Monday, January 19, 2009

First Pages: PB / A Little Quiet

The day started out with a bang.
(Toddler holding cymbals or something over Mom's head while she is sleeping in the bed. Mom's eyes open wide.)
And then a few booms.
(Drumming on pots and pans while Mom is cooking breakfast)
And rattles and such.
(Cereal being dumped. Giant messes)
The noisiness of this manuscript will appeal to toddlers. But while this is a situation mothers can certainly empathize with, toddlers' ability to empathize with mom/others is notoriously spotty. Which is probably why I identify with them.

However, you'll need to be careful that the end result is not one long laugh at Mom's discomfort-- few parents will buy a book they think will encourage bad behavior.

You also need to be extra careful with the illustration notes. Usually I advise against including any illustration notes at all, but here a little guidance for the reader is needed. Even so, you do not need this much (we can imagine Mom's expressions without tips), and it would be politic of you to end each suggestion with "e.g." to make clear that you'll expect the illustrator to do what he/she thinks best.

I would also suggest adding the sound effects for read-aloud (ie, "CRASH-SMASH!"; "BANG-BONG!"), and consider making these effects cumulative in the interest of (a) audience participation and (b) a growing amount of noise on each spread.
There was also some splashing…
(outside wading pool - Mom is getting wet as she stands on the side)
and some painting…
(Mom is holding a sponge.Paint is dripping everywhere)
and a parade.
(Instruments and costumes. Mom in line too)
And then… there was lunch.
(Messy, Loud, Everybody talking. Mom's eyes are bulging now)
Again, the illustration notes are way too specific. Once the editor has gotten the idea of the sorts of things that will be going on in the illustrations, consider whether any more are needed at all. The painting note is perfectly superfluous; probably the parade one, too.
By 1:30, Mama needed Something. So she went up to her room.
(lying in bed)
After three minutes, she heard footsteps.
"Mama! What are you doing?" they asked.
"Oh, I'm looking for a little Quiet," Mama answered.
"Oh," they said. "Well, did you find it?" as the little one jumped up on the bed.
If the changes I've suggested were made, I would keep reading past this first manuscript page. I would expect a good punchline at the end, though--something in keeping with what's happened so far, but not just more of the same.

Every picture book writer, every one, should be extraordinarily careful with illustration suggestions. Go back through them over and over to make sure they are only present where a reader with a good imagination might be confused about what's meant to be happening next to a piece of text. Where they avoid confusion, they are acceptable. And nowhere else.


Anonymous said...

Wish I could remember the title of a recent picture book that tells this exact same story in much the same way.

ae said...

English author Jill Murphy's "A Quiet Night In" and others address this issue (tho perhaps her audience is a wee bit older). My kids love her books...yet they may be more adult centric. I don't think so.

I do agree that toddlers (especially toddlers are completely self centric).

Pick up on the SOUNDS. They love SOUNDS and repetition.

Skila said...

These are great suggestions! Thanks for taking the time to do this. Your wisdom is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...


I think this could be a really cute PB. Good luck!