Children’s Writers Word Book

IMG_1880Children’s Writer’s Word Book (2nd Edition)

By Alijandra Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner

Published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2006.


If you write for children kindergarten through sixth grade (or middle school), or if you homeschool said children, I strongly suggest you invest in your own copy of Children’s Writer’s Word Book.

If you want to write for the nonfiction or educational markets, or if you want your fiction books to make it to the lists of approved books for use in elementary or middle schools, I STRONLY SUGGEST you do so.

I must confess that it is a new book for me. I’ve had it a few months and have barely scratched the surface of its usefulness. The first 40 pages are modestly titled “Some Things You’ll Need to Know.” Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Choosing words, noting new words, choosing names for characters, being conscious of diversity as you write, using personal tags for characters
  • Matching theme and content to your target readers
  • Genre and books for children
  • Age groups and reading levels
  • Children’s books forms (picture books, picture stories, easy readers, hi-los, YAs
  • Writing for magazines, television and radio, writing in verse, writing for the stage.
  • Mainstreaming and inclusive language

Section 2 covers the following:

  • Using National Standards and Benchmarks with sections for each reading level
  • Where to find information on other Standards and Benchmarks

Following that are separate sections for kindergarten through sixth grade/middle school students. Each section includes a brief overview of the expected social changes, curriculum specifics, special vocabulary development, educational requirements for literature and published materials for that grade with samples. This material is followed by an educator’s word list for each grade.

The last 40 pages of Children’s Writer’s Word Book are an index of all words listed in the book and the appropriate grade level for using that word.

In between those two sections you’ll find a thesaurus which includes the grade level for each entry and for each synonym of the entry, AND the names and addresses for the Departments of Education for each of the states and territories in the USA.

Just previewing all of it makes me winded!

I can’t imagine the magnitude of the research that went into producing Children’s Writer’s Word Book.

I’ve decided that my trusty old Roget’s Thesaurus is going to need to scoot over some ON MY SHELF to make room so my Children’s Writer’s Word Book will be easier to reach.

I’m planning to put those pages to some good use.


Up and Down

Up and Down

By Oliver Jeffers                     Published by Philomel Books in 2010.


I decided to step away from MY SHELF of picture books and visit my local library. It’s a delightful place on Sunday afternoons. It’s filled with parents and grandparents with young children searching through the picture books, and older adults rifling through the thrillers, romances and historical fiction shelves.

I borrowed some wonderful picture books by Oliver Jeffers, Jane Yolen and Matt De La Peña. One of my favorites is Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers.

Up and Down AmazonUp and Down is a story of adventure and friendship. The boy and the penguin are best friends. They do everything together. Until…

One day the penguin wants to soar—all by himself. He wants to step out of his comfort zone and do something everyone says is impossible. Through the story we see his failed attempts and, at last, what seems like success.

We also see throughout the story that his best friend encourages and helps him every way he can, and is right there to catch the penguin whether he succeeds or not.

In the end both the boy and the penguin learn that their friendship is the most important thing to each of them.

I think Up and Down is going to be a book I share with my grandkids more than once. I can see it sparking questions and discussion about friendship AND about daring to soar.

Do you know a child who needs some encouragement to be a better friend? Or to dare to try something new? Or, maybe even both.

Bet you do!



Secondary Characters, Sequels, and Fans

An interesting post by Cindy Huff at Writer’s Patchwork Blog. Enjoy!

Crafting Stories for Children

The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children

By Nancy Lamb         Published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2001


CraftingstoriesThe Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children has been one of the most influential books ON MY SHELF. My copy is thoroughly highlighted, and dotted with pink sticky notes from introduction to Reading List. I have poured over some portions of it dozens of times, I am sure.

I’ll quote a line or two from the beginning of the book “Praise for The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children.

“It’s all here—everything you need to know about writing for children, presented with insight and humor.”  (Janet Zarem)

Lamb’s book covers everything from “Discovering Your Story” to a clear and specific overview of children’s books’ genre and formats.

It covers “Structural Design,” Beginnings, the importance of crises, and classic story structures.

The chapters on scenes, plots, characters, point of view and dialogue are thorough.

However, the section of The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children on “Interior Designs” has been the most influential on me. It consists of chapters that give clear explanations and useful examples related to some foundational stones for story telling:

  •       “Promise, Premise, Theme and Moral”
  •       “The Promise Continued: Voice and Tone”
  •       “Narrative Authority: Setting and Senses”
  •       “The Write Way” which covers Lamb’s Twenty-Six Steps to Good Writing and her Top Ten Rules of Verbal Combat (pet peeves of editors)

I’m a foundation digger. When I’m learning a new skill or taking on a new job or project I want to know the underpinnings of the task, job or organization. I like to know I’m on a solid foundation before I start throwing up walls, windows and doors.

For me the chapter “Promise, Premise, Theme and Moral” gave me a solid foundation on which to build my stories. When I write the beginning of my story I make some promises to my readers. I MUST keep those promises or I’m going to cheat my readers and lose a lot of them along the way.

I promise that it’s going to be a story about a certain character who needs or wants a certain thing, and has to battle her way to getting or doing it. That’s my premise; it provides the plot and structure for my story.

