A few weeks ago, the hot topic here was Five Rules for Picture Books. Follow those guidelines and you might just have a winning manuscript. Or you might just have Hop! Plop! by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Tali Klein and Olivier Dunrea.
Let’s take a closer look at this story and how it fits beautifully with “the rules.”
Rule #1: Audience Age is 2-6 years old
A picture book should include situations and characters to which children this age can relate. Hop! Plop! is set at a playground. Familiar? Check. Adorable, friendly animals? Check.
Rule #2: 500 Words is the Magic Number
Hop! Plop! comes in at about 300. Check.
Rule #3: Make it Really Sweet or Really Funny
In this case, it’s really sweet and really funny. Elephant and Mouse navigate the playground together and hilarity ensues. Elephant is too heavy on the seesaw and he pushes Mouse a little too hard on the swing. In the end, the two friends discover that their favorite playground diversion is each other. Awwwww.
Rule #4: Use Playful, Unique Language
Elephant and Mouse’s foibles are expressed through onomatopoeia and rhyme. “Skip! Tip! Zoom! Zip! Mouse did a backward flip.” and “Plop! Drop! Crash! Whop! The swings were a total flop.” Totally fun to read aloud. And not too tongue-twisty.
Rule #5: Create Situations that Inspire Cool Illustrations
Picture an elephant and a mouse on a seesaw. And a mouse sliding down an elephant’s trunk. Funny situations, cute pictures. Final check.
Hop! Plop! is a delightful romp. While this book happens to follow “the rules,” that doesn’t mean other manuscripts which color outside the lines are doomed for the rejection pile. Not at all. Remember, “the rules” are merely guidelines for new writers, to help them understand what editors generally seek in a manuscript. (I should really add to the rules: there must be a story.) I can name plenty of picture books that break at least one of these guidelines, with length being the most common one. But Hop! Plop! fits all the criteria–and it’s darn cute to boot. Check it out.
Please share in the discussion by naming your favorite rule-followin’ title! Or maybe you want to point out a rule breaker, a rebel title that deserves praise!