Posted by: nancyisanders | April 29, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Commit

Commit your works to the Lord,
and your thoughts will be established.
-Proverbs 16:3, NKJV

God’s mercies are new every morning. He has a brand new supply of ideas waiting to fall upon us each day as fresh as the morning dew. Let’s commit ourselves to meet with God each and every day as we prepare for our day’s work and writing. He will establish our thoughts and we will break through writer’s block like never before.

Dear God, thank You for Your promises. Help me be faithful to meet with You before I write each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 28, 2016

NF PB Journey: Plot Structure

Dirty Rats Plot Chart

Today you’re going to see one of the biggest reasons I chose DIRTY RATS? as my mentor text to guide us on our journey as we write a nonfiction picture book to submit to Charlesbridge.

I charted the plot structure of DIRTY RATS? on my Basic Plot Worksheet A. To download your own copy of this plot sheet so that you can fill it out in your own handwriting, CLICK HERE and scroll halfway down to click on the pdf file to print out.

Here’s how the plot unfolds:

The story starts with 3 spreads where it discusses the question, Dirty Rats? Yes, rats are dirty.

But wait! Not all rats are dirty.

In the first half of the middle, we read four specific examples of rats that are not dirty.

In fact, we find out at the exact middle of the book, rats can even do good things.

Here we are given 3 examples with general information about rats on the good and helpful things rats do.

To sum it all up, rats struggle to survive.

The last page of the main text repeats the opening question: Dirty rats?
Then it answers the question based on what the reader just learned: Maybe. Maybe not.

Can you see how simple this plot structure is?

In an upcoming post, we’ll look at how we can build our own manuscript’s plot to be strong and simple like our mentor text’s.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 25, 2016

NF PB Journey: Beginning and Ending

Wrap it up



Let’s take a close look at our mentor text, Dirty Rats? We’ll start by looking at the beginning…and the ending.

In a picture book, the title and the cover often start the true beginning of the story, and in our mentor text, this is the case. On the cover of the book, in the title, a question is asked. The question is:

Dirty rats?

This question is repeated on the first 3 spreads of the book, but it’s repeated as a statement.

Now let’s look at the very last page of the main text of the picture book.

Pages 26-27 say:
Dirty rats?
Maybe not.

In other words, the ending of the book answers the question that was posed in the title and repeated on the first 3 spreads of text. The question is answered with the answer children learned from reading the book.

If you want to follow along with my journey I’m taking to target Charlesbridge and write a nonfiction picture book using Dirty Rats? as our mentor text, then I recommend coming up with a question you want to ask kids about the animal you have chosen as your main topic. (CLICK HERE to read about brainstorming for a topic if you haven’t yet chosen one.)

Plan to use this question as the title of your book.

Plan to repeat this question on the first three spreads of your book.

Plan to repeat this question at the end of your book.

And then plan to answer this question at the end of your book, based on the information you’ll be presenting to children and teaching your readers about your topic.

This technique of tying your ending into your beginning is a great technique to use to bring your story full circle. As you can see in the worksheet example at the top of this post, a question isn’t the only technique you can use to wrap up your ending to tie into your beginning. (CLICK HERE to get this free sheet as a printable pdf file you can download and use for other manuscripts you’re working on to make your beginning and ending stronger. Just scroll down toward the bottom to get it.)

A question is the technique our mentor text uses, so for this exercise, let’s choose to ask a question and answer it in our own manuscript we’re working on. Determining the question and answer right at the start of our writing process will really help us keep the focus nice and tight as we move forward with our picture book manuscript.




Posted by: nancyisanders | April 22, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Work

I brought glory to you here on earth
by completing the work
you gave me to do.
-John 17:4, NLT

God has work for you to do. It’s different work from mine. Each one of us has our own tasks to accomplish no matter how big or small they might be. The important thing for us to remember is that nobody else can quite do the job He has assigned to you exactly like you can.

Dear God, please help me bring glory to Your name. Calm my troubled heart that frets that I’m not as good as another writer. Help me remember that I just need to do what you’ve called me to do, warts and all. That is enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 18, 2016

NF PB Journey: Brainstorming

Dirty Rats

Let’s take a quick look at our mentor text, Dirty Rats?

The topic is straightforward. It starts with rats in general and then presents different kinds of rats with their specific, unique characteristics.

