Monday, April 30, 2012

Mondays with Mira - Pleasurable Picture Book Reviews - Abe Lincoln Crosses A Creek

Today's pleasurable picture book review revisits the concept of postmodernism in this terrific unusual biography of Abraham Lincoln (and his friend) written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix, published by Schwartz and Wade.

It's a longer story than usual (biographies usually have more text) but both the text and images are super clever in themselves and in their relationship. I hope you can put aside 15 minutes to sit back and enjoy me mangling a Southern accent with my mid Pacific neither fish nor fowl hybrid Australian/American accent as you learn about this terrific book and what this author and illustrator did to make it so good.

I also wanted to share that it's difficult to write a good publishable picture book biography. They're a hard sell in today's market unless they're done in really unusual and innovative ways as this book is.

Here are some authors who do it very well - Marissa Moss,Jeri Chase Ferris, Lori Mortenson, Kathleen Krull, Pam Muños Ryan, Nikki Giovanni, and Barbara Kerley.

If you have a passion for picture book biographies here are some tips for writing one:
Use an unconventional narrator or point of view.
Make it lyrical or full of fun idioms and vernacular language.
Focus in on one particular grand incident to create a narrative arc of how the hero of the story overcomes obstacles to achieve their greatness (see the Hero's Art Journey)
Find a fascinating character who has contemporary relevance and bring them to life e.g. Steve Jobs or Rigoberta Menchu (Nobel and other big prize winners are good but you could also write about someone really bad too like Joseph Stalin as a bully or some other deeply flawed character).

Here's a title of a Barbara Kerlin story that also acts as a primer on writing biographies - The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy) 

I hope you've enjoyed today's free  video review/lesson on picture book writing and illustrating, postmodernism, and biographies. Thank you Deborah and John for your wonderful book.
Please share this series with anyone you know who is interested in picture books : )


Joanna said...

Thanks, Mira, both for this recommendation and for the great tips, as this is something i have been thinking about.

Mira Reisberg said...

Thank you Joanna - biographies are hard but very wonderful and needed.