When asked what she admired about Margaret Wise Brown’s writing—Charlotte Zolotow replied:  “For one thing, there is the sound of her words.  You want to hear GOODNIGHT MOON even if the language it is written in was foreign to you.”


Part I

No one questions that the picture book, like film, is a blending of word and image.  Yet most discussions of the genre treat the picture book as if it were a silent movie.  Content and image are discussed, but little or no attention is paid to sound.  Words and sentences are content and sound.  The writer’s use of sound can make the difference between merely sharing information and sharing the emotional experience of a story. 

People are forever aghast when they learn picture book writers don’t get to choose their illustrators or tell them what to draw. They almost pity us for having no control.  But, if we writers do our best to evoke as well as report, we have far more input than most people suspect. How? By writing with attention to the sound and shape of our sentences and pacing.  In doing this, we provide our editor and illustrator with an emotional experience—a valuable map toward the visual extension of the text.  We will have also written a better picture book.

Upcoming posts on Writing to be Heard will include:

1.   Picture Books & the Oral Tradition

2.  Sound as Content & Meaning

3.  Rhythm as Content & Meaning

4.  Narrative Shape as Content & Meaning

5.  Rhyming: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly