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TrinkaPhotoby Trinka Hakes Noble

Before there were words, human beings communicated with pictures. In pre-verbal times, stories were drawn out in picture form. So, the picture book, which uses pictures and words, touches something deep within all human beings, regardless of age.

I think the picture book is a most unique art form. It brings together both the visual and the literary. Children who cannot read words yet will be reading the pictures. That is why this unique art and writing genre deserves our highest efforts, our most original thoughts and ideas, and our most sincere work. Picture books are teaching the next generation to read!

Of the over 30 books that I have published, the one which fits the picture book genre best is The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate The Wash, illustrated by Steven Kellogg.



Because I am also an illustrator, I write visually, and Steven’s art fit my story perfectly. It is included in the Houghton/Mifflin Readers that are used throughout the country to teach reading to second graders.

When I first started in children’s literature, books for young children were divided into two categories: the picture book and the storybook.

In a storybook, the story was all there and the pictures just enhanced and embellished the story. In other words, I could read you a storybook over the radio, without seeing the pictures, and you would understand it. A good example of a storybook of mine is The Orange Shoes, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger. [Insert photo of cover here] And, Apple Tree Christmas, which I both wrote and illustrated, will show you how organically the art and the story are intertwined, mainly because one person created it. appletreechristmas

However, in a picture book, the story is told in both the words and in the pictures. If I read you a picture book over the radio, you wouldn’t understand it without the pictures. Now, all books for young children are called picture books.

So, my challenge for you on this 29th day of PiBoIdMo, and I hope it is an inspirational challenge, is to think of your story idea in pictures. Think of the first page as a picture, and then imagine the next picture and the next. See if you can string together several pictures, almost like a movie, in your mind before you write any words. Or, if you are about out of ideas on day 29, perhaps using your favorite idea for this month and start seeing is visually, in pictures. Hopefully, by giving the visual center stage, you will capture the very essences of the picture book before you get involved in words. There might be a certain rhythm, a beat, and an energy that will find its way into your words by starting with the pictures first. Try to see it in your mind’s eye. Let it play, dance and flow across you visual imagination. No words, just pictures…and see where it takes you.

Best of Luck!


Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of numerous picture books including The Scarlet Stockings Spy (IRA Teachers’ Choice 2005), The Last Brother, The Legend of the Cape May Diamond, The Legend of Michigan and Apple Tree Christmas, which she wrote and illustrated. Her newest titles are The Orange Shoes (IRA Teachers’ Choice 2008), The Pennsylvania Reader, The New Jersey Reader, Little New Jersey and The People of Twelve Thousand Winters. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy’s Boa series and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children’s Book, Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice, IRA-CBC Children’s Choice, Learning: The Year’s Ten Best, plus several state reading awards and Junior Literary Guild selections.

Her latest title is The Legend of the Jersey Devil, and forthcoming in March of 2015 is Lizzie and the Last Day of School.


Ms. Noble has studied children’s book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz’s Greenwich Village Workshop, and at New York University. She is on the board of The New Jersey Center for the Book and a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature.   In 2002 she was awarded Outstanding Woman in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children’s books, along with letters of commendation from the US Senate, the US House of Representatives and the US Congress. Ms. Noble currently lives in northern New Jersey. Learn more by visiting her website at


Trinka is giving away a signed copy of THE ORANGE SHOES!


This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

orangeshoesTrinka Hakes Noble once described the joy of being a children’s writer: she can relive her childhood. And not just the fun times, but the difficult ones, too. And why would that be a good thing? As an author, she has the opportunity to rewrite her own history—to take an unfortunate situation from her past and finally make it right.

She does just that in the poignant story The Orange Shoes.

Ms. Noble grew up in rural Michigan as the fifth of seven children.  The hand-me-downs that defined her childhood became the inspiration for this tale.

Each child in her family received just one sturdy pair of shoes per year, and since they were to be passed down between boys and girls, they were plain loafers. At school she was teased for her boyish Buster Browns. One afternoon while browsing the sole department store in town, she set her eyes upon a pair of lovely orange Mary Janes and instantly fell in love.  She does not know how they afforded it, but the next day her parents presented her with that special pair of shoes.

As a young innocent, she showed them off to the children at school so they would finally admire and compliment her shoes.  Instead, the children kicked dirt on her shoes, stomped on her feet and destroyed them, leaving her heartbroken.

In The Orange Shoes, marvelously illustrated by Doris Ettlinger, the main character Delly comes from a poor, rural family who cannot afford shoes until October, when the weather demands them. And yet, Delly’s character does not feel sorry for herself without shoes. Instead, she relishes the feel of the cool earth beneath her bare feet.

Like Ms. Noble, Delly is a talented artist. The inside of unfolded, used envelopes are her canvases. Her teacher, Miss Violet, encourages her students to decorate boxes for a “Shoebox Social” which will raise money for art supplies. When Delly sees a pair of orange Mary Janes in town, she immediately wants them to wear to her school’s social, but she knows they will never be hers.

To Delly’s surprise, her father buys the shoes she so admires. The delighted young girl wears her shoes to school and her jealous classmates ruin them.

This is where Ms. Noble fixes the situation from her childhood. Delly becomes a resourceful artist, painting each crack and crease with vines, transforming bigger scuffs into flowers.  She decorates her Shoebox Social box to match perfectly. At the event, her box draws the highest bid, but it comes from an unexpected source.

The Orange Shoes was easily my favorite picture book of 2007 and it deserves a place on your shelf. The illustrations and story marry beautifully, and the message is uplifting and powerful. This being said, it is a more complex tale meant for older children, making it a great snuggle-up-together tale which elicits discussion between parent and child. And those are some of my favorite moments with my kids, when we can talk about books that we love.

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