Today I’m thrilled to have the delightful and talented picture book author and poet, Diana Murray, as my guest. Diana is the author of several forthcoming picture books including, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). She’s here today to ponder what makes a picture book lyrical. Take it away, Diana!
What does it mean when a picture book is described as being “lyrical”? There’s a lot of grey area, but here is what it means to me:
The book is probably more serious than humorous or wacky.
Possibly more literary than commercial.
Has a fluid, velvety, rhythmic pace.
Resembles a song.
Has an emotional quality.
Can be prose or poetry. But if it’s metrical poetry, then it tends to be anapestic as opposed to iambic or trochaic.
Features vivid descriptions, often of natural beauty.
Uses very deliberate line breaks.
Tends to have a warm, fuzzy feeling about it.
Most of my picture books are on the humorous/wacky side. But some, like CITY SHAPES, are a bit more on the lyrical side. For example, take this excerpt from NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: “The crew was all in stitches but the captain’s nerves were frayed./’Yarrrh!’ said Ned, ‘I likes to knit. This hat be custom-made.’” As opposed to these lines from CITY SHAPES: “But her heart starts to long for the shape she loves best./The shape that is home. Her warm, circle nest…”
Here are a few other picture books I would describe as lyrical:
OWL MOON by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
“There was no wind./The trees stood still/as giant statues./And the moon was so bright/the sky seemed to shine.” (Note: I would classify this one as free verse.)
AND THEN IT’S SPRING by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Steid
“First you have brown,/all around you have brown.”
DARIO AND THE WHALE by Cheryl Lawton Malone, illustrated by Bistra Masseva
“Every spring,/when the sun/warms up the sea,/a whale and her new calf/swim north to a cool bay.”
So, how does one attempt to write a story with a lyrical quality? There’s no formula, of course, but personally, I find it helps to set the mood. When I wrote CITY SHAPES, I listened to jazz music by Wynton Marsalis (one of my favorites!). And then I have another forthcoming picture book, SUMMER COLORS, that I wrote while listening to the rain on my patio (another one of my favorite sounds).
I’d love to hear which lyrical picture books you’ve enjoyed. And what do you think makes them “lyrical”?
Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. Diana’s forthcoming picture books include, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). Diana’s award-winning children’s poems have appeared in many magazines, such as Highlights, High Five, Spider, and Ladybug. For more information, please visit: http://www.dianamurray.com
28 thoughts on “Examining LYRICAL PICTURE BOOKS with Diana Murray”
I like your list of components for lyrical pbs! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by, Tina. I love Diana’s thoughtful list of components as well. And CITY SHAPEs is BEAUTIFUL!
Hi Tina! Thanks for stopping by!
Great list, Diana. And I like how you set the mood with your favourite music and/or sounds. I can’t wait to read each and every one of your upcoming books.
I think setting the mood for a piece by playing music is a magical idea. And I look forward to seeing Diana’s books in print as well. She is very talented. Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks so much!
I have a tendency to gravitate toward funny/non-lyrical pbs, but even funny pbs do need to have a certain rhythm. Diana, this was a very informative post. Can’t wait to read City Shapes and Ned the Knitting Pirate. And as you know, I love Grimelda. 🙂
I have the same tendency, Robin, and you are absolutely right about funny pbs needing a certain rhythm as well.
Robin, me too! I tend to go for humor. And yes, I agree. Funny pb’s also have rhythm. If I were to try to describe it, I think the rhythm tends to be a bit bouncier? Thanks for stopping by!
This was a very helpful post and Diana is so talented! Thank you both.
So nice to have you pop in. =) Happy writing, Vijaya!
Hi Vijaya! Thank you!
Wow! Great blog, Diana. And thanks for including Dario!
Thanks, Cheryl! Dario is a great new example of a lyrical text done right.
My favorite sort of PBs, the kind we keep and re-read as adults, are the lyrical. They are illustrated poetry.
I heartily agree, Mirka.
I think the emotional quality tends to stick with you.
Hi Diana! That’s a great breakdown of lyrical picture books!
She knows her stuff! So nice to “see” you here. Happy writing!
Hi BJ! Thank you!
Love your descriptions of what makes for a lyrical PB. So very much agreed!
Thank you, Kip!
I love ‘Dreamers’ by Yuyi Morales. It’s BEAUTIFUL!
The first two lyrical pb’s that come to my mind are “I Wish You More” by Amy Krouse Rosental and “Sometimes Rain” by Meg Fleming.
Those are lovely!