What’s to Gain? * What’s to Lose?

Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog” could be reduced to the statement: “The incoming fog is as quiet as cat feet.” Yet, that statement is not a poem and fails to engage and evoke. We have the same options of statement or engaging readers when we write picture books.

With apologies and appreciation, here is a less-than-engaging version of the opening sequence of SQUEAK-A-LOT by Martin Waddell.

A mouse lived in an old house. He was lonely because he had no friends. He decided to go find a friend. He found a bee.

“Can I play with you?” asked the mouse.

“Sure,” said bee. “We’ll play BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ!”

But mouse didn’t like that kind of play.

Now, hear and feel the pace and rhythms of Waddell’s own engaging text.

In an old old house lived a small small mouse who had no one to play with.

So the small small mouse went out of the house to find a friend to play with.

And he found…A BEE.

“Can I play with you?” the mouse asked the bee.

“Of course,” said the bee.

“What will we play?” asked the mouse.

“We’ll play Buzz-a-lot.” Said the bee.


But the mouse didn’t like it a lot.

So he went to find a better friend to play with.

The facts are the same. The action is the same. But Waddell’s text takes the next invigorating step. He involves his audience through his pacing and rhythm.

We can do the same. And, truth be told, we have no alibi as to why we don’t.

SQUEAK-A-LOT by Martin Waddell. Illus. by Virginia Miller. Greenwillow, 1991.