by Melissa Stoller
I’m happy to be posting my second piece as a Blogateer!
This time, it’s all about TITLES! I’ll focus on how to brainstorm engaging titles, and I’ll offer some examples of titles that make readers want to stop, look, and read.
Just as character names are important, so are titles.
In a bookstore or library, children spend a short amount of time looking at the book cover. The cover art is crucial in piquing interest and grabbing the reader’s attention. And a compelling title can have the same effect.
An engaging title can increase the chance that a young reader will stop, look, and read the book. If the words of the title interest the child, the chances increase that the child will pick up the book.
In my debut chapter book and my picture book, I used words including “enchanted” and “magic,” hoping that young readers will gravitate toward stories with a magical twist. I also added “paintbrush” to capture those kids who enjoy art and creativity, and “collection” to appeal to those who love to collect. I hope that by choosing these words, I can connect with potential readers.
In another upcoming picture book, I devised a title to take off on a popular saying. At first, I titled the book “Ready, Set, Go,” but my critique pals advised that this title sounded too generic and they didn’t get a sense of the story. So I revised, and switched to READY, SET, GORILLA! This title tells the reader that a gorilla will feature prominently in the story, and also implies that there’s a race involved. Hopefully, this will encourage young readers who like gorillas, and a bit of competition, to pick up the book and peek inside.
As wordsmiths, writers are very particular about the words they choose to capture the story. It’s also crucial to pay similar attention to the words of a book’s title.
EXAMPLES OF COMPELLING TITLES
Here are ten of my favorite titles, from recent picture books, that encourage children to stop, look, and read:
Whobert Whover, Owl Detective by Jason Gallaher - The name Whobert Whover is brilliant, with the questioning word “who” and the sound “hoo.” Plus, anyone who loves owls or detective stories will want to read this book.
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat – If you enjoy nursery rhymes, you’ll want to read this book to find out what happened to Humpty Dumpty.
Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin - Who is Manjhi? Why does he need to move a mountain? This title makes the reader want to find out (and extra points for great alliteration).
Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen - Super wordplay about a shape and a situation with three competing parties. How will this dilemma be resolved?
Daddy Depot by Chana Stiefel - The reader can picture a huge depot warehouse that sells all types of dads. Which dad will be perfect - we want to find out more!
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall - The reader will want to turn the page to see what Jabari jumps into (and great alliteration).
7 Ate 9: The Untold Story by Tara Lazar - We know the joke and want to see how the author interpreted it.
Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale by Corey Rosen Schwartz - Any play on Cinderella will get some notice, and the fractioned fairy tale wordplay is also engaging.
I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein - Balloons are perennial favorites and the reader wants to know why this balloon is special. Plus, will the “I” have the balloon for long?
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro - A bunny, a book, and a club . . . sounds appealing (and more fun alliteration).
* * *
Until next time . . . happy writing, creating, and crafting titles!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 2017); the debut picture book SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, 2018); THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, 2018); and READY, SET, GORILLA (Clear Fork, 2018). She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant for Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with SCBWI-MetroNY. Melissa writes parenting articles, and in previous chapters of her life, she has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.
Connect with Melissa online at
@MelissaStoller (Twitter), and
Earlier this year, I attended a FREE webinar hosted by the Children's Book Academy. Dr Mira Reisberg invited Editor, Julia Maguire, to share tips on what makes a great narrative, in the style of dark humour. The books that succeed with black humour often share some, if not all, these characteristics. They: -
A clear example of the classic use of dark humour, in a picture book, is Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell. It takes an icon of the horror genre and places him in a hapless romance narrative. Through use of an OTT scenario and ‘woe is me’-exclamations, the zombie becomes a figure of sympathy. The reader is invited to both laugh and cry, with this lonely figure who just wants to find love.
Recently, Bryan Avery wrote in The Blogfish about Jon Klassen’s modern classic, I Want My Hat Back I’d like to expand on a discussion of this author, by describing him as a master of subtle dark humour. His characters deal with everyday moral quandaries that kids can relate to, like ‘outing’ the person who has stolen your hat, or in the case of my personal favourite, We Found a Hat, deciding whether to sell out your best friend and take something you both want.
