Sunday, April 4, 2010

I love short and silly books!

Books I Wish I Had Written #2: Billy and Milly Short and Silly

Perhaps I should change this series to "Books I Admire and Want to Learn From". I'm featuring books I think are brilliant--books that I want to learn more about what I think makes them great. Last summer Candice Ransom encouraged us to type up the text of favorite picture books and study them. It helps to see the text without the pictures (if you are a writer-only) to see what makes these books "tick".

Billy & Milly Short & Silly
by Eve B. Feldman
illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
Penguin, 2009

This book comes in at a whopping 49 words. In the class I took last summer on picture books, we had to keep our manuscripts under 500 words. You can see why. So many of the phenomenal picture books being published are super short.

This text is told in individual words, grouped in threes or fours that tell the story. "Tee Tree Bee Flee" is on one spread. The illustrations show Billy hitting a golf ball off a tee, smacking the ball into a bee's nest in a tree, then running away when the bees come after him.

The first time I read this book I honestly thought it was an author/illustrator book. I thought--this text is brilliant, but I know it didn't sell on text alone because the pictures tell way more than a typical picture book. But I was wrong. The text and illustrations are by different people. Then I thought--even more brilliant!

Each set of words rhymes, and each set of words tells its own episode in Billy or Milly's world.

WHY I WISH I HAD WRITTEN IT: It's amazingly short, but each word works perfectly. The text allows for a lot of illustrative interpretation.

I definitely want to give this super-short text idea a whirl.

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