Walking the Dog: Puppy Strolls and Story Structure

IMG_1811One of the joys of my day- rain or shine, snowstorm or heatwave – is walking our little dog, Sophie.  She comes running the minute she hears the jingle of her leash and even though we walk the same route almost every time, she greets each stroll with fresh excitement, knowingly turning each corner with puppy confidence, and quickening her pace, like clockwork, for the final jaunt back to our comfy house.

Youngest readers are a lot puppies. Like stroll-loving Sophie, they love reading the same stories over and over again. And just as Sophie never tires of sniffing the same fence posts and greeting the same old friends, my children, when young, giggled in delightful anticipation at each beloved page turn. They also found security in knowing the structure of the story. After all, there’s a sense of empowerment and comfort that comes from being able to predict what will happen and in seeing how the story fits together.

Though each picture book is a unique creation of the author and illustrator, most picture books fit into one of several common structures. Popular story structures include cumulative, circular, alphabet, mirror, question and answer, parallel, flip-flop, reversal, rule of three, and more. Though the structures are simple, using them effectively is an art, for the plot and language must flow seamlessly and naturally within the given framework.

This year, in conjunction with my goal to read at least 300 picture books and to stretch myself writing-wise, I’ll be running a monthly Picture Books with P.U.N.C.H. series in which I’ll take an in-depth look at picture book structure. Each month I’ll read as many picture books as I can find that use a given structure and then assess what makes them work (or not) and why.  Finally, I’ll try my hand at writing at least one picture book per structure. Join me back here this Friday as I look at cumulative picture books.

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9 thoughts on “Walking the Dog: Puppy Strolls and Story Structure

  1. What a great idea! I really like your plan to try writing a PB in each structure – what an interesting challenge! I may have to try that myself! And I love your analogy between puppies and child readers – very apt! 🙂

  2. This sounds great, Laura! I’m looking forward to learning along with you. I also started keeping a list of picture books with various structures a while back. It’s really interesting to me to look at books that have different story arcs.

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