I took a few chances on my latest picture book, NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID. The book is blend of things that, at first blush, shouldn’t go together:
- Poetry and rock ‘n roll: The book itself is a story in verse, and the main character is a singer in her own rock band.
- Katydids and singing: Of all the creatures on this earth, katydids are not exactly what you’d consider great singers. To me, their voices sound like creaky screen doors opening over and over! And yet, the main character of NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is, in fact, a katydid.
- Kids and formal poetry: Poetry, some think, is stuffy. Or hard. And formal poetry? For young readers? And yet, the book is itself a villanelle, a form most readers don’t encounter until later school years, when they read Thomas’s “Do not go gently into that good night,” arguably the most famous villanelle written.
- Photos and illustration: Each page of the book contains watercolor illustrations merged with photographic elements.
The thing is, though, mixing up pieces that seem like they belong to two different worlds is, I think, where absolute magic happens. We see things in a new way. We realize some of the best rock songs are really like three-minute poems (and the repeating lines of the villanelle is like the repeating chorus of a rock song). We realize that for kids who are MG readers, straddling the line between grown-up ideas and younger interests, photos and illustrations can make the perfect combination. We realize that the best singing voices are like Katy’s—not technically perfect, but full of soul. And, most importantly, we realize that finding new ways to make poetry (even formal poetry!) accessible to young readers means that they won’t be intimidated by it as adults. We help foster a lifelong love and appreciation of poetry.
Take a chance—find a new “odd-couple” pairing to put in your own WIP! And check out more about NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID at my #SCBWIBookStop page.