Please welcome our good friend and Author, Jamie Michalak! Jamie has a super-great post featuring her new fun duo in her Early Reader, Frank and Bean, but she's also shared a mini-workshop with valuable insights about the craft and super-great tips for writers interested in writing an early reader of their own.
Plus, Jamie has generously donated a book for the comment contest which she will personalize for the winner! How cool is that? All you have to do is leave a comment by October 21st for a chance to win. If you're new to the blog, please include your email address in your comment so I can get in touch if you win! We'd love to hear your thoughts about Frank and Bean or about Jamie's Early Reader Workshop. Enough from me. Read on!
Writing from the Inside Out with Author Jamie Michalak
5 INGREDIENTS FOR A TASTY EARLY READER
by Jamie Michalak
Now that autumn is here, all I want to do is hunker inside to cook up comfort food and write or read in my cozy chair by the fire. Every fall, I turn into Owl from Owl at Home. So perhaps that’s why several of my forthcoming books are food-themed. As is this post. I wish I could serve you a warm bowl of soup to go with it.
Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, is a new early reader starring a contemplative hot dog and a rambunctious bean. Frank is a quiet writer, who keeps a secret notebook. Bean is a loud one-bean band. He has the tunes, but he’s missing something: the words. Together Frank and Bean form an unlikely friendship — and a rock band!
Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, is our new early reader starring a contemplative hot dog and a rambunctious bean. Frank is a quiet writer, who keeps a secret notebook. Bean is a loud one-bean band. He has the tunes, but he’s missing something: the words. Together Frank and Bean form an unlikely friendship — and a rock band!
Early readers help beginning and newly independent readers build reading confidence and a love of books. And while early readers tend to be the Rodney Dangerfield of children’s books, they’re an invaluable bridge from picture books to chapter books.
What makes a good early reader? Lovable characters, engaging plots, memorable endings, zippy dialogue, and varied action, all whipped up into a story that’s frustration-free. The best early readers work not only as a read-alones, but as read-alouds.
If you’re interested in cookin’ up an early reader of your own, you don’t need to include a hot dog, a bean, or picnic foods at all. Here are five other ingredients you might consider:
- A hop-to-it opening: No need for a long set-up. Jump right into the action! On the second page of Mouse Soup, a weasel leaps out of the tree and catches our main character. Arnold Lobel hooks us from sentence three!
- A simple storyline: Beginning readers put a lot of energy into reading the words, so an involved story can be overwhelming. Stick to one idea or conflict, and avoid subplots. (Keep your sentences short and simple too.)
- Well-chosen, delicious words: Use words kids know or can sound out. Add spice with alliteration and onomatopoeia. The Children’s Writers Word Book is an excellent source for checking to see if you’re using familiar words for your intended audience. I often throw in a few challenging words, however, if the reader can sound them out or the illustrations provide picture clues.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition: “Faster, faster, faster!” cries Owl in Owl at Home. Predictable text helps kids figure out the words. Try repeating sounds, refrains, or patterns. But use repetition creatively, so it doesn’t become dull.
- Humor with heart: Humor without heart is a one-note joke. What is at the core of your story? What’s the emotional underpinning that gives it resonance?
Choose your ingredients. Put all in a pot to simmer and condense (approximately 500 - 1500 words). Then season to taste.
Enjoy and happy writing!
Jamie Michalak is a children’s book author and former editor. Her nearly forty books include the early reader Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early reader series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Kirkus Reviews called Joe and Sparky,
Superstars! a “little treasure” in a starred review. She also wrote the forthcoming Dakota Crumb, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press, 2021).
When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in the same neighborhood that Dr. Seuss once lived in. She now resides with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island. Visit her at www.jamiemichalak.com
Bob Kolar is the author-illustrator of several books for children, including Trucker and Train, AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First, Big Kicks, The Boy & the Book, and Racer Dogs, which has been adapted into a TV show called “Turbo Dogs.” Bob lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his family. Visit him at bobkolarbooks.com
Advance praise for FRANK AND BEAN:
(Candlewick Press, Pub date: October 8, 2019)
A 2019 Junior Library Guild Selection
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
"A hilarious tale of hot dog meets bean....The Bert-and-Ernie–esque odd-couple pairing results in countless laugh-out-loud exchanges. --Kirkus
"Kolar’s (Trucker and Train) sleek, animation-style digital art and Michalak’s (the Joe and Sparky series) highly performative dialogue build to a manic hilarity that makes these pals, as Bean might say, 'half cool and half amazing.'" --Publishers Weekly
"Kolar’s digital art is clean and pleasing, and the book contains four short chapters. An engaging and humorous tale of two friends whose personality differences lead to growth as well as some fun adventures. --School Library Journal
Frank likes peace and quiet. He likes his tent, his pencil, and writing in his secret notebook. Bean likes noise. He likes his bus, his trumpet -- toot, toot! -- and making music. Loud music. But Bean is missing something: he does not have words. What will happen if Frank shares his words with Bean?
With a laugh-out-loud narrative and bright, graphic, comical illustrations, this fresh and funny story will go down easy for beginning readers and young listeners alike.
Thank you, dear book-lovers, for stopping by to leave a comment in support of great authors and great books for children. We really appreciate hearing from you!
I'll be back in a week to announce the winner. Don't forget to visit Jamie here: www.jamiemichalak.com