Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bushland Lullaby Blog Tour With Sally Odgers

Hi Sally, welcome to my blog, and congratulations on the release of your beautiful new picture book Bushland Lullaby.

Hi, Robyn, and thanks for hosting Bushland Lullaby on its tour.

Thank you for being here, Sally, and now over to you.

Rhyming picture books are popular with children, parents and teacher/librarians, but can be less than popular with publishers. Why, as Professor Julius Sumner Miller would once have said, is it so?

I asked an editor about that and her reply was staggeringly simple; (a) Because rhyming texts are so difficult to do well. (b) Because rhyming texts don’t translate into other languages without a complete rewrite, which compromises the chance of foreign editions and thus, of foreign income.

So, why did I write Bushland Lullaby in rhyme? And not only in rhyme, buy in aa/bb rhyme? I suppose it was partly because lullabies are traditionally sung, and partly because rhyme and scansion come easily and naturally to me. Also, Scholastic Australia, the publishers, have a big enough customer base in Australia to make the translation problem less of a – well – problem.

Telling a story in rhyme can be difficult, as often I see texts (unpublished) where the first two lines in a verse drive the story while the next two are “passenger” lines, which are there just to carry the form. A rhymed story, to work, must conform to the rule of any picture book; each line must be essential to the story.

As it happens, Bushland Lullaby is not really a story, but – a lullaby, so each stanza, although relating to the theme as a whole, stands alone.

Another problem with rhymed texts is the temptation to twist the syntax to get the rhyme and scansion going. The example below is not from a picture book, but does show how twisted syntax works (or doesn’t work) in a narrative poem.

I went to the lake with a circle of friends
The month was July and almost the end

As you can see, we have an obvious case of twisted syntax. The natural way for this line to fall would be;

It was almost the end of July.

Could you use it in a natural way and preserve the rhyme?

With a circle of friends to the lake then went I
It was almost the end of July

This has messed up the meter, and twisted the first line. What about;

I went to the lake with a circle of friends
It was almost the end of July
I knew I had failed them; too late for amends,
On the lakeside I bade them goodbye.

So that the word July does not look dragged in, it should mean something in the poem. In Australia, July is winter, while it is summer in the northern hemisphere. Either season could be important, and could be referred to in the next line…

The summer had shrunken the lake to a pool


The chill of the land matched the chill of my soul

So, with a bit of thought and skill, it is possible to write rhymed lines with natural word order, even if the language employed is a bit more poetic than prose. Picture books, though, are written mostly for a young audience, so too much high-flown language is inappropriate. The trick is to use exact and colorful language without getting obscure, and to be willing to use assonance and/or consonance rather than strict rhyme if it will improve the text. 

To finish, here is an excerpt from Bushland Lullaby

In a merry creek where the currents run
Where eddies dance with winking sun
Curled in a burrow so safe and deep
Little Platypus lies asleep …

Thanks so much for hosting us, Robyn! 

Thanks for including my blog in your tour, Sally, and all the best with Bushland Lullaby. It's a beautiful book all children will love.

Bushland Lullaby

Asleep in a gently snoozing ball
Little possum's soft and small.
In a twisty tunnel and cosy bed
Little wombat rests his head.  

All the baby animals sleep soundly in the comfort of the bush.

Bushland Lullaby is published by Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831770

Blog Tour

Spinning Pearls – Sally Odgers
1st September 2012

Writing for Children – Peter Taylor
3rd September 2012

From Hook to Book – Chris Bell
7th September 2012

Kids’ Book Review – Tania McCartney
8th September 2012

Reading and Writing with Dale Harcombe
12th September 2012

School Magazine with Jackie Hosking
18th September 2012

Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie Parnell
23rd September 2012

Please visit Sally's website to learn more about Sally Odgers, her books, manuscript assessments and a wonder of other information:




Sally_Odgers said...

Thanks for having me, Robyn!

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Very interesting post, Sally - very informative about writing poetry! THank you Robyn too.

Sally_Odgers said...

Thanks, Sheryl.

Peter Taylor said...

Many thanks, Robyn and Sally. This is most useful and fascinating - and I just love the book.

Robyn Opie Parnell said...

We're glad you enjoyed Sally's guest post, Sheryl and Peter. Thanks for visiting and sharing in Sally's blog tour. I agree! I love Bushland Lullaby too.
All the best everyone,
Robyn :)