Saturday, February 16, 2013

Story Element #4: Dialogue (No More Cookies!)

My sister just said she would illustrate one of my books. The publisher I'd like to send the ms to is a regional publisher that requires two sample illustrations to be available with the submission. At face value, I know you're all thinking: cheesy! But, no, seriously, she's a PROFESSIONAL! Check her out! Probably submit late next year, I hope. She's in the middle of moving and preparing 25 5x5 canvases for a show.

Share a book in the comments that you'd like me to feature in future Story Elements and be entered into the amazing BOOK LOVE drawing to be held on Dr. Suess's birthday, March 2, a Saturday. Win a Market Guide - 2011 and 2012 both being given away! 

Today's book is... 
No More Cookies.

Author: Paeony Lewis
Illustrator: Brita Granstrom
Publisher: The Chicken House
Year: 2005
Word Count: 608

Summary: "Florence and her toy monkey, Arnold, try to persuade her mother to let them eat more cookies."

Jacket Flap: "It's crunch time for Florence and her favorite stuffed monkey, Arnold. They have reached the bottom of the cookie tin. So Florence and Arnold come up with a plan. Using a LOT of imagination and funny sketches, Florence invents some wacky ways to get more cookies. But Florence's mom has a plan of her own - one that gently teaches Florence that patience brings yummy (and healthy!) rewards."

For starters, this story was originally published with the British title, No More Biscuits! It was printed in the U.S. by Scholastic, Inc. with the "cookies" title.

This book is told in FIRST person, PRESENT tense. Most picture books tend to be told in third person, past tense.

First spread: "I'm Florence and this Arnold. He is helping me decide which is my favorite cookie."

Second spread:
-- "We didn't mean to eat all the cookies," I say. "It just happened. Sorry."
(Mom tells her she's a cookie monster and says can't have any cookies for a week. She explains there's another package in the cupboard.)
-- She still says, "NO more cookies!"
Then five spreads go by, with no actual dialogue. Yet conversation still happens. It's TOLD.

  • I tell Mom I'm...
  • Mom shakes her head. She says she can't...
  • It's not fair! All we want is a cookie - just one.
  • I tell her I'm Florence, the wickedest witch in the world...
  • Mom laughs. She says she'd like to be a...
  • It's not fair. All we want is a cookie - just one.
  • I tell Arnold to look sad as I knock on the door.
  • I tell her I'm Florence the nurse...
Spread EIGHT:
-- I say, "He's hurt and needs an emergency cookie."
-- Mom groans. She says, "No cookies. Injured monkeys need..." 
The refrain again...

Spread TEN:
-- I say, "Hello, I'm Florence the famous chef. My monkey assistant knows how to make something much tastier than beans. Yummy cookies!"
-- Mom frowns. She says, "No cookies. NO. NO. NO!"
-- All we want is a cookie - just one.
Throughout the book, you can hear Florence's voice, and not just through spoken dialogue. I think the author accomplishes this by using first person present tense. It's effective because even though the conversations are TOLD, we feel like we're right there with the characters listening in. 

YOUR TURN: Something you could try with one of your existing texts, or even with a snippet to write from scratch, is to write a beginning that includes "dialogue within quotes" following by a bit of telling he said she said, then finish up with a bit more dialogue. The idea is to MODEL the example above to strengthen our skills in writing dialogue for picture books.

TODAY'S QUESTION: What's your favorite cookie? (Mine's homemade chocolate chip oatmeal walnut. Yum!)

Keep on keepin' on...

1 comment:

  1. My favorite cookie is granola-chocolate chip. Mmmm - yum! This was of particular interest to me because I received a very nice, personal rejection recently for one of my picture books and the editor said I had too much dialogue. I didn't think I had that much, but clearly she did. I'm going to take a look at No More Cookies with that in mind. Thanks for a great post.


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