Ms. Klein discussed five books she has worked on, and what she’d like writers to learn from them:
1. Timothy and the Strong Pajamas – Viviane Schwarz. Timothy has pajamas that make him super-strong, but what happens when they rip? The pictures and text work together to tell the story. The vast majority should be in the images, like a silent film. It should also touch on a common childhood emotion. This book touches on a child’s desire for strength. Great children’s books model a way for children to deal with their emotions.
Exercise: What are some key childhood emotions when you are 6? 10? 15?
2. The Light of the World – Katherine Patterson. The key here is to speak the child’s language.
Exercise: How would you describe the Office of the President? The concept of love?
3. Millicent Min, Girl Genius – Lisa Yee. This book came to A.A. Levine through SCBWI. Began as a manuscript written entirely in emails. Great first line: very specific, contains conflict, and it’s funny. A great children’s book has believable characters you can sympathize with.
Exercise: Do a character study.
4. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling. Harry’s narrative voice is unique. Excellent showing (not telling) details. We experience what Harry experiences. Be alert to the word “felt.” Good fiction “mainlines emotion.” In reality, both showing and telling have their place in fiction. Think topic sentences.
Exercise: Rewrite the following: “Zombies walked up West End Avenue. Susie felt terrified. William was hyper.”
5. A Curse Dark as Gold – Elizabeth Bunce. A good example of character change/growth. Ms. Bunce has both an internal and external plot, weaved together. Don’t teach lessons.
Exercise: Use a triangle to map out your story – your story gets bigger and bigger and bigger to the climax, the breaking point.
Use exercises such as these to make your story stronger!