Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Wonderland fun!

Please join me in celebrating the Winter Solstice by welcoming picture book author, Patricia Thomas! Pat and I met many years ago and have since gone on to speak at conferences together along with Lindsay Barrett George, and to travel together, which is always alarmingly exciting when I'm the driver. About this time last year, Pat's newest picture book (illustrated by Chris L. Demerest), The Red Sled was published by Boyds Mills Press and received a very warm welcome by reviewers. Here are some nice clips from several reviews that will also give you a glimpse of what the book is all about:

* "A quietly exhilarating ride." --Kirkus , starred review

"A dad, a lad, and a red sled are the just-right combination for a story-poem about a father-son nighttime sledding adventure....This romp can be enjoyed by the youngest listeners, beginning readers, and older children learning various forms of writing"--Booklist

"With its evocative mood and tender simplicity, this will be a good choice both for storytime groups and for new readers."--Horn Book Magazine The link will take you directly to Pat's Red Sled. You can learn about her others books, too!

Here's a little bit about Pat's writing journey:

Patricia Thomas discovered the magic of rhyming words about as soon as she could talk, had her first poem published in Jack and Jill magazine when she was eight, and knew immediately that she would be a writer. Her books, stories, and articles cover a spectrum of styles, from the lyrical Firefly Mountain…to Nature's Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery in Art and Verse, an original poetic approach to nonfiction…to such zany, nonsense verse classics as “There Are Rocks in My Socks,” Said the Ox to the Fox, The One-and-Only, Super-Duper, Golly-Whopper, Jim Dandy, Really Handy Clock Tock Stopper, and “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!”, featured on PBS Storytime series and now marking more than 35 years in print.

Pat's most recent picture book, Red Sled, is written in a unique, deceptively simple style, based on an ancient writing form—but perfect for young readers. Her articles and stories have appeared in magazines, including Faces and Appleseeds, covering subjects from Arthurian legends to the Loch Ness monster to Benjamin Franklin. She is an instructor for Institute of Children’s Literature, and has done conference presentations, university guest lectures, and workshops on the art and craft of writing.

Pat shares this about the poetry style of her book The Red Sled:

The structure of this story-poem is inspired by an ancient form of writing called chiasmus. This composition creates a kind of mirror image, with thoughts, words, or even word sounds flowing toward a center point, then reversing to reflect that order as it reaches the end.
The form was used in creating some of the powerful poetry in scripture, especially in the book of Psalms. Pliny the Younger wrote it in Latin, describing his uncle, Pliny the Elder. It was used by such “modern” poets as William Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, and Alexander Pope. It was heard in famous speeches by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
In an adaptation of this structure, I’ve used rhyming pairs, as one single, two doubles, and three triples, pivoting on one single rhymed word pair, before descending in reverse order. To me, the structure itself formed a “hill,” which seemed a good way to tell a story about a father and son sledding.

Below, Pat has generously shared the entire text of her story/poem, which will allow you to study and possibly create your own. Of course, you'll want to purchase the book to see how it works with the illustrations:

Structure Pattern
Patricia Thomas
Red sled.
Sad lad.
Sad dad.
Fat hat.
Knit mitt.
Still hill.
Far star.
Snow aglow.
Nighttime climb.
Steep leap.
Slide ride
Go! Go!
No! No!
Whoa! Whoa!
Flip-flop stop.
Oh my! Eye-high!
Snowflake shake.
Giggling wiggling.
Roam home.
Hot pot.
Warm-up cup.
Snug hug.
Chin tucked-in.
Sleepyhead abed.
Flat hat
Kittens’ mittens.
Glad dad.
Glad lad.
Red sled.

If you have youngsters of your own who are just beginning to read, this is a perfect winter time pick! You'll enjoy its warmth and story as you climb the hill of your childhood and go whizzing down the hill with the glad lad. That warm-up cup of hot chocolate sure hits the spot!

Thank you, Pat, for your enormous generosity in sharing your entire picture book text and your special poetry form that will surely inspire many of us to try it out. You've certainly shown how a picture book can be written with just a few words!

In addition, Pat will be giving away a personally autographed copy of her book Red Sled to one very lucky reader who writes in and leaves a comment. Don't be shy! If you've already won a book, please feel free to leave a comment! If you're a blogger, you know how much we love to get comments! You might share about your favorite winter-time fun as a child either indoors or outdoors. We'd also love to hear your thoughts about this amazing chiasmus story/poem.

The drawing will be held Christmas Eve morning, and Pat will mail the book to the winner asap.


  1. A perfect example of a beautiful story told with sparse language. There are too many lines I love - but "snowflake shake" made me smile.
    Of course the "hot pot/ warm up cup" was always my motivation for trudging home.

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment, Kristin. I bet your children would love a night-time sleigh ride and the hot pot/warm up cup!

  3. I Love this story! You are right- Patricia makes every word count! A great example for us picture book writers!

  4. What vivid pictures she creates with just a few simple words. Magical. You're right, Clara, this book would be an excellent study for picture book writers.

    My favorite memories as a child include sledding and sleigh rides. Unfortunately, I don't get too much of that now, living in Florida. :)

  5. Thank you Susan and Jennifer for stopping by to leave a comment. The text is magical, and coupled with the illustrations, the book captures a special childhood experience perfectly. It's a beautiful book!

  6. I love books like this--especially since I have worked a lot with preschoolers. These books are not easy to write, and children love to hear them over and over and over again. I would love to win this book and donate it to the preschool where I sub sometimes!

  7. Thanks, Margo! Only one more day until the drawing! Can't wait to see whose name gets pulled from Santa's hat!

  8. What really resonated with me was the title. it was so reminiscent of Citizen Kane.
    Makes me wish I had small children (I hope God is NOT listening)

  9. Well, I know the contest is over, but I just found this site and wanted to comment. Pat is a very talented children's writer. I hope someday to be half as successful as she is in the writing field.

  10. Janet, I know you'd love Pat. She's a great person. Thanks for finding my blog and leaving a comment.

  11. I absolutely love this and other books from Pat . I realize the contest is over,but I am trying to reach Pat because we are featuring her book and have a puppet/show reading of the book "Stand Back Said the Elephant I'm going to Sneeze!" It is at our spring Jubilee at a private school I teach at. We expect
    several hundred people to attend. Please contact me if interested at