Monday, January 28, 2013

To rhyme or not to rhyme

As a partner in Red Chair press I often see submissions that are written in rhyme. If you know me you know I am not a fan. Why do people think that a story for children should be written in rhyme? I think it's one of those stereotypes of children's publishing.

People have rightly pointed out to me that stories in rhyme help children learn though the use of repetition among other reasons. I agree.

But if you write in rhyme you have even MORE hurdles to get over rather than just writing the story simply.

For one thing- rhyming is harder! I can imagine a writer scratching his head to come up with a rhyme and thus changing what he intended to say. I call this forcing the rhyme and it usually changes the intent and does not help the story.

The other problem is the meter of the line readings. You want to get that nice "sing-song" meter going as you read it. Read any Dr Suess story and you pick up his amazing ability to keep perfect meters. But for the novice you often find a line or two that makes your tongue "stumble". This will not only make the reader upset as they won't now how to get back on track but doesn't help the flow of the story.

Arnold Lobel was an amazing writer as well as a top notch illustrator. One of his Frog and Toad stories opens with these lines:

Frog knocked at Toad's door.
"Toad, wake up," he cried.
"Come out and see how wonderful the winter is!"
"I will not," said Toad.
"I am in my warm bed."
"Winter is beautiful," said Frog.
"Come out and have fun."

I am sure you could say all that in cute rhyming lines and you can argue that that would help a child learn better but I can't imagine the text being done any better.

Of course Arnold also wrote in rhyme himself! Check out The Book Pigericks. Amazing as is all his work but I am sure it was a lot harder to write!