chapter books, Creativity, Writing

THE POWER OF LISTS: Early Chapter Book Style

I am a list maker and have been all my life. As a child I wrote lists of what I wanted for Christmas and birthdays. I also kept lists of the books I read. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so I even had a list of last names that I thought would be good for the main characters in my future books. Whipple was at the top of the list!

My mother was a list maker too. And so was her mother. I know this because my mother insisted that I make packing lists before traveling and showed me how to do it. And my grandmother kept lists on index cards documenting every single dinner party she ever hosted, who came, what time they arrived, and what she served. My daughter is now a list-maker too. This summer she kept a list of healthy snack and meal ideas which we still refer to regularly. 

Now that I’m mid-century age-wise and somewhat forgetful at times, I keep daily lists to help me remember the things I need to do. I also keeps lists of things such as blog posts I’d like to write about. For awhile, I kept a list of every new word I learned. And I still keep lists of the books I have read and the books I want to read. This post actually is becoming a list of all the kinds of lists I like to make.

The point is – I couldn’t survive without lists. Neither could my writing. Flip through any journal of mine and you will see lists. Lists of potential story ideas. Lists of potential character names. Lists of favorite memories. Lists of craft ideas and poem ideas. You name it, I’ve listed it. Indeed, lists have become one of  my go-to strategies for combatting writer’s block. But even after I have an idea and the creative juices are flowing, lists play a crucial role in developing that idea.

As I wrote each of my rhyming picture books, for example, I paused many times to make lists. I wrote lists of fun rhyming pairs and vivid sound words and more. And, as I point out to students at school visits, those lists helped immensely! Indeed, many of the words and ideas generated in those lists appear in the final versions of each book.

This month I’m applying this list strategy to chapter books. That’s right, as part of my challenge to myself to write a chapter book series, I have set a goal for myself to make a list plot ideas throughout the month of November. Actually, in this case, the list is a little more complex. I’m collecting vignettes or scenes for possible future use in this potential series, so my “list” includes not only one-word or short phrase “titles” for each possible vignette, but also a page or two of free-writing that potential story scene from the POV of my chapter book protagonist. 

Of course, it’s only November 5th. I still have a long ways to go, but I’m already excited about how this new chapter book-themed list is taking shape.  (And I’m blessed to have a chapter book critique group taking a similar challenge to keep me accountable – and I recommend that too.)

Are you a list maker? If not, why not give list-making a try this week as a way to get those creative juices flowing! Have fun!

Picture Books, Story Time

TRA-LA-LA!:  EIGHT OPERA-THEMED PICTURE BOOKS for ALL AGES

opera-themed picture booksDid you know this is National Opera Week? I love opera’s glorious ability to tell a story through song, dance, with rich orchestra and majestic sets! That’s partly why I decided it would be fun to write a picture book set in an opera house.  And did you know that reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE with your littles ones can be a fun and engaging way to introduce them to this great art form?  But why limit the fun to just one picture book!  In celebration of sharing a little opera love with our little ones, here are EIGHT picture books with delightful, kid-friendly opera themes.  Enjoy! (And if you can think of any I missed, please add them in the comments section.)

img_1407DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

written by Laura Sassi and iIlustrated by Rebecca Gerlings 

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2018) 

The humorous tale of a new diva who needs all the help she can get, and the mouse who has offered to help (but she thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse!). 

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OPERA CAT 

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2002) 

The charming story of a cat (who can sing) and a diva who has laryngitis!

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ENCORE, OPERA CAT

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2009)

In the charming sequel to OPERA CAT, Alma and Madame SoSo travel to Switzerland!

51iCRAUWlJL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_THE GREAT POOCHINI

written and illustrated by Gary Clement

(Groundbooks, 1999) 

Full of opera wordplay and doggy-transformed operatic names – such as the protagonist, Poochini- this is the fun story of a dog who seems ordinary by day, but at night he becomes an opera star!

 

3427269PET OF THE MET

written and illustrated by Don Freeman

(Viking, 1953)

A charming classic by the author of CORDUROY about a family of mice who live at the Metropolitan Opera House… oh, and there’s a cat! 

61OjQ7tRJ3L._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_BRAVO! BRAVA! A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH COMPOSERS, CAST, AND CREW

written by Anne Siberell

(Oxford University Press, 2002) 

An engaging, kid-friendly introduction to opera, full of fun facts and whimsical illustrations. 

 

51f3Bmbj5YL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A SOUP OPERA

written by Jim Gill and illustrated by David Moose

(Jim Gill, Inc.; Har/Com edition, 2009)

A fun introduction the feel of opera using a silly soup story.  CD included. Hear Jim read it here – with music and voices!

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THE DOG WHO SANG AT THE OPERA 

written by Marshall Izen  and Jim West and illustrated by Erika Oller

(Harry N. Abrams, 2004)

Humorous tale based on a true story about a dog who sings with the Diva on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera House!