So let’s brainstorm ideas for a topic to write about. Now you can choose any topic you’d like, but if you want to follow closely along the same steps I’m doing, I recommend we choose a group of animals that has lots of different kinds.

For example, elephants won’t work as well because there are only 2 different kinds.

But animals such as bears, monkeys, horses, cows, butterflies, or even worms would work. Each of these animal groups has a lot of different kinds!

To help you brainstorm, I designed an “Idea Bubbles Brainstorming” sheet. CLICK HERE to visit my site, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends, to download it as a pdf file. Just scroll half-way down and click on the link for “Idea Bubbles Brainstorming.”

Print it out. As you brainstorm ideas for a topic, write the name of a group of animals in the large bubbles. In the smaller bubbles nearest each, write down different kinds of that animal.

Think about which animal you might like to write about for the topic of your new nonfiction picture book using Dirty Rats? as our mentor text. Have fun exploring different ideas!


Idea Bubbles Brainstorming

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 15, 2016

Book Review: Baby Wren and the Great Gift


Baby Wren and the Great Gift
by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Art by Jen Corace

Baby wren peeps out of her nest that is perched high up on a canyon wall. As she sees the world and the other animals, she wishes she could do all the things they can do. She wishes she could fish like the kingfisher. Then she wishes she could do cartwheels like a ring-tailed cat. Then she wishes she could swim and splash like the sunfish and fly high above the stormy sky like the eagles. In the end, little wren looks out over the beautiful canyon glowing in the sunset and sings out a happy song of thanksgiving. She has discovered her talent after all.

What I Like
This is a simple story and the illustrations are very sweet. It will be a nice quiet book to read to little ones and share the simple message that we each have our own unique talents.

-Thanks, BookLook Bloggers for another wonderful free book in exchange for my honest review!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 15, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Will

For I have come down from heaven,
not to do my own will,
but the will of Him who sent me.
-John 6;35, NKJV

Even Jesus did not have any agenda except to accomplish God’s will. Let’s set aside all our desires, personal goals, and self-centered plans for our writing. Let’s commit our hearts to only writing for God’s will to be accomplished, whatever that means for our own personal journey.

Dear God, I only want what you want for me and for my writing. I place myself in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 14, 2016

Critique Group

I highly recommend you belong to a critique group.

If you already belong to a critique group…super!

If you don’t, do what I did recently when I decided I wanted to belong to a critique group that mostly focuses on nonfiction picture books.

I contacted a couple of gals and invited them to start up a new group with me. One I already knew in person. The others I only knew from online writing groups I was in like Facebook or a nonfiction yahoo group.

Some writers I contacted couldn’t join, so along with the others who could join, we asked writer friends of friends until we had 4 gals who wanted to be part of the group.

The rules were pretty simple. Each writer submits one manuscript a month. We take turns so on every Monday someone submits a manuscript. The others have until Sunday evening to e-mail back feedback on the manuscript. (We insert comments and track changes in Word.)

I have grown to love this group so much. It’s really helping me be a better nonfiction picture book writer.

And you can do the same!

Just reach out and ask some other children’s authors you see on Facebook writing groups or in yahoo writing groups.

If you don’t belong to any online writing groups for nonfiction children’s writers, let us know and we can give you some links to places you can join. So you can start up a group so when you get the first draft of your manuscript finished (if you’re following along here on this journey to submit to Charlesbridge publishers) you’ll have a group you can share your manuscript with.

And if this all sounds like too much to even think about, then here’s what I recommend:

Sign up and attend Pat Miller’s AMAZING conference called “Nonfiction for New Folks.” It takes place in Texas next September. I’ll be there to teach along with a line-up of AWESOME nonfiction children’s writers. CLICK HERE to register and find out more.

Because one of the amazing benefits at the conference will be that you’ll meet, actually meet, other folks who love writing nonfiction as much as you do. And Pat will take you by the hand and help you gain the confidence you need to really move forward in this whole writing journey. She limits this conference to 36 members so we can really connect with each other and with this market.

And then the idea of starting up an online critique group to focus on nonfiction will seem easy peasy!



Posted by: nancyisanders | April 13, 2016

NF PB Journey: Mentor Text

Dirty Rats

Well, I’ve come to a screeching halt.

You see, there are many more wonderful nonfiction picture books at Charlesbridge that I could continue evaluating and posting rubrics for.

But I’ve decided not to.

Why? Because I found the mentor text I want to use. Yep. It’s DIRTY RATS?

