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Long rhyming picture books (like Pirate Stew and The Grinch)

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Hi everyone,

New here. Not a new writer, but new to writing children’s books. And I have a few questions I was hoping you could help me with. (I probably have a few hundred, but let’s start here.)

Are there any other books on the market (particularly new books) that are similar to:

  • Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

One is new and one is old, but both are between 1100-1400 words and told in relatively sophisticated and non-repetitive rhyme schemes.

In other words, they don’t seem to fit the standard  “picture book” bucket… but they certainly are picture books.

Are these just outliers in that Suess was writing books when longer word counts were more common and Neil Gaiman can write whatever he wants because he’s Neil Gaiman?

The Julia Donaldson books I’ve read (Gruffalo, Room On The Broom) are similar but less complex and under 1000 words (if not by much). The Questioneers Series (like Iggy Peck, Architect) is also close, but they’re closer to 700 words.

Why I’m asking:

I wrote a story in the vein of Grinch and Pirate Stew. It’s around 1200 words, probably a good fit for a 3rd grade reading level, and executed in a similar rhyming style.

I am still experimenting with shorter drafts, etc., but for the sake of this hypothetical, let’s suppose that the story is worthy, the rhyming is well-versed, and every word is earned…

Is there room in the market for a book and a first-time author like me? ... Or is this not the wisest way to get my foot into the door?

Thank you for any feedback. I look forward to become a productive and proactive member of this community.

#1 - May 12, 2022, 09:16 PM

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In general, it is hard to compare anyone to the popularity of Dr. Seuss or Neil Gaiman, so I would try to find comps by newer midlist authors like you did for The Gruffalo. NG will always be able to get away with more than the rest of us bc his name alone can sell books. :)
#2 - May 13, 2022, 08:04 AM
« Last Edit: May 13, 2022, 12:42 PM by dinalapomy101 »
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I do agree that NG can probably do more than us less established authors. But yes, I do not see many long rhyming picture books. If it's done well, it doesn't mean it can't be done, but the market seems less willing to buy long PBs. Parents are busy and they seem less likely to buy long books that they will have to read to their kids. And sadly, many parents feel that their third graders are too old for PBs. So it will likely need to be stunning and unique to get picked up. Possible? Yes. But likely much harder than a shorter book.

Have you had it critiqued by fellow PB writers and rhymers? They may be able to help you cut out some less necessary parts? Or post it on these boards for critique? (Though if it's more than 1000 words you would need to break it into two posts.) I would definitely keep trying to see if you could get it shorter.

Best of luck!
#3 - May 13, 2022, 01:10 PM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, May 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, October 2021)
Peculiar Primates (Running Press Kids, October 2022)

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DK has made some good suggestions. Critique partners are often the way to go.

The market for PBs these days has skewed younger. A third grade reading level is fine as the book will be read to children. Just make sure the story appeals to younger readers/listeners. The real target is closer to ages 4-7.  That word count or no word count in a query will be an auto rejection for some publishers and agents. There are still some presses that do longer books though. Not sure they take rhyme.

My advice is to make it the best book you can. Then see what happens. You could be the next NG and get that book sold without it being your first on the market.
#4 - May 13, 2022, 06:16 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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Thank you all for the feedback and support!

It seems like even if there are long rhyming PBs on the market, there aren't enough of them that any spring to mind—which, I think, says all I need to know.

And yes, I'm still working on a shorter draft and would love to get feedback once the story is in shape. I have several ideas of where/how to make cuts or structural changes, but was just trying to get some insight into which way may be the wisest path forward.

#5 - May 13, 2022, 07:56 PM

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I agree with what others have said, but I still think there's a place for longer rhyming PBs. It's just going to be an awfully high bar to meet. The rhyming and meter will have to be rock solid; the illustrations, wonderful; and the story completely engaging. It will have to be a book that absolutely grabs you. But if you can create and combine all those elements, you have a shot.
#6 - May 14, 2022, 08:13 AM

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We haven't discussed the rise in verse novels, and even verse chapter books. If that trickles down, a longer rhyming PB may be just fine. The thing is, we can only discuss what is out there now, not what may be in the pipeline or happening when your work would be published.
#7 - May 14, 2022, 06:15 PM
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If you're interested, I just posted a sub-1000 word draft of my long rhyming picture book discussed above. It's in the member's online critique section of this board.

https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=92678
#8 - May 15, 2022, 01:00 PM

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My suggestion would be that, if you think it is a worthy story in its own right, then leave it as it is. By all means keep trying to get it published, but in the mean time move onto something else. Either it could get picked up while you're writing your next piece, or it may be that your next work gets published and opens the door for this one to get picked up.
#9 - May 30, 2022, 05:32 AM

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