I also promise that it’s going to be a story about love or family or death or war, etc. That’s the theme of my story; it flows through my scenes and sequels, it carries my characters through events, and it dictates what sort of ending my tale will have.

I keep or break my promise by creating a mood, or even the genre or sub-genre of my story, through the voice I use to write it. My voice is established by the choices I make in words, syntax, structure, pace, punctuation and white space. My unique blend of style, characters and descriptions of people and settings comprise my voice. Blended together they express my voice in each manuscript.

And lastly I convey my promise to my readers by the tone or atmosphere I create. A funny story, a sad story, a serious story, a thrilling story, a moving story all come to life against the backdrop I create. Tone and voice can work hand-in-hand to enhance my story. Or, they can oppose each other creating strong contrast. Either way they unroll the canvas on which my story exists.

Learning that hasn’t been easy. But The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children introduced me to this foundational truth, and is always there to rescue me when I need to shore up a story that screams at me that it’s about to fall apart.

I LOVE this book!














Almost-Saturday in Verse

It’s halfway between Saturdays… so this is either really late or really early. Either way, I hope this poem blesses you, encourages you and challenges you. So here it is… OUTSIDE …

Source: Almost-Saturday in Verse

Non-Fiction of Olympic Proportions (plus a prize!)

Great tidbits! Thanks.

On My Shelf

In my home office I have a book case. Or two. Or three. Every shelf is crammed full of books. Paperbacks. Hardbacks. Picture books. YAs. Novels. And loads of nonfiction titles. It’s probably …

Source: On My Shelf

Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary


Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary

By Sue Young

Published by Scholastic Reference


My Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary is one of the most used reference books On My Shelf. Though I use online rhyming dictionaries at times I always fall back on this little book.


It is one of my favorites for several reasons.

  •       It is inexpensive.
  •       It is compact.
  •       The format is straightforward and easy to use. I prefer quickly flipping through      the lists over wading through the online rhyming dictionaries I have used.
  •       It makes finding both end rhymes and internal rhymes easier for me.
  •       Because it was published for elementary and middle school children the words listed are on an elementary and middle grade level. That makes them perfect for use in my children’s manuscripts.
  •       It has a user-friendly index.

Unfortunately the book is no longer available through Scholastic. However, I found it and several other rhyming dictionaries at Amazon.

Click HERE for that selection.

Whether you write poetry, board books, picture books or whatever…

If you want your poetry or prose to “sing” you’ll get a lot of use out of your own Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary.

Song of Night

Song of Night – It’s Time to Go to Bed

Song of Night

By Katherine Riley Nakamura           Illustrated by Linnea Riley

Published by The Blue Sky Press in 2002


Song of Night – It’s Time to Go to Bed is a wonderful example of a “quiet” picture book.

The 160 words of rhyming verse take your listener by the hand to visit baby animals preparing for bedtime. The illustrations are soft and beautiful. The faces are expressive indicators of the mood each baby animal is portraying. Each double-page spread includes cute and funny elements, too.

It’s a quiet walk to sleepy time for a little listener The story ends with the best sentiment ever to take to dreamland – “I love you so!”

I read this book to each of our four young grandchildren anytime they spent the night with us – which has been often in the past ten years. They enjoyed the snuggle-time and the sweet illustrations.

When the grandkids were little it was a great “quiet” segue to our own night-night hugs, kisses and prayers. I look forward to reading it to my great-grandchildren someday.

Picture Writing

Picture Writing – A new approach to writing for kids and teens

By Anastasia Suen

Published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2003

Picture Writing

About ten years ago I purchased my copy of Picture Writing – A new approach to writing for kids and teens. I assumed it would be primarily about picture books. But it is so much more!

Picture Writing is actually a self-paced course on writing in all three children’s genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry)  for all six formats (board books, picture books, beginning readers, early chapter books, middle grade books, young adult books.)

Anastasia Suen is the author of 250 children’s books. She is also a writing instructor and developmental editor for children’s authors.

I must confess that I never finished the course. I was just too new and uninformed at that time to digest the mounds of information and practice the skills. I did read and re-read the first few sections. As I scan through the material now (ten years later) I see that I highlighted some great insights from Suen.

I should have kept on reading ten years ago! 

Suen also uses memorable metaphors for the writing process. In other words, she uses “picture teaching” throughout the course.

I give Suen and Picture Writing five highlighters. MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1

The book is written in six parts plus very useful appendixes and an index.

She offers two plans and time tables for using the book as a writing course.

Part I explains “What Is Picture Writing?” It’s acknowledging that writing is a creative process. It’s allowing stillness and thoughtfulness to be a major part of the writing process. It’s allowing both sides of my brain to do their work in the creative process.

Part II “Plot” teaches about the process of plotting in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Part III “Character” follows that same design for the process of creating characters.

Part IV “Setting” does the same for the process of developing settings.

Part V “Putting It All Together” teaches us how to shape our fiction manuscripts, then nonfiction manuscripts, and then our poetry manuscripts.

Part VI “Look Again” details what happens after we submit our manuscripts with editors, marketing, revisions and more.

About five years ago I blogged about this book. Suen contacted me and said she was working on a revision. As of this date I haven’t seen one, but I hope it is forthcoming.

I’ll definitely buy it and try again.



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