by Dianne de Las Casas


Now what did you hear when you read that word? Whose voice was it? Was it your mom’s voice? Was it your grandmother’s voice? Was it your own voice hushing your children? So much of our world operates in onomatopoeic sounds: the chirping of the morning birds, the beeping of the garbage truck, the roaring of a car engine, the screeching of the school bus as it comes to a stop…

As a professional storyteller, I actually become better at telling my stories by listening. It is through this simple auditory observation that I find inspiration for my tales. As a picture book author, I become better at writing by thinking of my story in terms of sound. How will this tale reverberate when it is read out loud?

The sound of a baby’s “Wah! Wah!” became a turning point in a recent story I revised. The sing-songy refrains that I have become known for in my books work better when they are released from the page through the read-aloud. In Denise Fleming’s picture book, In the Tall Tall Grass, you hear, “Crunch, munch. Caterpillars lunch.” The sounds become actions. The actions become story.

Watch little boys as they play with trucks and cars. They zoom and they vroom. Listen to preschoolers and kindergarteners make sound effects. Go the playground and take note. You’ll hear the clap clap clap of the girls’ hand games and the thump thump thump of a boys’ basketball game. Even the swingset makes a whooshing sound as the swings take flight.

Today, listen to the noise around you. Write down the sounds, even making them up if there is no known word for what you hear. The kerchink kerchink kerchink of the dryer could lead to a new picture book idea (but don’t you hate it when your family leaves stuff in their pockets?! LOL).

Even if you like to write in the quiet, today is the day to make some noise. Perhaps you will hum, echo, thud, crash, jingle, swish, or clatter your way into a new story.

Listen up. What do you hear?

Dianne is generously giving away a signed copy of Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate to a lucky commenter. A winner will be randomly selected one week from today!

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author of 18 books, a professonal storyteller, and founder of the international literacy initiative, Picture Book Month. She tours worldwide presenting revved-up author visit/storytelling programs, lively educator/librarian training, fun workshops, and inspiring artist residencies. Her children’s books include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, and Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate. She is a founding member of November’s Picture Book Month. Visit her at and follow all the storytelling fun on Twitter @storyconnection.