books, novels and textbooks.


Sometimes the picture book or poem in your hands is the first step to a thoughtful, educated and well-read adult.