This illustration created by Jago Silver made me think about all the times we go to bed and mull over ideas for our books. I hope this post will help you with new ideas, but still let you get some sleep. Jago was featured on Illustrator Saturday this month. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/illustrator-saturday-jago-silver/
I want to thank Steve Meltzer for taking the time to read this months four chosen first pages and sharing his thoughts with us.
Carol Murray, Clara’s Closet, Picture Book
Clara’s closet held a clock, a clarinet, a clicking lock,
two clowns named Claude and Merry Rose and piles of long-forgotten clothes,
a clipper ship, a clip-clop horse, a dusty bunch of books, of course,
a brassy bell, a climbing cat, and bits of this and bites of that.
The mother said, Please, find a way to clean that closet, Clara Mae.
The winds of change must start to blow, and all that STUFF has got to go!
But Clara was not hearing well, as far as anyone could tell.
She spent the morning on her cell and could not seem to break the spell
of punching that and pinching this. It seemed the cell phone gave her bliss.
She blew the STUFF a good-bye kiss.
The closet creatures were upset, entangled in a sticky net.
And all that stuff has got to go? That mother has become our foe.
They moaned and made an awful fuss because, That closet stuff is us!
That night the “stuff” became a team and hatched a closet-clearing scheme:
The lock un-clicked, the clock tick-talked, the clip-clop horse awoke and walked
and ruffled up the crusty crust and used his tail to dust the dust.
The climbing cat, so sleek and lean, stretched out her tongue to lick things clean.
With paws and claws, she snatched the dirt. For shine, she used an undershirt.
They shelved the books and hung the clothes with help from Claude and Merry Rose,
and clutter clattered through the night, and soon the closet looked just right.
Then Clara said, Oh goodness me. I think that that’s a floor I see!
Clara’s Closet- Brava, Carol! Great alliteration, perfect meter without sacrificing story makes this a very nice first page. Make sure that the story does not simply end with the closet being clean. That would be too simple and not give the child the need to go back to this story again and again. There should be some added conflict to establish a bit more plot. But off to a great start!
Diane Landy, MY POP BE NO PIRATE (Picture Book)
Days be long and lonesome when yer Pop looks like a pirate.
Shopkeepers batten down hatches the moment ye step ashore. Folks spy ye funny and hold tight to their wallets. And it be tough to find mateys. ‘Tis no feeling worse than marooned.
“Astrid Pearl McGillicutty, yer jib be hanging so low ye may trip,” says Ma.
“Furl that lip,” says Pop. “Only a fool would befriend a sack sad as ye.”
Aye, it pains me to say… they be right. I needs to change my ways. But how?
I climbs aboard the Sea Grotto to snatch a scroll and map out a plan. Then I finds a bright spot to think. Hmmm. I scratches my noggin. How does one find a friend?
The sun dips low before I finally makes a pledge: keep a sharp lookout for the sunny side o’ things. Like when strangers hold yer spot at the top o’ the line. Or when a blasted sign reads “No Pets Allowed”, but Jasper and Jade are welcome to hang about. And when ye makes a blunder, no one dare say a mean word.
Arrr! But they never, EVER say kind words either. As if we be hornswagglin’ scurvy dogs out to pillage their village. ‘Tis a lie! Pop gave up plundering on the day o’ my birth.
Oh, how I wish upon the stars Pop looked like a jester.
But when we wakes in the morn… rrrrrr-rats! He looks like a pirate still.
Then ol’ Captain Sunshine warms my face, reminding me to honor my pledge. So I slaps on a smile and looks through a spyglass o’er breakfast… as we stroll to the park… and while swinging to the clouds. Feeling chipper, I bust out a song about the ol’ rocky voyage of Aunt Peg Leg McGee.
Leeward, ho! Up yonder be a lad ‘tis adventuresome like me. CRACK!
Blimey! He be in trouble. WHALE-size trouble. Trouble that shivers yer bones.
