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by Tammi Sauer

Over the Storystorm years, I have shared many of my idea-getting strategies.

This time around, I want to focus on using a familiar song, nursery rhyme, or chant as a starting point.

While I had heard of this writing exercise many times before, it wasn’t until I saw it presented in Linda Ashman’s (super amazing!!!) resource, THE NUTS AND BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS, that an idea popped into my head.

This is what I saw in Linda’s book:

Rework a song or chant. Try rewriting a familiar song, chant, nursery or jump rope rhyme. Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat

And this was my idea: Mary Had a Little Glam.

I knew I had to write that story. And, once I felt brave enough to tackle rhyme, I did. Lucky for me, Vanessa Brantley-Newton agreed to illustrate the book.

There are many great examples of books that have sprung from this approach. These are just a few of my favorites:

  • HUSH, LITTLE DRAGON by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
  • I AIN’T GONNA PAINT NO MORE! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow
  • THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle
  • TEN ON THE SLED by Kim Norman, illustrated by Liza Woodruff
  • THIS OLD VAN by Kim Norman, illustrated by Carolyn Conahan

In February, the adorable TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE CAR written by Kate Dopirak and illustrated by Mary Peterson will zoom onto the scene. (And both ladies will be guest blogging for Storystorm later this month.)

In March, MARY HAD A LITTLE LAB written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis will prove quite inventive.

While these books follow the same basic rhythm and rhyme scheme as the song, nursery rhyme, or chant they were based on, keep in mind that you don’t have to marry yourself to this approach. You can use one of those things to simply trigger the basic idea for a story as well.

My upcoming book with Dan Taylor, BUT THE BEAR CAME BACK, for example, got its start when I was listening to NPR. They played the old song “But the Cat Came Back.”

Right away, I thought about what it would be like if a rather large and completely unexpected animal would show up at a kid’s house and decide to make himself at home.

While I didn’t mirror the actual song in my book, I used its title as a stepping stone.

BUT THE BEAR CAME BACK debuts this April from Sterling.

So give it a try. Think about those familiar childhood songs, nursery rhymes, and chants then brainstorm a few picture book title possibilities of your own.


Tammi Sauer is a full time children’s book author who presents at schools and conferences across the nation. She has sold 30 picture books to major publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. Her book WORDY BIRDY, illustrated by Dave Mottram, debuts on February 6. This book got its start in StoryStorm. It was idea number 19 on her 2014 list.

You can learn more about Tammi at tammisauer.com, read her posts at picturebookbuilders.com, and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

Tammi is giving away a copy of the soon-to-be-released WORDY BIRDY to one lucky duck commenter.

Tammi is also giving away a picture book critique. Ooh.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

 

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 1, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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