To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

That’s the question I’m often asked by would-be picture book authors. And I can see why they’re confused. On the one hand, there are agents and publishers saying that they don’t want any rhyming picture book texts. On the other, there’s an impressive list of bestselling picture books that rhyme as hard as they can: The Gruffalo, Room on a Broom and Aliens Love Underpants are three popular examples.

So why do publishers say they don’t want rhyming texts when they obviously do? Continue reading

The Good Side of Bad Times

Life always has its up and downs and, for a writer, the downs can cause extra problems. Dealing with bad times takes energy that drains our creative power so, when they hit, writing often becomes impossible.

The biggest bad time of my life was the death of my son. It took away my first born child, my friend and my main advisor on the book I was writing about special effects. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate and I most definitely couldn’t write.

This was no time to pretend I could cope so my agent told my editors at Scholastic and they were brilliant. A completely open-ended extension to the deadline took away the pressure and left me time to grieve. Just as importantly, it also gave me time to think. Continue reading

Why are there so few horses in picture books?

Cover of Doctor HoofPony-mad girls love reading about horses and ponies. That’s why there are so many pony books published. But nearly all of them are novels aimed at children who can read for themselves.

The situation is quite different for the under 6s. Picture book stories feature loads of rabbits and bears, quite a lot of penguins and a fair sprinkling of elephants. But, with the exception of the books linked to the My Little Pony toys, there are very few horses and ponies.

That can’t be because of lack of demand. Those pony-mad girls grow into pony-mad mums who want to read pony stories to their toddlers. So I suspect the true reasons for this shortage must be horses themselves and the special problems they present to picture book writers and illustrators. Continue reading