[NOTE: This post was pre-recorded because all three of your friendly bloggers are knee-deep in May Mid-Grade Madness. Please send them coffee. And chocolate. And perhaps some Red Bull, mixed with coffee and chocolate. Now back to your previously recorded post.]
My favorite picture book as a child was Little Black, A Pony, by Walter Farley.
I loved the kinship between the boy and Little Black and every time my mom read it to me, my eyes would tear over the boy wanting to ride sleek Big Red instead of loyal Little Black. Then I’d clap happy when Little Black saved the day and the boy decided to ride only him from then on.
When I grew older, I had tons of favorite books. I read The Horsemasters by Don Stanford so many times I had to make a new cover!
And the Sweet Valley High Series? Oh please, I must have read them a hundred times each. But my favorite book was A Horse like Mr. Ragman, by Rachel Rivers-Coffey.
I loved the quirky minor characters, and the hustling horse farm, but I mostly loved this book because I had so much in common with the main character. I was chunky. My rival was tall, pretty, and wealthy. My family was financially challenged. (I refuse to say poor because we were rich in other ways.) And like the underdog Mr. Ragman, the only horse I had to ride after mine went lame was my brother’s fat Appaloosa barrel racer that ended up being a great Dressage horse.
Fast forward about twenty years and we come to my favorite children’s book as an adult, Hope was Here by Joan Bauer, one of two books that inspired me to write young adult novels. (The other was A Long Way to Chicago, by *swoon* Richard Peck.)
I loved the setting, Welcome Stairways Diner. (Actually, I love all books set in a diner.) I loved the “create your own family” vibe, and the vivid, unforgettable cast. But mostly, I loved the dynamic between Hope and her aunt, and Hope’s incredible skill and passion for waitressing.
Now. If I were to make a list of all the different elements from the above books that made me love them, they’d be: Dynamic main characters with a unique skill. Vivid minor characters. Strong settings. Identifying with the main character and the coming together of unlikely folks who create their own family.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about all this.
See, with some of us doing May Madness, I thought I’d take it easy on everyone and offer a simple, fun challenge. And with that, here’s this week . . .
Conference Writing Challenge #2: Why do you love it?
I want you to make a list of all your favorite children’s books throughout the years: When you were a kid, when you were in middle school, as a teenager, and as an adult.
Then ask yourself. Why do I love this book?
What elements captured your heart, was it the characters? The setting? The action-filled plot or the slow, easy ride? The endearing, everything-tied-neatly-in-a-bow ending or a wild cliffhanger that left you begging for more? Once you have written down all the elements that attracted you to your favorites, I want you to then ask yourself:
How can I use these elements to improve my current work-in-progress?
Set your timer for thirty minutes, dig deep with this one, and have fun! And if anyone would like to share their favorite books and why you loved them, that would be awesome!
And for our artistic friends, our lovely regional illustration coordinator, Susan Detwiler, is providing your . . .
Conference Illustrating Challenge #2:
Think back to the books you loved as a child because of the illustrations, and draw a character from another story, fable, or fairy tale in the style of that illustrator.
Happy writing and drawing, everyone! And if you missed our first challenge, use the link below. 🙂