The words, Lights, Camera, Action, may be the customary cue to a film crew to start filming, but they are words we could also consider during the writing process. The power of motion is invaluable in any story, and even more so in children’s books.
Flashbacks do not work well in children’s picture books. For this reason, you should not reveal information about events that are long past by writing that Johnnie Rabbit is thinking about such events. Instead write about the live action that is occurring in the moment.
Let us cast our minds back to the story of The Three Little Pigs to see how action was implemented. The pigs left home, they searched for a spot, they spent time building their houses. The first pig was lazy and quickly built her house of straw. The second pig was slightly less lazy and built his house of sticks. After the building project was completed, by these two pigs, they sang and danced together. We are able to visualize these actions and we can also see the third pig working ardently as he built his house of stones. Then the big bad wolf came. We followed the action; he approached the first pig and pleaded with her to let him in and when she did not comply, he huffed and puffed and blew the house down, but luckily the pig escaped. The wolf then scooted over to the second and third pigs with the same request. The story is a series of action until the end when the wolf came down the chimney and fell into the pot of scalding water.
If you have Johnnie Rabbit sitting or standing around and occasionally saying a few words to anyone who cares to listen, your story will be dull. You must get Johnnie involved with other characters. You built a character bible for both Johnnie and his supporting characters for a reason. Johnnie should interact with these characters; he should have conflicts with them, thus adding suspense and emotion to the story. In the story of The Three Little Pigs, we held our breath when the wolf asked each pig to let him in because we―the readers―knew the wolf’s intention. Emotion reached a crescendo when the wolf began to huff and puff as he tried to blow the second house down. We asked ourselves, will he be successful blowing down this house as he had done with the first? You must show Johnnie Rabbit going from one place to another to meet with other characters or show him doing things with them. Do not simply tell us about what he did, show us.
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You have decided on a fabulous idea. You are going to write a children’s story about Johnnie Rabbit, and he is going to be anthropomorphic. Although you have seen rabbits in the backyard and at the petting zoo, you really do not know much about them, except that the meat is eaten because you have seen it at the supermarket. How are you going to write a convincing story about a rabbit and not seem stupid? You must research, and do it diligently.
Research is a major part of writing for children. You must research your subject and the market place. First, the subject. What are rabbits? What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Where do they live? (You don’t want write in your story that Johnnie Rabbit lives in a sty!) How large do they become? What are their habits? Gathering this important information not only provides meat for your story, it gives it authenticity and makes your character real even if Johnnie Rabbit is fictional.
When I decided to write my children’s story, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, the only thing I knew about squirrels is that they are always hiding nuts. I had no idea what they ate—it could not be just nuts! —although I have observed a determined little squirrel who regularly visits my backyard and tries every trick in the book, including lying vertically against the fence, in order to eat the seeds in the bird feeder. My research taught me that their diet consists of nuts, fruits, and seeds. This information was handily incorporated into the story and will certainly be used again and again in other episodes of The Nosey Charlie Adventures.
Second, you must research the children’s book market. Are there books about rabbits and similar animals? How many are there? Tapping into Amazon.com and Google will give you a good idea. You should also check how recent the last book on the subject was published. Are rabbits a popular subject in the children’s book genre? Read pop culture magazines and watch recent cartoons to get a sense of trends and speech patterns. Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, and it appears that there is a market for your rabbit story, get set to take step # 3.
I have always known the Irish for their quality wool. Irish woollen sweaters, hats, and scarves have been known to last for a long time. In fact, I recall someone once stating that you only need one Irish sweater—it lasts forever. I was therefore expecting to see a few sheep in the countryside as I explored ‘The Emerald Isle’ a few years ago. I certainly did not expect the vast population that I witnessed.
After spotting herds and herds of sheep grazing in green grassy meadows everywhere we travelled, I asked our comical guide (an Irish friend from Toronto) the million dollar question, “How many sheep are here in Ireland?” After he cracked up laughing, and coughed a few times, he said, “Ireland has 4.3 million people, and it has 4.3 million sheep—one sheep for each person!” Then laughter erupted again.
There are many breeds of sheep in Ireland, and I saw a few as we traversed the country, heading for County Sligo. We arrived at St Columba’s Church of Ireland, in Drumcliffe. William Butler Yeats’s grandfather was once its pastor, and the cemetery there is the final resting place for Yeats. (I will cover this in a subsequent article).
The church property was separated from the neighbour’s by a low stone wall, and just beyond the wall a herd of sheep grazed contentedly. I had never seen this breed of sheep before. Little black faces peered out from under bodies covered with long, stringy wool; they hardly seemed real! They are known as Scottish Blackfaces, and are the most common breed of domestic sheep in the United Kingdom. They are known to be hardy and adaptable, and their long coarse wool shields them from moisture and harsh winds.
One of the most historic places to visit in Turkey is Troy. A city that existed over 4000 years ago, Troy’s present-day location is known as Hisarlik, near the province of Canakkale.
In 2014, I visited the archaeological site of Troy, the setting for Homer’s epic, TheIliad—a place people once believed did not exist.
It did exist, and there are good ruins to prove it. Archaeologists have excavated ruins which reveal that several cities—ten in total—were built in succession on the site. As we left the site we came upon this beautiful creature—a sheep!
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are 65.5 million sheep and goats in Turkey, making it the largest national herd in the Near East region. Currently, sheep and goats contribute 43 percent to the total, meat and 33 percent to the total milk produced in the country. Besides providing meat locally, Turkey earns foreign exchange from exporting live animals, their meat, and mohair.
There are several breeds of sheep in Turkey. The one in the picture appears to be a Jacob sheep based on its markings.
I love to spend time at the zoo looking at animals that are both indigenous to my country and ones that come from all over the world. Some animals are downright fascinating, but there is a specie that I do not view this way—reptiles. While many folks like them and even keep some as pets, I view them as ugly; they send chills up my spine, and I am afraid of them.
You can imagine my horror when while touring the picturesque Grand Cayman Island a few years ago, iguanas kept popping up everywhere—running across the grass, climbing trees, gathering in groups as if holding meetings, and slithering into water at a marina.
A genus of omnivorous lizards, Iguanas are native to Central America, South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They are herbivores, and can grow to as much as 6 feet long, including their tails. They possess a dewlap—a row of spines running down their backs to their tails—and a tiny “third eye” on their heads.
The blue iguana, native of Cayman, has become an endangered specie. It eats a variety of plant material but prefers fruits and flowers over leaves and stems, and is therefore important on Grand Cayman as a seed disperser. The green iguana, native to South and Central America, has also become an endangered specie because people hunt and eat it—the meat referred to as “chicken of the trees!”
Green iguanas were brought over as pets to Cayman, some time in the 1980s. They have multiplied significantly to become such a nuisance that culling has taken place under the organization of the Department of Environment in order to control the population which is estimated to be about half a million on Grand Cayman.