Klassen is not advocating the triumph of revenge or dishonesty but he is acknowledging that they are real human emotions and he plays mischievously with the concepts, delighting children with the suggestion of naughtiness. Klassen’s humour goes by the style of simplicity, narrating through dialogue and letting his illustrations and their dark colour palette, do most of the talking. And, he uses animal characters to engage young readers and soften the blow of potentially questionable but relatable human behaviour.
Recently, it was a revelation to come across the work of new Australian author-on-the-rise, Philip Bunting. His narrative and illustrative style has been likened to Jon Klassen's and I agree with this comparison. Mopoke is Bunting’s innovative, break out hit for 2017. When I first glanced through the book, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly laugh out loud but I read it to my 5-year old son. With no prompting at all from me, he belly-laughed his way through every darkly-illustrated page. Like the sparse text used by Klassen, Bunting keeps it incredibly simple. The premise is a naturally quiet, little mopoke (a type of owl) who becomes a figure of fun through visual humour.
The narrative pattern is word play. Each spread has a full page illustration accompanied by a play on words. For example, ‘High-poke’, with a figure of a mopoke in a top hat. “Low-poke’, with a graphic of a mopoke down on his luck, and ‘Mow-poke’ to describe a mopoke with a moustache. The dark quality of the humour is heightened through the colour scheme, which favours blacks and browns. It is also conveyed via deadpan humour; quite opposite to the exaggerated comedy of Zombie in Love, and more akin to Klassen.
Next time you laugh at a book, particularly a children’s book, stop and think about what makes it funny? Julia Maguire and Mira Reisberg opened a world of the different genres of humour to me. I am keen to try them all as a writer. Next month in my blog post, I am feeling inspired to write about fractured fairy tales, a popular genre that often takes its cue from dark humour.
What are your favourite picture books that use black humour? I’d love your suggestions in the comments!
Brydie Wright Bio
Graduate, Craft & Business of Children’s Picture Book Writing Course
Chief Editor, Sydney Mums Group and Reviewer, WeekendNotes
Author of Daddy and the World's Longest Poo, IAN Awards 2017 Finalist, & Magic Beans from the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection
Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads
Mondays with Mira Invites Questions for Major Authors: Heidi Schulz, Philip Ardagh, & Michael Buckley for our new combo Middle Grade and Chapter Book Mastery course
It’s the beginning of the month and usually I have a sweet video to share but today I want to share my excitement about the new contributors to our upcoming Middle Grade and Chapter Book mastery course and ask your help. We realized that we could update our Middle Grade Mastery course to include Chapter Books by attending to the different needs of chapter books in terms of plot difference, subject matter difference, and age-appropriate thematic differences while maintaining the universals of character, setting, and language so that it too could be interactive helping both chapter book and middle grade writers and illustrator by creating a two-for-one course.
We also brought on a fabulous assoc. editor from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books, Rachael Kelin, who is extremely brilliant and will be co-teaching the course every week, to join award-winning author Hillary Homzie and me. And then of course being the overachiever that I am, we are bringing in additional superstars beyond Crown VP Phoebe Yeh, Scholastic VP Andrea Davis Pinkney, agents Victoria Wells Arms and Sean McCarthy and major award-winners to help stud,ents in the course with brilliant contributions. Next week I’m interviewing Philip Ardagh, Heidi Schulz, and Michael Buckley. (be still my heart) and would love to hear from you in the comments Here’s a little about each of them…
Heidi Schulz is the New York Times best-selling author of the Hook's Revenge series among other books. She imagines Captain Hook's daughter Jocelyn going off on a mission to avenge her father's death from the Neverland Crocodile and of course there's tons of conflict and mayhem. Reading this book, it's clear that one of the keys to it’s huge success is the voice the author uses to tell the story and how clever and ironic it is. So.... if anyone has any questions that they’d like to ask this brilliant best-selling author please comment at the bottom.
