Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lessons learned (Tuesday)

I always thought the word 'prose' indicated a desirable thing, a writers poetic use of voice. Was I wrong? Here's how dictionary.com defines the word: Ordinary speech or writing, without metrical structure; Commonplace expression or quality; To speak or write in a dull, tiresome style. If I want to write dynamically, do I want to write in prose at all?

I use the term 'white folks' all the time in my non-children's book writing, 'black folk', too. Those terms have a casual feel, more comfortable to use than the words 'white people' or 'black people'. Don't ask me why. I've avoided those terms in my children's writing, not wanting to offend. But reading a few children's books yesterday, I came across the terms several times (course, now that I'm trying to find an example to post, I can't find one). Guess it depends upon the context used, and the mood the author is trying to communicate. Maybe. I got a long way to go.

Read Tuesday:

Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin' Cowboy, by Andrea Pinkney. A biography about African American Rodeo star Bill Pickett, who, with the help of a dog, invented bulldogging — literally taking a bull down by sinking his teeth deep into a bulls sensitive lips.

A Cinderella Cuento, by Joe Hayes. A Mexican folktale-ish version of the Cinderella story. For some reason, when I chose this story, I thought it was a biography. Judging a book by it's cover, but not actually reading the title until afterwards — not a good thing. A bit strange, I thought, but folktales can (and do) go there.

Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, by Anne Bustard. A biography written using a rockabilly, sharp-shootin', voice about the life of Buddy Holly. Loved the story overall, very high-spirited.

Satchel Paige, by Lesa Cline-Ransome. A biography about negro-league baseball great Satchel Paige, who went on to play in the majors for a short time, and became the first African American to pitch in a World Series, but didn't take too well to rules. Rules like showing up for practice and to games on time. Beautifully illustrated by James Ransome. Loved the authors voice.

The Champ: The story of Muhammad Ali, by Tonya Bolden. A look at the life of boxing champ Ali, who as a child had his Schwinn bike stolen. He vowed to "whup" the kid who stole his bike. Well, you know the rest of the story. Surprisingly, very wordy. In fact, I'm surprised to discover that most of the picture book bios I've read are very wordy, in the excess of 2500 words, some of them.


rindawriter said...

Yes, 2,500 or so is an unusually long text for a picture book of any kind. I call the longer text stories picture story books as they aren't really classic PB: There is not the same dynamic going on between text and illustrations.

Even when things are published, they are not always so perfect, with errors, mistakes in judgement, etc., something that tends to be forgotten. Which is why reviews are supposed to help weed through things, though I'm a bit disheartened with reviews right now. I keep trying! To find good books!

I think it would help in picture book biographies if they didn't try so hard to include everying about the person but focused instead, in a more poetic way about some one really significant thing about that person. I read a picturebook once about "Martin's Words" about Martin Luther King. It was PERFECT! For the age, for the format, for the short text, for what it needed to do. Really conveyed a sense of the man's character (I say so haveing seen and read about him in much more depth).

Kim said...

Love your updates! Keep 'em coming as long as you have the energy. (I know I gave up after about the second day of my class! I couldn't keep up with all the reading, logging of books, writing--so I just did the course and skipped sharing the good books with the world!)

Jez Chill said...

After watching the BW series on FX, I realized that the same term that is used casually by one group of people can be interpreted as offensive to others. Maybe those terms fall in that category.