Welcome to my blog, ALPHABET BOOYA. Pardon me while I, ahem, clear my throat and roll my eyes… The thing is there are a million blogs out there, what could mine possibly offer that’s fresh and useful for writers and readers? No easy answer bubbled out of the pot, so I decided I’ll serve up a collection of essays on topics from A to Z, many of them connected to writing nonfiction. That way I keep working on craft and you can savor a little booya. (Don’t know booya? Stay tuned for my next post…)
First things first, why ALPHABET? Other than the fact that kids need to learn the alphabet and I write for kids? Well, I LOVE alphabet books and I’m not embarrassed to say so. I’m crazy about them—always have been, even though there are writers, editors, publishers and teachers who preach that alphabet books are overdone, poorly done and just plain not done.
And then there are the rest of us who hold tight to the notion that alphabet books can be among the most creative, satisfying and informational books for kids. Kids enjoy learning chewy words on subjects they are curious about.
One of my all-time favorite alphabet books is, A PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE SHAKER ABECEDARIUS (Viking, 1978) by Alice and Martin Provensen. Besides being an alphabet book, this National Book Award nominee, is also an acrostic.
|Alligator, beetle, porcupine, whale,
Bobolink, panther, dragonfly, snail,
Crocodile, monkey, buffalo, hare,
Dromedary, leopard, mud turtle, bear,
Elephant, badger, pelican, ox,
Flying fish, reindeer, anaconda, fox…
The rhyming list, chock full of chewy words like ichneumon, kingfisher, viper, and whippoorwill, was used by the Shaker religious community in the 1880’s to teach children the alphabet in an entertaining and memorable way. Interesting enough…this book makes a lovely bedtime book; the rhyme is almost a lullaby. Alice and Martin Provensen’s picture book rendition of the Shaker abecedarius is out of print, but well worth a trip to the library or finding a used copy to purchase.
There’s one more “A” I need to mention. And that is AWARD. Last April I was awarded the 2016 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers, Loft Award in Children’s Literature (Younger Children). The manuscript I submitted for the competition was serendipitously, an alphabet book. A book I can honestly say I loved writing just for fun. Which brings me to an axiom… (There’s another A!) Rather than writing what I know, I try to follow my heart and “write what I love.” As Chris Humphreys said, “Write what you love. That’s what will keep you writing.”