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Picture Book Query -- when is sad too sad?

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Hello

My current PB (second one, first was self-published) is about a little Kangaroo - Korra who is very sad as his grandparents are leaving. He spends most of the book (about 600 words) trying to cheer up with his friends but getting nowhere. At the end, with the help of a slightly recalcitrant wombat, he learns an important secret. To cheer up -- he has to finish being sad first. He rushes back home very happy with this important discovery only to learn that his grandparents are sticking around after all.

What do you guys think? Does this synopsis sound like something young kids (3-6) would like to read?

Would love your opinions!
#1 - April 27, 2021, 07:18 AM

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This is a cute concept, and the message is important about it being healthy to express sadness and not try to cover up difficult emotions.

Try to avoid ‘telling’ what the story is about, and instead ‘show’ it. For example, telling us that she “spends most of the book” trying to cheer herself up doesn’t create an image of what she actually does to try to cheer up. I don’t know the details of your book, but here’s an example:

Korra the Kangaroo is sad that her grandparents are moving away. She tries everything to cheer herself up, but nothing seems to work. Friends try to help. They play hide-and-seek, hopscotch, and tag, but Korra is still sad. 
# # #
Does Korra solve her own problem with the help of her wombat friend, or does her friend sort of give her the solution? It would be best if the main character solves her own problem. With that in mind, the wording there might show that they figure it out together: Then with the help of her wombat friend, Korra learns that cheering up can’t happen until she finishes being sad.

I would leave it more open ended and not share the ending about her grandparents deciding not to move after all. With a query, it’s more of an overview/teaser, and not a full synopsis.

One last suggestion would be to cut the word “recalcitrant” and choose one that is more kid-friendly and better reflects the language and vibe of your story. Or just leave it out, and let the manuscript itself reveal the wombat’s unique personality.

Best wishes!!
 :star2
#2 - April 27, 2021, 08:50 AM
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only to learn that his grandparents are sticking around after all.

This is beside the point of your question, but I think tangentially related. I am not sure the grandparents should stick around after all. If your MC has gone through this struggle and won, let it have been for a reason instead of having the adults reverse their decision, which feels a little manipulative and as if "it was all for nothing." IMO, give them a bittersweet goodbye and let your MC demonstrate, and your child reader learn, that their new maturity really can carry them through real-life situations. Letting the split happen is not too sad if your MC has become ready for exactly that.

#3 - April 27, 2021, 12:16 PM
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I agree with mrh that it makes sense for the grandparents to leave so that the main character can move on to this more mature, yet bittersweet, stage of life.

But I gotta say you had me at "recalcitrant wombat."  :lol4
#4 - April 27, 2021, 03:52 PM
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I also agree with mrh. If you added this plot point to enhance the uplifting ending, I would suggest toning it down slightly - perhaps something along the lines of someone mentioning being able to visit now and then. That would provide optimism and avoid the sense of "it was all for nothing". Just a thought.
#5 - April 27, 2021, 04:11 PM
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thank you so much everyone - I wish i knew how to respond to everyone individually but somehow I cant seem to be able to do that. This is all very very useful. I love the suggestion that the grandparents should leave at the end after all so it is all "not for nothing" but is that too sad?  I guess it has to be like that. Thank you again everyone so much!
#6 - April 27, 2021, 08:58 PM

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I love the suggestion that the grandparents should leave at the end after all so it is all "not for nothing" but is that too sad? 

No. It's a common occurrence in real life for children to not live near their grandparents, or for grandparents to downsize and move. Your book can help real children negotiate this real experience. When I worked in a library, parents would come into the children's section and ask for books about various aspects of family life. I can easily see someone asking, "Do you have any books about grandparents moving away?" I believe a book where the grandparents actually do leave would better address that need. And you can show the characters planning to visit, phone, text, Zoom, etc. Think of it this way: there are books about death, too, and this isn't as sad as that.

#7 - April 28, 2021, 05:27 AM
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Sometimes life is sad. Kids need to know that. Things can be sad and that's okay. And they will get through the sadness and be okay too. New normals happen all the time to everyone. The child in your book is getting ready for one. And they are getting through the transition. That's fantastic.
#8 - April 28, 2021, 06:27 PM
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Sometimes life is sad. Kids need to know that. Things can be sad and that's okay. And they will get through the sadness and be okay too. New normals happen all the time to everyone. The child in your book is getting ready for one. And they are getting through the transition. That's fantastic.

One of my grandfathers died when I was five, and one of my earliest memories is of that day, when extended family members got mad at me for being sad when I heard the news. Like ... how come the adults get to be sad, but I was forced to go out and feed stray kittens half an hour later to "cheer me up"? It was weird.

Kids are allowed to be sad/feel grief. I wish someone had read me a "sad" picture book instead of ordering me to snap out of it.
#9 - April 29, 2021, 12:59 AM

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One of my grandfathers died when I was five, and one of my earliest memories is of that day, when extended family members got mad at me for being sad when I heard the news. Like ... how come the adults get to be sad, but I was forced to go out and feed stray kittens half an hour later to "cheer me up"? It was weird.

Thank you so much for this memory and for being so honest with me! I hope this book will be what it should be...

Kids are allowed to be sad/feel grief. I wish someone had read me a "sad" picture book instead of ordering me to snap out of it.

#10 - April 29, 2021, 03:41 AM

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