Monday, April 18, 2016

Turn that Picture Book Page! ~ by Patricia Toht

Webster's Dictionary defines a page-turner as "a book, story, etc., that is difficult to stop reading because it is so interesting." 

So, what makes for a great page turn in a picture book? What compels readers to flip to the next spread? 

Above all, a strong story will do the trick, a story that contains elements that propel action forward. Some involve:



• A trip, like this year's Newbery winner, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. Readers want to know where the journey will ultimately end up.







• A quest, like SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Readers turn the page to discover if these diggers will find something spectacular, after all.





• Strong cause-and-effect. I can still remember that, as a small child reading THE CAT IN THE HAT by Dr Seuss, I actually held my breath when turning one particular page. On that page, the cat was balanced on a ball, holding aloft a huge, teetering tower of things. Could he possibly stay upright? I cringed and turned the page... Nope!





• An escalating problem. THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle is a prime example of escalation. The dragon keeps swallowing things, and his growing stomach discomfort surely cannot end well.




In addition to a strong story, or in quieter books or concept books, some other techniques can encourage page turns:

• The use of questions. The nonfiction book, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? (by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page) uses this technique. To find the answers to this question -

   - readers must turn the page.


• Rhyme. With rhyme, a missing end rhyme will encourage the reader to guess the last word of the stanza, and then turn the page to confirm their guess. Take a look at Miranda Paul's new book, WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE?, illustrated by Luciana Powell. 
(*A warning here -- only write in rhyme if your story demands it and you work diligently to make all the elements of rhyme work. Here is a post on that topic.)




• Sparse text. The best example I can think of for this technique is YO! YES? by Chris Raschka. The entire book contains fewer words than most of my sentences! With few words, readers move forward quickly to add to the story. This book also uses the next technique -







• Alternating characters. With two characters that are fairly balanced in importance and appearance in the story, readers will keep turning the pages to see what is going on with the other character. HERMAN AND ROSIE by Gus Gordon is a personal favorite of mine.




• The use of a "page-turning word" and/or an ellipsis. Alice Schertle uses both in ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. On the spread below, the word "then" followed by an ellipsis requires a page turn to complete the sentence and move things forward.


Picture book editors read tons of picture books and submissions of yet-to-be picture books, so many that they develop a feel, an internal rhythm, of where a page turn occurs. As they read your text, they will subconsciously break your picture book into spreads, adding page turns in their mind. 

You can develop that same feel, that internal rhythm. You can also encourage page turns. How?

#1 READ LOTS OF PICTURE BOOKS

#2 MAKE A DUMMY OF 
YOUR PICTURE BOOK TEXT

#3 INCORPORATE ELEMENTS 
TO ENCOURAGE PAGE TURNS

Never made a dummy before? Don't worry - there's a post for that, too! Check it out here.


So what is your favorite page-turner picture book, GROG readers? Does it include any of the elements above? Something else?

29 comments:

  1. Nice samples - just a few I don't know, Patty. I like the WATER IS WATER technique for page turns, too.

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    1. WATER IS WATER does a great job with page turns, similar to what Alice Schertle does in ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN and ALL YOU NEED FOR A BEACH, using words like "but," "then," and "until". Great technique!

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  2. Great post! Thanks Kathy. I also recently read Eve Bunting's picture book hints: Think visually, short, deep, subtle, original, and the last sentence needs to be the best one, leaving the child with hope of some kind.

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    1. Thanks, Virginia! I'll check out Eve Bunting's tips. She a masterful writer.

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  3. Great examples - I love "What do you do with a tail like this"!

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  4. Love these examples. Some I use, some I haven't. Yet. :-) Excellent job, Patty. Thanks, Kathy. *waving*

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    1. Thanks, Robyn. So glad you're already putting some of these ideas to good use!

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  5. Great post with fantastic stuff to think about!

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    1. Thanks, Danielle. So glad you stopped by. :)

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  6. Thank you, Patricia, for the tips and fine examples for nabbing that page turner :)

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    1. I hope your writing is going well, Charlotte.

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  7. Excellent post, Patricia! One of my favorite newer PBs for page turns is No Yeti Yet. It's the subplot running through the illustrations that allows the reader to be in on a secret. The main character is unaware of the secret which keeps us turning the pages to find out when/if they will make the hidden discovery or find what they are looking for.

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    1. That one just came into the library where I work, Carrie. Time to put it on hold! Great idea for that page turn.

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  8. Thanks so much for including my Herman and Rosie :) I enjoyed reading this post. Cheers, Gus

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    1. My pleasure, Gus. I love Herman and Rosie!

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    2. Thanks Patty! Super chuffed!

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  9. Thanks for these great examples, Patty. I have focused on page turns since Mac Barnett's PB Summit presentation.

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    1. I wish I could've seen that presentation!

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  10. What a great list of mentor text for page turns! Very helpful. One of the simplest and best write-up for page turns, IMO. In my busy life I appreciate succinct text. Thanks, Patricia!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Romelle. Happy writing!

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  11. "Tell me a great book title I don't know," is one of my favorite lines & YOU
    have done that, Pat. Appreciations!

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    1. Haha, Jan! Maybe that's an unexpected twist ending? ;-)

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  12. What an excellent summary with great examples! Thanks!

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  13. Page turning techniques are so important to engage the reader. Thank you for sharing examples of each one along with excellent titles, Patty.

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