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Do you "tell" in your pbs?

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CaroleB

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Wondering:
How much telling do you like to put in your picture books?
I get that "showing" is the way to go, but I also like a bit of telling.
Do you have a rule for your self? Or do you try to show it all?
My pbs hover around 330 words, so they aren't overly wordy, but I'm questioning myself on whether telling is just a big, fat no-no these days.

Curious, as always and wishy-washy about my writing.
Carole  :grin

#1 - June 05, 2012, 05:30 AM

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I went to a workshop once where someone used Janet Lunn's AMOS'S SWEATER to illustrate when to show and when to tell in a picture book.  The book begins with telling ("Amos was old and Amos was cold and Amos was tired of giving away all his wool") but as the book moves towards the climax, Lunn slows things down with more showing. 

I can't for the life of me remember who gave this workshop, but they called Amos's Sweater a "perfectly structured picture book." You might want to check it out.
#2 - June 05, 2012, 06:51 AM
WITCHLANDERS
Lena Coakley
Exquisite storytelling plus atmospheric worldbuilding equals one stunning teen debut. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

CaroleB

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Thank you, tulipwars.
Am going to the library today. Will see if they have a copy.
#3 - June 05, 2012, 06:57 AM

CaroleB

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Nope, no copy not only at my branch, but the entire system doesn't have one.  :shrug:
Thanks anyway.
Carole
#4 - June 05, 2012, 01:41 PM

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Noooooo! That's terrible--it's such a classic! Well, Abe's got a few for $1 but of course you have to pay shipping. http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=amos%27s+sweater&x=0&y=0

Anyway, I hope you come across a copy at some point--and I'm sure more bbers will have something to say about your topic.
#5 - June 05, 2012, 02:45 PM
WITCHLANDERS
Lena Coakley
Exquisite storytelling plus atmospheric worldbuilding equals one stunning teen debut. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

This may not be exactly what you're asking, but I think it's related. I recently studied a lot of pb beginnings for a talk I was giving, and what I discovered about "telling" is interesting. For many beginnings, some authors use the first sentence to "tell" and then they jump right in and expand that "telling" by showing. Here are some examples:

The first lines in Linda Urban's MOUSE WAS MAD read: "Mouse was mad. Hopping mad."

In Darren Farrell's DOUG-DENNIS AND THE FLYAWAY FIB, the story begins: "One day, Doug-Dennis and Ben Bobby were bored."

The fabulous Mo Willems begins LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER begins simply: "Leonardo was a terrible monster."

In Phyllis Root's TOOT TOOT ZOOM, the first lines read: "Poor Pierre! He lived all alone at the foot of a sky-high mountain, and ah, his heart, how it longed for a friend."

Mac Barnett's hilarious pb, MUSTACHE!, starts this way: "Duncan was a terrible king, but he was terribly handsome."

So, from these examples and many others, I'd say that "telling," particularly in the story's first lines, can be a good way to state the conflict before jumping into the "showing" of the story.
#6 - June 05, 2012, 05:26 PM
ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES TOO! Candlewick, 2017
LOUD LULA, Two Lions 2015
CALIFORNIA HISTORY FOR KIDS, CRP
FARMER MCPEEPERS Rising Moon

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That's really interesting Katy! Thanks for posting that.
#7 - June 05, 2012, 06:23 PM
www.carriefinison.com
DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS - Putnam (July, 2020)
DON'T HUG DOUG (Spring, 2021)

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I needed to read this today. My newest pb's first two lines "tell", much like the ones you mentioned. My Pb, Being Frank (coming out this October) starts out telling.

Frank was always frank.
"Honesty is the best policy," he said.


Then it jumps into the story.
#8 - June 05, 2012, 08:45 PM
Being Frank (Flashlight Press)
http://flashlightpress.com/

CaroleB

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That's really interesting Katy! Thanks for posting that.

Ditto! (and I love those first lines)
I'm finding my pbs start that way, too. But sometimes I try to add what I consider "clever" telling aspects throughout the story and then I ask myself, "would others find this trite or would they even "get it?". Hah! I always questions myself.

Donna, Frank sounds like he's heading for too much honesty. (???) (guessing on my part).
#9 - June 06, 2012, 02:53 AM

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Great perspective, Katy! There's always good telling and bad telling, and picture books sometimes need the good telling.
#10 - June 06, 2012, 03:47 AM
Kell Andrews
www.kellandrews.com
Twitter @kellandrewsPA

THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

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This is a really thoughtful thread. Thanks for asking the question, Carole.

The beginning of Tammi Sauer's MOSTLY MONSTERLY is

On the outside, Bernadette was mostly monsterly.

leaving the showing for the illustrator.
Jean
#11 - June 06, 2012, 07:16 AM
Jean Reidy
Coming soon: Pup 681, Truman, When the Snow is Deeper Than My Boots Are Tall, Group Hug , Specs and Specs II.
Others at www.jeanreidy.com

And I meant to mention that beginning in this way (and leaving room for the illustrator as Jean mentioned) is helpful in keeping down the word count.  :exactly:
#12 - June 06, 2012, 08:50 AM
ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES TOO! Candlewick, 2017
LOUD LULA, Two Lions 2015
CALIFORNIA HISTORY FOR KIDS, CRP
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and I love that a couple of those first lines all have an adverb in them! They work, ya know? I know we are told NOT to use adverbs, but there is a time and place for everything.

And btw - my kids got Mustache! for Christmas. My 8yo reads it everyday. :)
#13 - June 06, 2012, 09:01 AM
Being Frank (Flashlight Press)
http://flashlightpress.com/

Then there's one of my favorites, from Helen Lester's HURTY FEELINGS: "Fragility was a solid piece of work." The illustrator shows us Fragility as a hulking hippopotamus--wearing a pink bow :)
#14 - June 06, 2012, 10:43 AM

CaroleB

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Then there's one of my favorites, from Helen Lester's HURTY FEELINGS: "Fragility was a solid piece of work." The illustrator shows us Fragility as a hulking hippopotamus--wearing a pink bow :)

Aww! Ohhh! I love that.
Illustrators reign, don't they?
Of course, with a title like that and the first line, I'm sure it was illustrator heaven.
....calling an hippo "Fragilily", very, very clever.
#15 - June 06, 2012, 11:01 AM

Carole, Helen Lester is one of my all-time favorites. All her books give me that "Aww! Ohhh! I love that! (plus Haha!)" feeling. She's always paired with illustrator Lynn Munsinger, who is also awesome. Highly recommended!
#16 - June 06, 2012, 11:17 AM

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Then there's one of my favorites, from Helen Lester's HURTY FEELINGS: "Fragility was a solid piece of work." The illustrator shows us Fragility as a hulking hippopotamus--wearing a pink bow :)
We love that one, too. SO fabulous.

#17 - June 06, 2012, 12:54 PM
Being Frank (Flashlight Press)
http://flashlightpress.com/

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