Here’s what so great about this picture book as a mentor text:

  1. It’s a great “breakthrough” format. Meaning it’s a good example of a text that I feel could be a great nonfiction picture book manuscript to experience breakthrough for a first time contract with a publisher I’ve not yet worked with.
  2. It’s got a solid plot structure and (without actually having plotted its structure yet) it looks like it follows the 3-Act structure really well.
  3. It’s a simple and straight-forward approach to a nonfiction topic, so I feel I can experience success using this as a guide to write my own nonfiction picture book.

So if you want to follow along with me in the next few weeks as I use this book as my mentor text and share the journey I’m taking, head on over to your local library and get a copy. Or purchase it at your favorite indie bookstore. Or buy it used or new on Amazon.

And since I’m sharing in real time what I’m doing to try to experience breakthrough with a nonfiction picture book at Charlesbridge publishers, I wanted to explain that right now I have 4 goals for the manuscript I’m planning on writing based on this mentor text.

GOAL #1. Write the first draft of a brand new nonfiction picture book manuscript from beginning to end.

GOAL #2. Take this manuscript to my critique group.

GOAL #3. Submit a polished manuscript to Charlesbridge.

GOAL #4. Simultaneously submit it to 5-10 other nonfiction picture book publishers who are currently taking unsolicited manuscripts. CLICK HERE to see a list of these potential publishers.

If you want to share in these goals, I’d be thrilled to have you join along!

But I can already hear some of you saying, “Wait! I don’t belong to a critique group!”

So just hold on tight…we’ll talk about that in my next post!


Posted by: nancyisanders | April 8, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Variety

Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops,
for you never know which will grow–
perhaps they all will.
-Ecclesiastes 11:6, NLT

Write for the no-pay/low-pay market. Submit queries and try to land contracts for manuscripts you haven’t yet written. Work on the manuscript that is near and dear to your heart. Write with purpose and write with a plan. God knows His plans for You as His scribe. He has a purpose and a hope designed just for you.

Dear God, thank You for this word of encouragement. Help me focus my time and energies to keep planting and keep writing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 7, 2016

NF PB Journey: Dirty Rats?

Dirty Rats
Dirty Rats?
By Darrin Lunde
Art by Adam Gustavson
Published by Charlesbridge in 2015

There are many outstanding qualities about this nonfiction picture book. For one thing, it helps open children’s eyes to the world of rats…all over the world. Not all rats eat garbage or live in sewers. Some live out of doors and some even swim in clear mountain streams.

The other quality that really stands out to me is the author’s word choice. Wow. Swarm and scurry. Beady eyes and naked tails. Eek! Aargh! Yikes!

So great! This text is very engaging. And very informative. What a great book for kids and adults to read.

Here’s my rubric of this nonfiction picture book.

Dirty Rats.jpg


Posted by: nancyisanders | April 5, 2016

NF PB Journey

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.12.52 PM.png
The House that George Built
by Suzanne Slade
Art by Rebecca Bond
Published by Charlesbridge in 2012

I think this is one of my all-time favorites as a nonfiction picture book. Why? Because I love the combination of the 2 levels of text.

On one level, the information is presented about the details and interesting facts surrounding the building of the White House by George Washington.

At the second level, on many corresponding spreads, the cumulative poem builds, following the format of THIS IS THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT.

It’s clever. It’s unique. It’s a fresh spin on an age-old topic. And that’s what makes this nonfiction picture book a winner in my opinion. Way to go Charlesbridge! Way to go Suzanne Slade and Rebecca Bond!

Here’s my rubric for this text.

The House That George Built


Posted by: nancyisanders | April 1, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Warriors

And now, O Lord, call out Your warriors!
-Joel 3:11b, NLT

The army of darkness is advancing in the publishing world as more and more ungodly books and articles are published each day. But know this! We are on the winning side! God has called us to be His warriors and join in the fight to shine the light of His kingdom into a dark world through the words we write. Do you hear Him calling Your name? Come, warrior! Pick up your pen and fight!

Dear God, thank You for showing us the end of the story. Yours is the victory! Yours is the triumph! I hear you calling my name and I step up to strap on my armor and fight the good fight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | April 1, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Cheer

When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
-Psalm 94:19, NLT

So often doubts fill our mind. Is our writing good enough? Will we ever get published like another writer? Do we have what it takes? At times like this, take a break from writing. Go somewhere and relax. If you live near a playground, swing on the swings. As you take your break, sing praises to God on high. Praise Him that His power is perfected in our weakness. Your heart will be renewed with hope and cheer.

