Friday, January 9, 2009

Letters in Picture Books- Continued

Where was I? Oh, yeah... I was explaining why I like it when picture books include letters. (I also like lists, signs, charts, diary entries, etc)

Okay, so Becky and I were brainstorming one day, and I said, "Hey, let's do something with letters."

We discussed an idea and then started a draft. Becky wanted the entire thing to be letters. "Whole thing? Wouldn't that get kind of tedious?" I asked. "Not at all," she replied. "In fact, I read a book like that once. I Wanna Iguana. It was very cute."

I immediately ordered it. The book is indeed cute. I laughed on the first read through. But I didn't feel like I could read it over and over. Am I alone in this? I went to Amazon and checked the reviews. Customers love it!

So, here are my questions:

If the purpose of including letters is to break up the rhythm and vary the pacing of a story, then doesn't writing in ALL letters defeat the purpose??? Are there other picture books that consist entirely of letters? If we stick to this format, is everyone going to think we copied I Wanna Iguana?

My friend, Tara, happened to answer some of these already in yesterday's comments:
OpenID taralazar said...

Click, Clack, Moo: one of our favorites. It's simple, hilarious and features a surprise ending.

Some of the books with longer letters, however, leave my kids a little bored. They prefer letters when they're sprinkled about to help carry the story, not when they are the entire story.

Thanks, Tara. Glad to know it is not just me!


Rebecca Gomez said...

There is also a novel written entirely in letters and notes. It is called Letters from Camp, and it is a hoot!

As far as our letters story, I think it's working out well so far. I'm not ready to give up on all letters just yet.

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

I finally made it by to visit your blog. Sorry it took so long. I love it though!

Wanted to share a thought about Amazon and their comments or "reviews" they list for each book. I find them pretty unhelpful. I don't know if anyone feels the same, but least when it comes to picture books, it seems that the reviews are ALWAYS favorable. It's as if nobody ever posts a review for picture books, unless they love the book. I have no problem with readers liking a book, but some picture books that have received glowing reviews on Amazon have left me with much to be desired.

Sorry for the rant, just some thoughts.

Sally Murphy said...

There was a PB published here in Australia for Christmas called Letters to Santa. Rather thna being astory, the whole thing consisted of letetrs to santa - written by animals from around the wolrd. Very cute and my youngest loved it,. The letters pulled out from envelopes but had a special format which prevented them coming right out and getting lost.
Very cute.

Also a series here in Aus called 'the Letterbook' - each new book features tow teens who create aletterbook in which they write toe ach other, sharing their probs, joys etc.

So the format is not unique, but it IS popular.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I don't think I've read a PB that was all letters. Sounds like a fun idea!

Katie Anderson said...

Personally, I like the letters idea. My daughter has a cool new book called Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf, and the entire thing is told through the girls letters, receipts, grades, notes, lists etc... Maybe you could work some of that stuff in ?

And as a complete dork admission, first I thought you wanted to do a PB with alphabet letters - and I thought, "That's been done! - like for babies."

Good gracious!

Z-Kids said...

Couple more for you...
In the first "Toot and Puddle" book lots of the story is seen through postcards. Love it.
Then there's always "Dear Mr. Henshaw" which is told entirely via letters between a kid and his favorite author.

Rachel Hamby said...

There are also the Dear Mrs. La Rue books by Mark Teague. 1/2 of the story is told through the letters, the other 1/2 through the pictures. Very funny!

Anonymous said...

Without naming names, one of the books mentioned in the comments is one that left my kids bored. Me, too. It was tedious. And I'm one who likes longer PBs.

There is a short story by Joyce Carol Oates that consists entirely of letters sent back and forth between two women who are long-lost cousins. I will have to research the name, but it was brilliantly done, with a back-and-forth conflict. Each letter brought the conflict to a new level and drove the story along. The tension between the two women was palpable.

I like collections of letters in a book--something like the humor of the "Dear Mr. President" series...because kids say the darndest things! That's not the same as a story, though. Not necessarily meant to be read in one sitting.

I think the idea is a good one, and like any story, if the writing is good, that's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

I had more thoughts on this. Perhaps for younger children, the format of a letter is too formal? Dear You, Sincerely, Me. But then again, a letter can have a distinct voice that draws you in. It would be interesting to see two characters sending letters back and forth, each with its own unique voice. And, for this generation, might emails instead of letters be a modern twist on the idea?

Anonymous said...

And also adding onto Amy's comment about Amazon reviews...phew...I have a lot to say this morning...

Remember the Amazon reviews are written by parents and not children. There are so many PBs we read that I love, but my kids are just lukewarm about. And even more that they don't want to read twice. I am amazed at the number of reviews written by people who don't even have children.

If you read a great PB, it compells you to write a review. But if you read a bad one, it doesn't elicit the same response. You just move on. And after all, bad reviews are just mean! LOL!

Katie said...

I actually ordered the Amber Brown book but it didn't come to the library in time... :(