Just because there are only 988,968 words in the English language doesn't mean an author needs to feel constrained when writing a picture book. Authors are not restricted to words that are currently in the dictionary. In fact, as my hero, Dr. Seuss, has demonstrated, words that aren't in the dictionary are often far more appealing. What could possibly be more fun to say than four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff? Dr. Seuss tickles the tongue and the imagination with his snergelly hoses and cruffulous croaks.
In The Recess Queen, by Alexis O'Neill, Mean Jean is the schoolyard bully.
If kids ever crossed her,
she'd push 'em and smoosh 'em
hammer 'em, slammer 'em
kitz and kajammer 'em.
Pretty rollicky, huh? I love how lollapaloosh bounces around in my mouth. My daughter and I are starting a petition to have it added to the dictionary.
In Lynn Plourde's Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, animals are blocking the road and members of a family are taking turns trying to shoo them.
And she shooed.
And she jeered.
And she baa-ed.
And she sheered.
But the sheep didn't shuffle.
Not a tiny little schmuffle.
What better way to stretch my kids' minds than to ask them to make up their own?
The squirrels didn't scoot.
Not a tiny little schmoot?
Words are like toys -- to be played with and turned inside-out. A sprinkling of Sneetches and a smattering of Schloppity-Schlopps can really spice up a tale.
So, if you want a story that really stands out in a slush pile or in this crowded picture book market, put aside your thesaurus and invent away.