Friday, February 22, 2013

Story Element #6: Pacing (The Shelf Elf)

This library has a shelf elf, but I'd rather have a dish fairy and a laundry fairy. I can't stay caught up with chores for nothing! (Yes, I know that sentence has a double negative. Don't you know I live in the South?) Do other writers, parents, and teachers have this problem too? Or is it just me? Of keeping up with the chores, not speaking in double negatives.

Today's book is...
The Shelf Elf

Author: Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrator: Rebecca McKillip Thornburgh
Publisher: Upstart Books
Year: 2004
Word Count: 826

Summary: "Skoob, the Shelf Elf, just completed his work with the shoemaker and is ready to embark on a new career in the library."

Pacing is so very important in picture books. It's also important in novels. But with picture books it's more about page turns. Pacing gives your writing fluency through flow, balance, and rhythm. The book has a clever opening:
By the candlelight, the shoemaker and his wife watched the two little elves dance merrily out of sight. The End
Cue page turn:

Did you ever wonder what became of those elves after they left the shoemaker's shop? I can tell you, because I am one of them.
Skoob, the Shelf Elf, tells the reader about the library, his job, and the Grand Dewey Daddy shelf elf named Stacks. There's this Golden Shelf Elf Award that Skoob is trying to earn, so he shares tips with the reader. The first one appears on Spread 5:
Use a shelf marker, you can't go wrong,
put books back where they belong.
The illustrations really help this book engage the reader, too. It's kind of like a find-it book with hidden pictures. From this point on, every page has another rhyming tip, set apart as illustrated text on a scroll, for a total of seven tips. The last one is:
When in the library make this choice:
always use your quiet voice.
The tips really encourage page turns. The illustrations help encourage multiple readings. There's even a second book out. Published in 2006. Perhaps this book was more a better model of patterns? As a pacing example, it shows how a refrain (doesn't matter if it's rhyming, or repeating) encourages page turns.

Think of some of your manuscripts, whether already written or in draft progress. Is there a way you can incorporate a fun refrain into your text? Can you make it help the page turns? You won't know if your story needs a refrain until you try. One of my manuscripts really took off once I added a refrain. But others definitely do not need one. If you can't seem to make your story work, just try it!

Since we're talking about libraries, what's your favorite book?

My favorite book? Oh, so hard to choose! For once, I'm not going to go with a picture book. Today, I'll go with a religious book. The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It really goes hand-in-hand with the Bible. If any of you should ever want a copy, I'll be glad to mail you one for free. Keep on keepin' on...

1 comment:

  1. You're joking about the chores question right? Just ask the pile of dishes on my counter. Great lesson to try adding a refrain - I have a manuscript in mind for this right now.


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