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.
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?
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