Picture Book Prompt 39

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
—Tom Robbins

Think of an event or incident in your childhood that didn’t go the way you would have liked. Write about how it might have been different. What would have to have happened to make it go the way you would have liked? Alternatively, think back to a golden moment in your life as a child—or imagine one. Write about that. Write everything you can remember.

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Picture Book Prompt 38

If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.
—Beverly Cleary

What book or books would you like to see on the shelf? Make a list. Pick one idea and explore it.

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Picture Book Prompt 37

“There is nothing sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name.”
—Kate DiCamillo

How does it feel when someone you love calls your name? Explore that feeling in a free-write. How might a child feel when they hear someone they love calling their name?

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Picture Book Prompt 36

“Play with me, not with your cell phones!”
—Posters from a demonstration held by kids in Hamburg, Germany

The demonstration was led by a seven-year-old who expressed the hope that “after the demonstration, people will spend less time on their mobile phones.”

Write about parental use of mobile phones from the point of view of a seven-year-old.

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Picture Book Prompt 35

“Do you know how your children actually feel about the various aspects of their lives? Are you sure? The fact is, most parents don’t.”
—Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D., from The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting

Oof! We adults—even adults who, like the great children’s book maker Helen Oxenbury, believe “It is impossible to be too much on the side of the child”—make assumptions about what the children in their lives, or the children they’re writing about, are experiencing.

So please go and interview a child. Pick a topic or just be open to asking and listening. Find out what they really feel about a topic, an issue, or an aspect of their lives, and then go back and write about what you have discovered.

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Picture Book Prompt 34

“Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy’s father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its every detail, he is transported to exotic places without ever leaving the room, and he eventually comes to realize that the map feeds him in a way that bread never could.”
—Description of How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz, a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book

In How I Learned Geography, a map provides a catalyst for imaginary visits to exotic lands. What other object might serve as an access point for a child to imagine other places or events. Write about both the object and the places the child imagines—whether they be real or fantastical.

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Picture Book Prompt 33

“There is also an emotional context to Mr. Henkes’s picture-book work. . . . His heroes are often deeply troubled by loneliness, sibling rivalry and classmates who tease and torment them. But Mr. Henkes treats them with a light touch that never becomes oppressive or maudlin.”
—William Joyce on Kevin Henkes

Write about something that might deeply trouble a picture book protagonist. Don’t worry about being oppressive or maudlin. You can consider tone later. For now, just explore what your protagonist—and you—might be experiencing.

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Picture Book Prompt 32

“Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.”
—James Fitzjames Stephen quoted in Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

Pick a topic that is relevant to children. Examine what you think about it—what you really think about it and write about that. Your writing might not lead to a picture book—might not be appropriate—but it will lead you in the direction of what you believe and what you feel is important to say. And being able to articulate what you think is an important first step.

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Picture Book Prompt 31

“Naming emotions is a powerful tool. Children feel more in control of themselves and their world when they can describe how they’re feeling. That’s why it’s important to help children to recognize the full range of emotions. . . . Not only does identifying a feeling word help children more clearly understand how they truly feel, but it might determine what they do next.”
—Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D., Thinking Parent, Thinking Child

How could you help children name their feelings or their interior experiences in a way that might help make sense of them. Start, perhaps, by observing your own emotions and then describing them in a way that children would understand. Have fun!

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Picture Book Prompt 30

“I think that children like mishaps, especially when they occur to the grown-ups.”
—Helen Oxenbury

What kind of mishap might a child find amusing or validating or simply interesting.

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