Monday, April 15, 2019

Mine. Yours. A Nearly Wordless Picture Book Review, Challenge, and Giveaway

Congratulations to Mary Jane Coward who won Daddy, Can You See the Moon? from last week's blog.


Marsha Diane Arnold is back with another new picture book. This one is practically wordless! But yet an important story is told through three words and Qin Leng's exquisite, detailed illustrations. 

Mine. Yours. (Kids Can Press, 2019)  follows Little Panda in his exploration of what belongs to him and what belongs to others.  Important lessons about boundaries and possessions are told as he is "sternly" instructed by Big Panda and the other animals in the forest. When his beloved kite becomes a source of conflict among the animals, Big Panda teaches them all a sweet lesson about "Ours". This book will be useful in the Pre-K through first grade classrooms as a great conversation-starter about ownership and sharing. 

Join me in this interview with Marsha as she shares insights into writing this almost wordless picture book.


Carol: It’s my understanding that publishers don’t want illustrator notes from the author, they just want the text. So, how did you “get away” with breaking the rules?

MARSHA: It’s true that many editors prefer manuscripts without art notes. It’s also true that most of the writers in my writer’s group use art notes as needed. I think one reason I see more art notes on mine and other writers’ manuscripts is because picture book texts are much shorter than they were when I began writing. My first picture books had no art notes at all, but they were also 1200 to 1500 words long. Today, most of my manuscripts are less than 500 words so visual cues are sometimes helpful.

There are always exceptions to the “norm.” Of course, for a minimal text manuscript like Mine. Yours. art notes are necessary. There are only 3 different words, 25 words in all. As in any story, the writer determines the setting, the characters, and the plot. The art notes were written and revised and revised, just as any manuscript would be.

Here’s an example from my manuscript:
[Two Yellow-throated Martens make orchid flower crowns/necklaces on top of a rock.
Kite dips down entangling several strings of flowers in its tail, trailing them into the sky.]

[A Golden Snub-nosed Monkey plays Chinese Jianzi with a shuttlecock (feathercock) in the
branches of a tree. Kite whips up, the tail snatching the shuttlecocks.]
[As the wind whips and dips more wildly, Little Panda tries to untangle the items in kite’s
tail.  Suddenly, he too is lifted off the ground. He grips the string as he and kite fly off the
page, exiting right.]

CAROL: Was your agent involved or did you negotiate it yourself?

MARSHA: My wonderful agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, negotiates everything for me. I’m so grateful to have her.

However, I was lucky to meet someone from Kids Can Press at ALA a few years ago. She was the one who opened the door for me to send my manuscripts. Kids Can Press is a Canadian publisher and most often works with Canadian writers and illustrators.

CAROL: What was your inspiration for Mine. Yours.?  

Mine. Yours. came about in a very different way from most of my books. It was meant to be a follow-up to my picture book Lost. Found., but that didn’t work out. I rewrote the story with different animals. It took awhile to decide on the setting in China and Asian animals, but I’m so happy that’s where the story landed, just as I am happy the book landed with Kids Can Press.

Check out more of Marsha's picture books on her blog. Parents and educators, click on this link for a downloadable pdf of two activities you can do with your children. (Make sure you click on "View File" in the blue box on the top left. It takes a few minutes to load.)

NOTE AND CHALLENGE: I recently watched a television ad for an investment company. It used about 25 words to tell the story of a man's life--from birth to caring for his invalid mother. The viewer got the message! Lots of ads tell stories. Can you create an almost wordless story? What images would you use to tell it?


Leave a comment and your email address (if you are new to my blog) to enter this giveaway. A winner will be chosen on April 18. Continental US only. 


Keturah Lamb said...

Oh, this book looks so cute! I'd love to be entered!

Also, that challenge sounds so fun ... I'll have to think about it for a while though ;)

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I love books that offer children a chance to imagine and to create. Thanks for sharing!

Carol Baldwin said...

Keturah and Connie, the list starts with your names!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview. I've read other posts about the fact that picture books are getting shorter and shorter, so reading how this author added the art notes was very informative. I'm finding picture book writing is difficult, so I love studying how the words and illustrations work together. dhammelef(at)yahoo(dot)com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Danielle. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Linda Phillips said...

Carol, thanks for sharing this lovely book and a bit about the process of submitting picture book material.

Ashleigh said...

This book sounds so adorable, while also teaching an important lesson! Being able to convey such a strong message in so little words would definitely be a challenge.

Ashleigh said...

This book sounds adorable, while also teaching a very important message! It would definitely be a challenge to write an entire book in such a small amount of words. Great job!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda and Ashleigh. Ashleigh--please leave me your email address!

Young Authors Program said...

Thanks for sharing, Carol. I'll have to check this out!

Diane B said...

Thanks for the chance to enter! I am quite challenged and intrigued with this book; to let pictures and minimal words convey huge thoughts and ideas is not an easy task to complete. I am impressed with the story, Mine. Yours. I have never thought of creating a narrative like this for young readers.
--Diane Buie

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comments, Diane and Dorothy. Dorothy--I thought you'd like it!

Rosi said...

One of the writers in one of my critique groups has a picture book I keep saying should be a wordless PB. This would be a great mentor text for her. I will have to send her the link to this interview. I think it would be very helpful. Thanks for the post.

Unknown said...

Good luck with the challenge, Keturah! And the giveaway.

Marsha Diane Arnold

Unknown said...

Connie, I'm so happy you appreciate books that allow the imagination to play.

Thank you.
Marsha Diane Arnold

Unknown said...


So glad the interview was informative. Thank you.

Marsha Diane Arnold

Unknown said...

Hope you found the interview helpful. The illustrations are really lovely and Qin followed my art notes so faithfully.
All best,
Marsha Diane Arnold

Unknown said...

Thank you, Ashleigh! Hope you get an opportunity to read the book. It doesn't take long. :) But the exploration of the illustrations is really fun.
In Joy,

Unknown said...

Hope you enjoy the book, Young Authors Program!

Marsha Diane Arnold

Unknown said...


It's true! Minimal word texts are as challenging as a 500 word text for me. I so appreciate your thoughts.
In Joy,
Marsha Diane Arnold

Constance L said...

What a lovely idea! and helpful as I'm working on developing more PB and even maybe board book ideas with very few words. It's challenging and fun. This book is delightful, and I love the whimsical artwork (looks like watercolors?) I won't enter since I already won a book! (even though I'd love to have this one!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad you enjoyed the glimpse of this book. You should get it and study it!

Cat Michaels said...

Love this book’s concept, Carol. Easy for early readers to “read” a book independently. Great language prompts for kids. Delightful on the eyes for all. I am impressed that the artist could capture the author's vision so exquisitely -:D

Carol Baldwin said...

I agree, Cat!

Sandra Warren said...

What an interesting concept and book. It's a model for what PICTURE BOOK really means...a story told in pictures. It will be a great model for writers who focus on picture books.

It will mean illustration notes will have to be very detailed and specific.

Carol Baldwin said...

Agree, Sandra. Quite a challenge!

sheri levy said...

Wow! It is amazing to see how authors create picture books. This is a wonderful book! Thanks for sharing.
Sheri Levy

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi, Sheri and Ashleigh. Challenging books to write for sure!

Carol Gwin Nelson said...

This sounds delightful. I look forward to reading it to my grandchildren who are at the 'mine' stage.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Carol. Sorry that you're too late for the giveaway, but I hope you enjoy it with your grandchildren!

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