PICTURE BOOK FOCUS Turning refrains on their heads


 Natascha Biebow shares tips on how to add a twist to your picture book
by turning the refrain on its head.


Picture books are all about patterns.  Many successful picture books also use clever repetition that helps young readers to anticipate what will come next.

These refrains keep young readers turning the pages and imbue the writing with a satisfying pattern.

By using this device, authors can also cleverly build up to a climactic turning point.

But watch what happens when the author uses the refrain in an unexpected way, turning the tables on the reader (and the characters) to create a twist:



In Eat Your Peas! by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt, Mum tries to offer Daisy a multitude of treats to entice her to eat her peas. The recurrent refrain is simply:

“I don’t like peas,” said Daisy.

From Eat Your Peas! by Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt 

No matter what Mum promises, Daisy will not budge. In a clever twist, Kes Gray turns the refrain on its head when Daisy says she will eat her peas if Mum eats her Brussels sprouts.

“But I don’t like Brussels,”

Mum says.

But luckily, they both like pudding!

From Eat Your Peas! by Kes Gray & Nick Sharratt 

In If Anything Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick and Jane Dyer, when Leslie visits the zoo every Saturday, she asks if she can take each of the animals home. 



The keepers tell her that she would need lots of space to house them. 
No problem, Leslie replies. She has a fenced yard, a swing set, a garage and a nice house, so . . .

“If anything ever goes wrong at the zoo, you can send the (animals) to my house,” Leslie tells the keepers.

From If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo, by Mary Jean Hendrick & Jane Dyer














But none of them ever come, until one wet and windy night . . .


From If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo, by Mary Jean Hendrick & Jane Dyer
The zoo is flooded! In a twist to the refrain and a satisfying ending, the keepers are now the ones saying to Leslie:

“I’m glad I remembered that if anything ever went wrong at the zoo, 
we could bring the animals to your house.”

From If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo, by Mary Jean Hendrick & Jane Dyer


In Wolfie the Bunny, by Anne Dyckman and Zachariah OHora,



Dot is sure that the orphan wolf her family has adopted is bad news:

“He’s going to eat us all up!” says Dot.

From Wolfie the Bunny, by Anne Dyckman & Zachariah OHora

No one listens to her. Everything Wolfie does is super cute! But in a surprise twist and turning point, the author turns the tables on the reader,  and instead of Wolfie being the baddie, a hungry bear is.

“I’ll eat you all up!” says Dot.

And her bond with her little wolfie brother is sealed as she saves 
them both.
 
From Wolfie the Bunny, by Anne Dyckman & Zachariah OHora

In Again! by John Prater



Baby Bear is keen to play with Grandbear.

The recurrent refrain is simply:

“Again!” he chants. Again and again and again.

From Again! by John Prater
And

From Again! by John Prater
“Again!”  
 
until Grandbear is tuckered out and it’s time for a nap. Baby Bear 
gives him a kiss and a cuddle, and the author switches the refrain to Grandbear’s point of view, giving the ending a lovely reassuring 
‘aw’ moment:

“Again!” murmured Grandbear sleepily.

From Again! by John Prater

In Don’t Panic, Anika! by Juliet Clare Bell and Jennifer E. Morris



Anika’s family help her to learn some techniques to use when
she’s feeling panicky.  For instance:

She counts to 10 . . .

From Don’t Panic, Anika! by Juliet Clare Bell & Jennifer E. Morris
But then when she is accidentally shut in the house with her family outside, the author cleverly recaps these refrains 
from Anika’s point of view this time, turning the pattern on its head to create suspense that leads to a satisfying resolution.

Anika counts to 10 . . .

From Don’t Panic, Anika! by Juliet Clare Bell & Jennifer E. Morris
And Anika gets her family to

count to 10 . . .

too.

Until finally she is able to hand them the keys through the letterbox and they can open the door. Brilliant!

From Don’t Panic, Anika! by Juliet Clare Bell & Jennifer E. Morris

In Totally Wonderful MissPlumberry, by Michael Rosen and Chinlun Lee,

 
Molly is taking her special crystal from Grandma to school to share with the other children. 
 
“It was a totally wonderful day. Totally wonderful weather. Totally wonderful everything.”
From Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry, by Michael Rosen and Chinlun Lee
At first, the children are all excited to have a go at admiring Molly’s special crystal. But then Russell arrives with a cool stegosaurus . . . and everyone crowds round him instead. The author convey’s Molly’s feelings by recapping and changing the refrain, just slightly:

“It wasn’t a totally wonderful day.

It was a totally horrible day.

The most totally horrible day in the whole world.” 

From Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry, by Michael Rosen and Chinlun Lee
Molly’s wonderful teacher Miss Plumberry comes to the rescue and makes Molly feel special again by taking the time to talk to her and admire the crystal. The other children are intrigued by her descriptions,
once again crowd round Molly excitedly. The book ends with a twist:
Now, not only is the day ‘totally wonderful’, but the teacher who has made Molly’s day is:
“Totally wonderful Miss Plumberry . . .
. . .  the most totally wonderful teacher in the whole world.”

From Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry, by Michael Rosen and Chinlun Lee
Have fun thinking about how you can mix up the pattern of how YOUR refrain is used to create an unexpected, surprising or even funny twist or ending.



______________________________

Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor and coach, who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them to shape their stories
www.blueelephantstoryshaping.com

 She is the author of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons.



No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.