Philip Ardagh is an extraordinary award-winning and best-selling British author of mostly chapter books and middle grade novels. He has a unique narrative voice that frequently lets us know how he wishes he'd done something different while writing a section and even has his characters do similar acts of breaking the fourth wall to let the reader know that they all know that they are in a book. Sounds dizzzying? It is and yet effortless at the same time. I love the ingenious and touching ways that he weaves his own personal narrative and insecurities into the stories in-between the fast-paced action and smart word-play. Philip is most known for the Eddie Dickens Trilogy and The Grunts Series. If anyone here is also a fan or has read any of his books and would like to ask him any questions about his craft or journey as a writer, please leave a commnet in the comments section. I’m such a fan girl that I hope I’m not too intimidated when I interview him.
And now for Michael Buckley, mega selling author of the Sisters Grimm and NERDS series. Michael is generously contributing to this course to help our students. Interestingly enough, like Hook's Revenge, Michael’s best selling series, The Sisters Grimm, also re-contextualizes old time literature with a contemporary feminist spin for a girl-power driven adventure series that mixes literary genres and fairy tale re-tellings. with a wonderful flair for language AKA voice and fabulous word play. Any Michael Buckley fans out there? What would you like to learn about his craft or journey?
I'd love to hear from you below. And if you'd like to learn more about this course (sorry the page needs updating) click here or apply for one of our scholarships here! I hope you enjoyed reading about these inspiring people and getting a glimpse of their work - Mira xox
PS Check back here on Friday for a fab bonus post from Brydie Wright about Dark Humor, something all of the authors above employ to great effect.
PPS We also have magical webinar December 14th that's an early holiday gift from us, so do check this out as well. http://bit.ly/AnAwesomeGIFT
by: Sarah Momo Romero
November and the holiday season is here! In the spirit of Fall and Thanksgiving, I really wanted to find a book filled with crunchy autumn leaves or a bountiful Thanksgiving feast to blog about for November. However, when I got to the library, two amazing animal picture books immediately caught my eye instead. Discovering the wondrous illustrations in these books reminded me of one big thing to be grateful for: our planet and all the living creatures on it. In this crazy, fast-paced world of cell phones and social media, these two books in particular evoked a sense of wonder in me, and made me pause and sit on the library floor to get lost in these two books. I’m changing up my usual post to share not one, but two very special picture books with all of you. Both books with their beautiful illustrations will draw you right in to these animals' worlds and a different view of our planet.
Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek really delivers on the educational and fun aspects of a first book of animals for kids. Davies, with a degree in zoology, mixes it up in this book, not only by providing educations tidbits on animals ranging from the mighty elephant to the tiny parasite (ick… but so interesting!), but adding in playful rhymes for the different animals. This educational book really shines with Horácek’s illustrations, created in mixed media.
Horácek’s illustrations are so rich and textural with layers of color and paper, giving each animal illustration its own unique personality. Each page is a world all its own, inhabited by a different animal to learn about, in a different artistic medium. From mixed media collage, colored pencil, gestural brush strokes and even simpler pencil sketches, Horácek adds a very personalized feeling to the delightful information Davies has written about these animals. Anyone who picks this book up, whether young or old, will delight in learning about well-known and even lesser known animals portrayed in these lively illustrations. (The bumblebee bat was an especially fun one for me to see.)
Life, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel is an equally amazing book about animals and well, life. Unlike Song of the Wild, Life is minimal in its text, featuring a simple, but touching narrative about life perspective and our place in the world.
In his illustrations, Wenzel not only paints his animals with expressive features, lively backgrounds and textural brushstrokes, but I really love the added touches of landscape and greenery outside of the vignettes. This unique take on presenting animals in their natural habitat: the woods, the jungle and even as our friendly companions in the city creates a unique perspective of different environments transitioning into the next across the pages of this wonderful book.
Check these beautiful animal picture books out! I hope you've all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and weekend with loved ones and delicious food. And don't forget to give thanks for our Earth and all the other living beings who are just as lucky as we are to call this place home.
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Look out for her first picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" coming out in
the Fall of 2018!
You can find more of Sarah's musings and drawings here:
Facebook: Sarah Momo Romero + Instagram: @sarahmomoromero + Twitter: @sarahmomoromero
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with new books coming soon.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous soon to be debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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