Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Picture Books with Non-Traditional Story Structures

Week of July 3—Picture Books for Your Summer Reading Enjoyment
Wednesday, July 6—Picture Books with Non-traditional Story Structures

I am always on the lookout for books that have interesting structures. I love the three-act structure/three attempts/three failures/building-to-a-black-moment-before-resolution structure and I use it a lot, but I also like the surprise of something I’ve not seen before or something done in a new way. That is the kind of picture books I’ll show you today.

Scritch-Scratch a Perfect Match
By Kimberly Marcus
Illustrated by Mike Lester
G.P. Putnam & Sons/Penguin Young Readers Group
© 2011

Total fun! When a dog is infested with a flea and has to find relief, mayhem ensues. Twenty two-line rhyming stanzas with four strong beats per line make up this book. The text includes rhyme, onomatopoeias, made-up words, alliteration, and a surprise ending. The story is fast-paced and follows the Freytag’s Pyramid of rising and falling action. The rhyme scheme is normal and predictable (which readers may like since they will be able to predict the coming rhyme), but the rest of the text is creative and inventive (which probably helped sell the book). Scritch-Scratch a Perfect Match is Marcus’ first picture book, though she’s been a poet and writer for years.

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away
Written and illustrated by Elanna Allen
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
© 2011

This is another bedtime story, or rather an I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed story. When Itsy Bitsy learns it’s bedtime, she decides she’ll run away from home. As she prepares to leave, her father asks helpful questions that lead Itsy Mitsy to gather the things she needs: a suitcase, a favorite stuffed animal, snacks, and so on. The list of things needed for the run-away becomes larger and larger and more and more ridiculous until Itsy Mitsy even takes her father and the house as she runs away. When she finally finds the perfect spot to relocate the house, she sits everything down and, in reverse order, unpacks them before falling asleep in an exhausted heap. I call the structure of a story like this an add-on structure, similar to Going on a Bear Hunt where you continue to add one thing, then another to a growing list. Even in this structure there are the elements of Freytag’s Pyramid: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Beach Lane Books
© 2011

This is a simple, cute picture book about a dog and his owner. The format and illustrations are extremely creative. The illustrations are collages that illustrate the main character, Ralph, and the action in the story. The format of the story follows the same pattern over and over: (1) statement, (2) question, (3) Ralph’s answer given with an onomatopoeia dog sound. For instance: (1) I think Ralph needs a long walk in the woods. (2) How’s the path feel on your paws, Ralph? (3) Rough! Rough! Even with this simple structure the action and suspense grows all the way to Wolf! Wolf! before it resolves to a satisfactory conclusion.

Challenge yourself this summer to discover books with unique structures that can inspire your writing. Then try out what you discover!


Heathter said...

Love the idea of a dog and his flea getting along (or not). And I love that "My Name is Not Alexander" from your last post. Great story!

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks, Heather. Glad you enjoyed!