Thursday, January 25, 2018

ANATOMY OF A MENTOR TEXT: Over and Under by Kate Messner. Art by Christopher Silas Neal. Thoughts by Lynne Marie.


So while I do have an unpublished manuscript entitled Flight of the Snowflakes, it is a concept book that is different from this particular picture book.

So why read this "mentor text"? First because certainly there's something to be learned from any picture book (whether good or bad), AND because Melissa Manlove of Chronicle recommended it! If you have ever heard Melissa speak or been in one of her webinar's you will know she is very passionate about children's books and unique ideas.

She uses this book as an example of "never say never." When approached to see if she would be interested in a book about the "Subnivean Zone," she thought for sure that she wasn't interested. However, when she took a look, the author made her interested. Who knew? Basically, she recommends take something that I don't think or know if I would be interested in, and MAKE ME INTERESTED.

So despite this book not being a comp text for any one particular book of mine, there is much to be learned. The author, Kate Messner, found a way to introduce an unusual scientific term in a kid-friendly way. And, she used beautiful, lyrical text to guide the reader deeper into the story.

Over the snow I glide. Into woods, frosted fresh and white. 

Over the snow, a flash of fur -- a red squirrel disappears down a crack. 

"Where did he go?"

"Under the snow," Dad says. 

What child wouldn't want to follow that squirrel? So Messner presents a fresh and interesting topic that is STEM related, lyrical language which relates to language arts and introduces poetic terms like consonance, and assonance. You can literally SEE and HEAR why this book was bought.

At the author's beckoning, you follow the snow on a journey you didn't know you wanted to go on, and become glad you did. You meet toads that hibernate, rabbits whose coats change color, and shrews that make subnivean tunnels. And you come out on the other side, enlightened and more knowledgeable than before.

Notably, there's an author's note about the "secret kingdom under the snow" and fun facts. So much take away woven into one picture book. I too would have bought this book if I was an editor and it crossed my desk.

I hope I've helped illuminate some of the things we might look for in our own manuscripts when writing or revising AND given you a title to put on your mentor text list.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and support in the comment section.

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