When I begin to write a children's story, I immediately think in rhyme. Of the many stories I have, completed and not, only one of them is free verse. When I met my agent and she showed interest in one of my stories, she said that rhyme could be hit or miss. Most of what I've been reading about writing and publishing has said the same thing. Last week, I reached out on Twitter to ask, 'rhyme or no rhyme'? The response I received was one I expected: no rhyme. It's complicated to get the rhythm correct and tell the story in a meaningful way. However, when it's done properly, it's beautiful and amazing.
I started thinking about my favourite children's stories and I have no idea why rhyme is always my go-to. Some of my absolute favourite authors are Kevin Henkes, Mem Fox, and Robert Munsch. They weave wonderful tales without relying on a rhyme pattern. However, I also adore Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman. These are two awesome examples of fun and effective rhyme.
If I take a good look at the stories I love, my influences are not based in rhyme. Which makes me wonder why it's always my first way of storytelling. I'm guessing that it has something to do with the fact that my mom rhymed everything. She ran a daycare and all of the kids had rhyming nicknames. If you called out to ask her where she was, she'd reply "in my skin, when I jump out, you can jump in." She had a rhyme for everything. I'm guessing that this is far more ingrained in my head than I had realized.
It's important to push outside your comfort zone if you want to grow. This applies not only to writing, but to life. It's not one of my strengths. I like my comfort zone very much. But I also like the idea of knowing that I can push past it successfully. That I can take a risk in my writing and make it more powerful. It's what I'd ask of my students and my own children.
When I think of how I want to tell a story, I only know that I want it to leave a lasting impression. I want a child, or adult, to love reading it aloud. I think that, because my natural inclination is to rhyme, I have to find a middle ground. Margie Palatini does an amazing job of this in books such as: Bedhead, Sweet Tooth, Moosetache, and Oink. (www.margiepalatini.com) She is a perfect example of how an author can use rhyme, free verse or a blend of the two, seemlessly, to create a rhythmic tale. Her words, rhyming or not, flow so easily and make you not only love the story, but remember it. Not an easy task.
Not easy, but it is the task I will embark upon next. I'm working through a new children's story idea. If I let myself, I could probably write something solid with a nice rhyme pattern. However, since I can't keep the door of my comfort zone locked indefinitely, I will work on pushing myself out that door. If I keep at it, maybe unlocking the door will lead me to a world that is filled with authors I admire and respect and adore. Maybe one day, my books will sit beside theirs on a shelf (not an alphabetical shelf, obviously).
What are your favourite books and authors? Do the books rhyme? Do you find yourself drawn to a certain children's book author? What is it about their writing that pulls you in?