Dear God, I’m so glad that You don’t call the equipped, but You equip those that you call. You have called me so I will trust that You will equip me. All I have to do is my best and You will do all the rest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 28, 2016

Book Review: God Bless Our Country

God Bless Our Country
by Hannah C. Hall
Art by Steve Whitlow

God Bless Our Country is written in rhyme. This delightful oversized padded board book invites children to celebrate our wonderful country of America. With animal characters illustrated in sweet and soft art, the positive, up-beat text teaches young children about raising the flag, marching in a parade, praying for our nation, and fun ways to celebrate being an American. Combined with apple pie, ice cream, swimming with friends, and camping under star-filled nights, children also learn ways to enjoy the great outdoors that God has give us here in our country.

This oversized padded board book is the perfect way to teach young children to be thankful for America. I especially like the closing lines that sum up the sweet story:

God showers goodness on this land–
No place I’d rather be.
This home I love, from God above.
God bless our free country!

It’s never too early to teach young ones to take pride in being an American and to thank God for this wonderful country we call home. This book does both. God Bless Our Country is tops!

-Thanks, BookLook Bloggers for another wonderful free book in exchange for my honest review!

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 25, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Promise

Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig tress, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.
-Haggai 2:18b-19, NLT

Can you trust Him? He has promised! God has promised that from this day onward, He will bless you. Even if you’ve never yet had anything published, this promise is yours today!

Dear God, Your promises are sure. Your promises are certain. Thank You for encouraging me with this wonderful and precious promise as Your scribe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 24, 2016

NF PB Journey

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.28.33 PM

Mosquito Bite
by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel
Photographs by Dennis Kunkel
Published by Charlesbridge in 2005

What a great book this is! It’s great for kids. It’s great for parents, teachers, librarians, and educators. And it’s a great mentor text for children’s authors who are serious about science and teaching science to kids.

If you want to write nonfiction for Charlesbridge or nonfiction picture books in general, hop on over to Amazon and take a peek inside the book. The text is engaging and very well done. The fresh unique approach to include microphotographs is brilliant. I just can’t say enough great things about this book.

Per our discussion in my last post, I evaluated it using my INFORMATIONAL TEXT PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC. Why? Because even though it teaches the life-cycle of the mosquito, it includes a make-believe story arc about children playing hide-and-seek when one boy gets bit by the mosquito.

I’m not saying this is wrong. Not at all. It’s just that I belong to various online nonfiction writing groups and have been involved with various groups that discuss fiction/nonfiction and this book definitely is not pure nonfiction even though it’s categorized in my local library under nonfiction.

In Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature (tenth edition) by Barbara Z. Kiefer, Mosquito Bite is even used as an example of nonfiction on page 505 in the author’s Chapter 11: Nonfiction Books. It is included under a subheading called “STYLE.”

I just want to point this out because as a nonfiction children’s writer, I couldn’t classify this book and others like it as nonfiction. I prefer using the term informational text, which as Kiefer points out, has been a standard and accepted term in the children’s publishing industry for years.

And as some of you have commented, our awareness of this as writers can actually help us understand more clearly just how the lines between fiction and nonfiction are drawn in today’s publishing world. And knowing this can help us become better writers and improve our own nonfiction manuscripts.

Here’s my rubric for you to see:

Mosquito Bite





Posted by: nancyisanders | March 22, 2016

The Debate Continues: Nonfiction or Fiction?

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 7.06.32 AM

Lately I’ve been reading Chapter 11: Nonfiction Books of Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature (tenth edition) by Barbara Z. Kiefer.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, it is the standard in the industry of children’s publishing. What does this mean? It means that this is a college textbook that has been widely studied by editors, agents, and literature majors in their college years. So it’s important for us as writers to read through this book to gain a better understanding of the point of view coming back to us from editors and agents and other professionals in the world of children’s publishing.

Recently, as those of you know who have been following along here on my blog, I have been evaluating nonfiction and fiction picture books in an attempt to help me write better books of my own. I am particularly evaluating nonfiction picture books published by Charlesbridge Publishers as I’m trying to familiarize myself with their product line and understand better why these manuscripts made it into print with this publisher. I’m also looking for more nonfiction picture books to use as mentor texts in my own writing.

