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In past PiBoIdMo posts, I’ve encouraged you to…

This time around, I want to focus on structure.

Just like houses and dinosaurs, every story needs an underlying framework.


Most of my books follow the Classic Picture Book Structure:

  • MC has a problem
  • MC faces obstacles that escalate
  • MC encounters a black moment in which things can’t possibly get any worse
  • MC figures out how to solve the problem
  • MC grows/changes by the book’s end

My latest book, PRINCESS IN TRAINING, is an example of this.


Princess Viola is great at skateboarding and karate-chopping, but she’s lousy at the royal wave, walk, and waltz. The king and queen are not pleased. What’s a princess to do? Attend the skill-polishing Camp Princess, of course. In the end, it’s a good thing Viola is made of tougher stuff. Who else will save the day when a hungry dragon shows up?

This is how the Classic Picture Book Structure works with PRINCESS IN TRAINING:

  • Princess Viola Louise Hassenfeffer has a royal problem. She is not an ordinary princess and the kingdom is unhappy about it.
  • Princess Viola faces three obstacles at Camp Princess (she is unable to properly master the royal wave, royal fashions, and royal dancing).
  • A hungry dragon shows up at Camp Princess.
  • Princess Viola uses her unique skill set to save the day.
  • Princess Viola may not be an ordinary princess, but she is deemed the darling of her kingdom anyway.

Although the Classic Picture Book Structure is my super-favorite way to frame a story, there are a variety of other options. Below are many of them along with some examples.

The story’s ending leads back to the beginning
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; When a Dragon Moves In

The story focuses on a single topic or category
All the World; Kindergarten Rocks; Hello Baby!

Each time a new event occurs, the previous events in the story are repeated
My Little Sister Ate One Hare; I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

The second half of a story echoes what occurred in the first half of the story
Old Bear and His Cub; Boy + Bot; A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Two storylines are taking place at the same time
The Dog Who Belonged to No One; Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Character and/or plot is portrayed in a way that is opposite from the norm
Bedtime for Mommy; Children Make Terrible Pets; Little Hoot

This month, I’m challenging myself to come up with at least one story idea for each of those frameworks. C’mon, groovy PiBoIdMo people. Who’s with me?

Tammi Sauer has five picture books debuting in 2012: Me Want Pet!, illustrated by Bob Shea (Paula Wiseman/S&S); Bawk & Roll, illustrated by Dan Santat (Sterling); Oh, Nuts!, illustrated by Dan Krall (Bloomsbury); Princess in Training, illustrated by Joe Berger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma, illustrated by Victoria Hutto (Sterling). She recently sold two books at auction to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The idea for one of those books—The Farm that Mac Built—sprang from her 2011 PiBoIdMo Idea List. It has a cumulative structure. Ooh.

And another “ooh” for you: there’s a PRINCESS IN TRAINING prize pack waiting for a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the  30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Comment on this post AND complete the challenge to be entered (you’ll be asked to take the “PiBo Pledge” on December 1st to verify you have 30 ideas). A winner will be randomly selected in early December. Good luck!

Two books with exclamation points in the title!

So now we have two winners whom I hope will have exclamation points burst over their heads!


Brianna Soloski!

The winner of OH NUTS! is:

Maria Johnson!

Ladies, look out for an email from me.

And tomorrow everyone’s a winner because I’m announcing the guest-blogging line up for November’s PiBoIdMo! Exclamation point palooza!!!!

OMG! I’m having a fangirl moment. Somebody fan me and feed me chocolate. (No, not YOU. Get Ryan Gosling.) Because not only is the brilliantly prolific author Tammi Sauer here, but she brought along the stars of her newest picture book, OH NUTS!


Thankfully I have Billy Bush helping me out (who will do as a Ryan Gosling substitute in a pinch). Billy’s qualified to interview Miss Universe contestants, so he will no doubt pose the tough questions to our guests Cutesy, Blinky and Bob. He caught them on last night’s Emmy’s Red Carpet.

Take it away, Billy.

Billy: Wow, so great to see you Cutesy, Blinky and Bob, stars of OH NUTS! Thanks for stopping to talk. You look fabulous. Tell us, who are you wearing?

Cutesy: Carolina Herrerra’s “Forest Dwellers” collection.

Blinky: Um, obviously Bob. Will someone please peel him off my back?

Bob: Wait, I was supposed to get DRESSED?


Billy: So you guys reached the pinnacle of popularity but then retreated from the limelight. What caused you to give up show business? Was the pressure just too much?

Blinky: Well, dude, we realized we had to be true to our inner chipmunk, you know?

Cutesy: Plus, all those flashing lights kind of wrecked my mascara.

Bob: Huh?


Billy: But your fans really want you to get back into the game. We heard that Alvin and his crew rejected an offer to star in “The Hunger Games IV: Acorn Atrocity”. Will you be lobbying for those roles now?

Cutesy: Our agent definitely wants us to consider it.

Blinky: Like whoa. It would be an awesome opportunity to showcase my six-pack.

Bob: I like noodles.


Billy: Do you think you’d like to branch out into other forms of entertainment? You know, become a triple-threat with a triple-threat?

Cutesy: We’ll always stick together, but we each have something special to give the world. Soon I’ll be launching my very own line of accessories called Chic Chipmunk.

Blinky: ABC wants me to be the next Bachelor.

Bob: I’m going to…wait…I forget.


Billy: How would you like to be remembered and immortalized by your fans?

Cutesy: We just want everyone to remember that chipmunks are people, too.

Blinky: I’d really like a street named after me.

Bob: I’d really like a nap. And a taco.


Billy: Oh wow, here comes Brangelina…so…SCRAM!

Cutesy: You know, we have a nickname, too. It’s “Blutesy”.

Blinky: I like it!

Bob: Hey, where’s the “Bob” in that?


Well, thanks Billy Bush, Cutesy, Blinky and Bob for the interview. And thanks for leaving behind an autographed copy of OH NUTS!

One lucky US resident will win it, just leave a comment to be entered! A winner will be randomly selected one week from today. Good luck!

And don’t forget to check out the rest of Tammi Sauer’s books. I mean, there must be a million of them now.

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