Prose vs. Rhyme in a Picture Book

by Glenda

The Poet Glenda's Husband Sees in the Mirror?

The Poet Glenda's Husband Sees in the Mirror?

"Translating" picture book prose into rhyme.

This may be more of a problem for Dr. Phil than for this forum, but I figure I'm more likely to get a response in this forum. Here goes...

I'm working on my dream of publishing a picture book. Yes, I know it's a longshot, but dreams are supposed to be longshots, right? I'm okay with that.

Well, I made the mistake of showing my story to my husband. Now, I'm not going to call him controlling, but (insert punchline here).

He means well. But he also tends to think he knows better. So here's what happened...and I really still can't believe it...

I'd completed a few drafts of my picture book and hadn't yet shown it to anyone. (I would have read it to my children, but we don't have any.) I showed it to my husband.

He disappeared into his office and emerged two hours later with a grin on his face. Are you ready for this?

He had TRANSLATED my story into a poem. He was very proud of himself and very invested in the outcome. He now thinks that we should approach publishers as a "team."

Never mind that I worked for six months and he worked for two hours.

This was supposed to be MINE. Also, I'm not at all convinced that his rhymed version is any better than my prose version. I'm no expert, but I don't even think the rhymes are that good! He thinks picture books are supposed to rhyme.

Prose vs. Rhyme

Here, see what you think. The first paragraph is my first paragraph, and the second paragraph is my husband's rhyming version.

Once upon a time there lived a girl named Linda who had a little brother named Michael. Linda was two years older than Michael, and quite a bit bigger too.

My husband's:

A girl named Linda had a brother named Stu,
Who was half her age and about one half of her height too.

Do you see that? He even changed the younger brother's name! "Nothing rhymes with Michael," he explained.

I read the other post from the lady with the "wife" who was pushing her point of view on the first lady's book, so I'm guessing this is an okay subject to post. Help!

Comments for Prose vs. Rhyme in a Picture Book

Click here to add your own comments

Rhyme flawed, but prose needs work too
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Hi, Glenda. If you hadn't said that your dream was to be published, I'd be giving you a shorter answer.

I'd still be telling you that your husband needs help with his social skills! I'd also give you the ammo you need to turn aside his unwanted translation by noting that while he did indeed concoct a rhyme (by the way, Michael rhymes with cycle), he clearly has no sense of meter.

(His 2nd line has a full 3 syllables more than his 1st, and his rhythm tripped me up so badly that I ended up having to wipe saliva off of my computer monitor.)

He's not a poet, and he doesn't know it. (He also doesn't know that very few published picture books these days are rhymed.)

Rhyme vs. Prose

All that being said, there are real problems with YOUR opening paragraph. "Once upon a time" went out of style, well, "Once upon a time," the paragraph has no brevity, no urgency and introduces nothing of particular interest!

I know, I know; that sounds mercilessly critical. But you want to be PUBLISHED. And that ain't easy! (By the way, did you know about Best Children's Books Author Services?)

The sweet spot for picture books these days is around 600 words. You've just committed 5% of that to an opening paragraph that does little to engage the reader. No one is going to say, "Wow, a girl with a younger brother who isn't as big as her!"

As faulty as your husband's poetry was, he still managed to use 8 less words than your prose did.

I found a neat little page on the web. Kay Vandergrift has created a little test to see if we recognize the first lines of famous children's books. I think it might be interesting for you to note how the classics open differently from your own book.

(And most of them were written before publishers had grown nearly so stingy about word counts.)

I'm sure you've written a delightful little story. But if you really do dream of getting it published, I encourage you to make a virtue of conciseness!

Click here to add your own comments

Click here to write your own.

Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.