My Pop be No Pirate- Cute idea, but I wonder if kids will understand all the words. It would make a great read-aloud for Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th). I guess I would read on to see where this was going but I kind of feel that this is more like a story in a kid’s magazine.
Lorraine Nelson GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY – Picture Book
Miss Molly was the world’s worst dancer. Whenever she started to dance, which was every day and everywhere she went, people stopped to stare. Not because she was a joy to watch, but because she was the strangest sight they had ever seen.
With her flaming red hair piled high on her head, her bottle-cap glasses, and her bright floral dresses that reached down to her ankles, Miss Molly was a sight to behold.
She twirled, she jeted, she leaped along the sidewalk, narrowly missing mothers with their strollers, and little old ladies with their walkers.
“Hey, watch it!” “Watch where you’re going!” people yelled. But Miss Molly neither saw nor heard them. Her head was filled with music, and her body was filled with the need to dance.
The only fans Miss Molly had were the local dogs. Everywhere she pranced, the neighborhood dogs followed her, barking and howling up a storm.
“Miss Molly is the town’s Pied Piper,” people would say whenever she and the dogs came into view. “It’s better than the circus coming to town.”
Miss Molly didn’t mind being followed. She loved animals and the noise the dogs made was music to her unmusical ears. It inspired her to pirouette faster and leap higher, as she went about her daily business.
The problem was that Miss Molly didn’t have a daily business. Oh, she tried. One week, she was a waitress. But when she came bouncing out of the kitchen with the customers’ orders, she dropped food and sloshed soup everywhere. This made both the customers and the chef angry, so she was promptly fired.
Good Golly Miss Molly- I would be careful with the title as it is probably trademarked. I know you can’t copyright titles but there may be extra protection so I would tread lightly. So I would want to know more about Miss Molly. Why did she want to dance? What happened in her younger years that made her this way? Take us back to when she was younger. But it looks cute. I love picture books that feature adults acting child-like.
Donna Weidner RETURN OF SNOWY OWL Middle Grade
The only thing missing from Silver Wood Forest was a gingerbread house. Well, maybe a flesh eating witch too—but that’s still being debated. Most kids shipped out to camp every summer. My younger-by-five-minutes brother and I? As stipulated in our mother’s will, we’d spend two months in Germany visiting our grandmother in Einplatz, a village so tiny that a flea’s sneeze could blow it away. If you were to look it up on a map, you’d find it somewhere between Nirgendwo and Hier.
“Vanessa—Anne—Reinherz—” Boris grumped. “Slow down!”
For the third day in a row since our arrival, our shrill screams stabbed at the wood’s stifling silence. It always took Boris and me at least a week to tone our excitement of being free to explore our surroundings down to a level where we wouldn’t be out-shrieking the local crows. We felt safe in the woods even though Herr Bösenkämpfer forbid us to set foot in it—“too dangerous and deceptive,” the local forest ranger would repeat each year. “It’s no place for children.” You could tell he’d never gone to school in a big city, otherwise he’d have known we were up for it. Anyway, the most dangerous animal we ever met in the Silver Wood had been a deer or two and they pranced off like we were the predators—yeah, the big, bad, Reinherz twins.
“Ness, wait up!” Boris huffed down the trail. “You cheated—”
My brother had a bad habit of calling a dare he had no chance of winning. That day it was a foot race over the river, through the woods, and back to Lola’s house. Lola? That’s what I liked to call our Granny, even though she was German. It’s Filipino for Grandmother. Very exotic, don’t you think?
“You said you were ready!” I called over my shoulder.
Return of Snowy Owl- I was not drawn into the story. The voice feels adult and I don’t get a sense of place . We are introduced to this girl, find out her mother is dead she is a twin and in Germany looking to go hiking in a presumed dangerous woods on the first page. What’s the rush? Slowly let us meet Vanessa and see who she is. You really need to know your characters. Write up a one or two pager about Vanessa. What does she like to do. Favorite Ice Cream? Favorite music? You may need to never call on these things for your novel but it will give you a better idea of who she is.
Steve, thanks again for sharing your time and expertise with all of us. It is much appreciated.