Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 16, 2017

First Page Picture Book Critique – Alli Brydon

Alli Brydon is a creative editorial professional and writer based in the New York City area. She has nearly 15 years of experience developing and editing children’s books for U.S. publishing houses. Having worked as both an acquiring editor and an agent for children’s book authors and illustrators, she brings a unique blend of skills to all projects. While her specialty is in children’s books, Alli is available to hire for any of your editing and writing needs.

Here is Alli’s last Picture Book First Page critique:

MOMBIE by Amanda Sincavage – Picture Book

I want my mom back.
She hasn’t been herself since the baby arrived.
She grunts and groans and shuffles around in a trance.
She never showers – baby vomit, PEE-EW!
…or sleeps.
And she calls the baby Pumpkin and Muffin instead of Stevie.
Then she smells behind his ears, snatches his nose, and gobbles his toes.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard her whisper…
“I could eat you up!”
There’s only one conclusion.
My mom is a…
MOMBIE!
That’s a mom zombie.
Time to take matters into my own hands…before Stevie gets served for supper!
First, I broke Mombie’s trance with a game of hide and seek.
I hid. She still shuffled…until I hid in the backyard with Stevie.
“Violet!”
I’ve never seen her run that fast!
Next, I tricked Mombie into a bath.
After I sploshed in the mud, I snuck inside and sludged Stevie with mud too.
“Violet!”
Mom gave us both a bath and then needed a shower herself.

HERE’S ALLI:

Hi, Amanda. Thanks for sending in a first page that I can really relate to! 😊 That’s the first thing I want to talk about today: relatability. This first page not only takes a well-worn subject (new sibling story) and makes it fresh, but the main character is relatable to a child and the situation is relatable to a parent. Nicely done!

Also, I love the title. I’m sure new moms have been calling themselves “Mombies” for decades, but honestly this is the first time I’ve heard that term. The title is funny and suggests to the reader that what they’re about to read will also be funny. And the narrator’s spunky personality told through 1st person POV is a good vehicle for the story’s humor. We can hear her interior thoughts—make sure you use that device as best you can to convey her feelings to the reader. It’s a great opportunity you’ve presented to yourself as the author.

There are some spots where you can draw out the humor in the text. No need to define “Mombie” halfway down the page. The reader can understand the implication of the term, and it’s funnier if you just leave the word (and the artist’s illustration) there. I can imagine a great, surprising page turn around this spot. Making more zombie references could also bring out the humor and really pull out the irony. For example: “I’ve never seen her run that fast!” Perhaps change this to “She must be one of those fast-moving Mombies.” And there are some spots where the narrator still calls her “Mom.” Why not keep the “Mombie” thing really going throughout?

Quite a few of the actions are told through too much exposition, and can be scaled back in order to leave room for the illustrations. In the beginning, after the line “She hasn’t been herself since the baby arrived” I’d like to see less explanation and more building on the theme of the story. So instead of saying “She shuffles around in a trance,” maybe we only see this in the illustrations and then have a few onomatopoetic words to detail what’s happening, like “GROOOOAANNN,” and “shuffle shuffle.” Same with the bath scene: there is so much explained about the action where the reader could benefit more from understanding more about the main character’s relationship with her new baby sibling. Use this space and scene to build that.
One last thing that I think could be improved is that I’m not quite sure what the conflict is here. I know that Violet is lamenting this new “Mombie” in her life, but what does she want? Does she want her old mom back? Does she want the baby to go away? Does she blame the new baby? Figure out what will be the main source of conflict (or what actually is the conflict later on in the story) and introduce it right at the beginning.

Thanks again for sharing this, Amanda. And if this story is based on your own true life experience, I hope you can reward yourself with a nap!

REMEMBER: ALLI IS OFFERING A TEN PERCENT DISCOUNT OFF HER SERVICES FOR ANYONE FOLLOWING WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING.COM UNTIL NOVEMBER 30, 2017

Thank you Alli for sharing your time and expertise with us. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thanks for this great feedback Alli! And yes, I do have a new baby at home (3 weeks old) and a 3-year old adjusting to the changes that go with it! Thanks again for this opportunity Kathy and Alli!

    Like


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