Up to this point, I’ve been using just two rubrics to track my evaluations. One for fiction and one for nonfiction.

But now I’ve added a third rubric to my line-up. It’s for “informational text.”

Why did I feel the need to add this third rubric?

Because I’ve been reading books that are classified in the nonfiction section in libraries and bookstores. However, even though there is a solid amount of facts included, these books add ingredients of fiction. I just can’t call them nonfiction, especially after reading the section in Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature of Chapter 11 called “Criteria for Evaluating Nonfiction Books.”

For years, as this textbook explains, the accepted term among children’s literature scholars has been “Informational Text” for nonfiction books in general. However, as more and more truly nonfiction books are being published these days in response to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the term “Nonfiction” is being used to identify these books filled with facts and facts alone even if they’re among the increasing number that uses engaging text and fiction techniques to convey these facts to kids.

An excellent example of the difference between a nonfiction picture book and picture book I’m choosing to identify as informational text is the title by Charlesbridge, Mosquito Bite.

Mosquito Bite can be found in the nonfiction section of my public library. It is classified as nonfiction. And it should be. It’s filled with microphotographs of mosquitos as it describes the life cycle of mosquitos.

However, the story arc of the book is written along the fictional story of children playing hide-and-seek. And this is where the book moves out of the nonfiction category for us as writers.

Yes, it’s classified as nonfiction in the library and in the bookstores and in the catalogs.

But yes, it includes fiction…a lot of it!…to convey the fascinating facts.

And there are lots and lots of children’s books that do this.

That is why I have decided to classify these books for my own personal investigation by borrowing the term that has already been in our industry for years. I’m choosing to identify these titles with a rubric called “Informational Text.”

For years, I’ve watched the debate among children’s writers about whether the words we write are truly nonfiction or cross over into the genre of fiction.

Here’s a short example of what I mean:

Nonfiction that uses fiction techniques:

If writing about George Washington, you can say he felt the cold wind on his face as he rode his horse among the men in the freezing winter at Valley Forge.

Nonfiction that should be labeled as informational text because it includes some fictional elements (note that this is not Historical Fiction, a different genre altogether):

This would occur when we give the horse of George Washington feelings as the faithful steed who carries the future president through the Revolutionary War.

So now I’m joining the debate.

I really think that for us as writers, we need to divide our work into 3 categories, not just 2.



Informational Text that is mostly nonfiction but strays into the genre of fiction by including fictional text while still being classified as nonfiction in libraries, bookstores, and other places.

Read Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel to see what I mean. And read Chapter 11 of Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature (tenth edition).

In my next post I’ll be posting the rubric I made of Mosquito Bite, an excellent book, I must say!

As you evaluate picture books on your own,  you can find all 3 rubrics that I created by visiting one of my sites at Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Scroll all the way down to the section RUBRICS TO HELP EVALUATE MANUSCRIPTS OR PUBLISHED BOOKS. Click on the links for the Fiction Picture Book Rubric, Nonfiction Picture Book Rubric, and Informational Text Picture Book Rubric.

When you download these three free rubrics, you’ll see that the nonfiction one and the informational text one are exactly the same. That’s because the evaluation is the same, it’s just that I feel the need to classify them differently as we’ve discussed.

3 Rubrics



Posted by: nancyisanders | March 18, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Mightier

But mightier than the violent raging of the seas,
mightier than the breakers on the shore–
the Lord above is mightier than these!
-Psalm 93:4

God is mightier! He is mightier than rejections! He is mightier than legal mix-ups with contracts. He is mightier than the biggest publishing house, the most demanding editor, and the most famous agent. The Lord above is mightier than these!

Dear God, thank You! You are mighty! I trust in Your power to rescue me and keep my foot firm. Alleluia! Amen.


Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | March 14, 2016

NF PB Journey

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.20.49 AM

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred
by Samantha R. Vamos
Art by Rafael Lopez
Published by Charlesbridge in 2011

This is one of the cleverest books! The way it weaves Spanish words into English text is simply brilliant.

Using the format of a cumulative text (Think “This is the house that Jack built”) it introduces key words in English and then refers to them in Spanish each time they are used after that.

The art is bold, lively, and engaging to make this book definitely one of my favorites to use as a mentor text for this type of format.

Just a note: This is NOT a nonfiction picture book. But I included it here because it has so much potential as a mentor text. Plus it is one of Charlesbridge’s finest, I think.

Here’s my rubric of it!


The Cazuela

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