Metafiction in Picture Books

Recently I  caught a webinar featuring author Carrie Tillotson discussing her funny and fabulous picture book, Counting to Bananas: A Mostly Rhyming Fruit Book, illustrated by Estrela Lourenço.

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

During the talk, Carrie mentioned that she had heard that there isn’t as much of a market for metafictional picture books. Even though the banana in her book talks to the audience, she ignored that advice and submitted anyway. Obviously, someone thought metafiction would sell perfectly well because now she’s been asked to do a sequel.

I have to admit, however, a talking banana didn’t quite fit my mental picture of metafiction. I always considered it to be a writing about a book within a book, or a talking about or making a movie within a movie. A banana talking to the audience would be “breaking the fourth wall.” Is that metafiction, too? Time to do some research!

What is metafiction?

Turns out that metafiction is any art that refers to itself as an artificial construct (as fiction). Characters talking to the reader or changing the path of the work is one way to do that. A book within a book is another way.

Darcy Pattison has a whole list of the ways picture books may be metafiction.

In There Are Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz, both the cat characters and the narrator break the fourth wall and talk to the reader. It is classic metafiction.

 

What about nonfiction? Can you use metafiction techniques and still call a book nonfiction?

Because by definition using this technique calls attention to the fact the work is fiction, this can raise some difficulties. Let’s see how some authors have handled it.

1. In No Monkeys, No Chocolate, by Melissa Stewart, Allen Young and illustrated by Nicole Wong (previous review) has a straight nonfiction main text, but two cartoon “bookworms” give a running side commentary throughout the book.

Consensus? Most people would probably still call this nonfiction, or possibly creative nonfiction.

2. In both Redwoods and Coral Reefs (review at Growing with Science) by Jason Chin, a child reads a nonfiction book, but gets pulled into a fictional, imaginative setting. This is the “book within a book” sort of metafiction, although Darcy Pattison also calls it a “disruption of time and space.”


Consensus? Most people would probably call this informational fiction.

3.  Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate by Sara Levine and illustrated by Masha D’yans (previous review at Growing With Science) features a cranky purple cactus narrator talking directly to the reader.

Consensus? The fictional talking cactus narrator is so integral to the story that this one is also informational fiction.

Some people like their nonfiction pure and unadulterated, but more and more books are tugging at those boundaries.

 

What do you think? Have you read any good examples of metafiction picture books lately?

#amwriting #poetry – Resources for Learning Craft

Today I’ve gathered a list of resources in honor of National Poetry Month 2021. If you haven’t ever considered writing poetry, you will after listening to these. Inspiring!

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Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival April 2021

This year the children’s book festival was virtual. The linked title will take you to the entire list of replays for the talks, but the one that stood out to me was Word-Joy: Experience the Transformative Power of Poetry with Irene Latham
, Vikram Madan, and Laura Purdie Salas.

Each author read not only from their own works, but also from the work of someone whom they admire. Then they discussed a number of practical activities to get children and adults excited about poetry.

Laura Purdie Salas discussed haiku riddles and equation poems. Check her website for much more.

Irene Latham read from her book,  NINE:  A Book of Nonet Poems.

A nonet is a 9-line poem that adds syllables either up or down, from one to nine syllables or from nine to one syllable. As she says, using a form like this can be freeing when it comes to writing poetry.

Vikram Madan is an artist as well as poet, so he likes to use art as an inspiration for poetry and poems as an inspiration for art.

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Writing Excuses Podcast

In their 16th season, the crew at Writing Excuses did a poetry series that really helped me understand and appreciate poetry better. Each episode comes with a writing assignment. Well worth the time investment.

16.11: What is Poetry?

16.12 : Singing Versus Speaking

16.13: Day Brain vs. Night Brain

16.14: Poetic Language

16.15: Poetic Structure, Part I

16.16: Poetic Structure: Part II

16.17: The Time To Rhyme

16.18: Poetry and the Fantastic

 

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Children’s poet Marilyn Singer is a regular visitor at DIY-MFA. I couldn’t find a link to this year’s interview, but here is a recent one.

Episode 306: Recipes for Poetry and Creativity – Interview with Marilyn Singer

Do you have any favorite poetry resources from last month or any month? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

 

 

Spring Shopping

Have you heard about the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest? To participate, find a gif for inspiration, write a kidlit story up to 150 words, and submit by tomorrow, April 9, 2020.

I was inspired to write a (sort of) mask poem after reading a post at Buffy Silverman’s blog. A mask poem is from the point of view of an animal (or plant).

 

Poppy Spring GIF by audreyobscura via GIPHY

Spring Shopping

On a warm spring day
New plants
Swing in the breeze
A waiting dance

A honey bee sees
Silky orange flower petals
A cup-shaped sign,
“I have food for you.”

The poppy feels
the feet of the bee
A friend carrying pollen dust
To swap for sweet nectar.

They exchange
A brief encounter.

The bee flies away
To share the bounty
With its sisters
To feed the baby bees.

The poppy quietly
begins to make its own little ones
In slender sword-shaped pods
Seeds for next spring.