If you’ve been following along here on my blog, you know that right now we’re exploring Charlesbridge, especially their nonfiction picture books. (CLICK HERE if you want to start at the very first post about this journey.)
When I read over picture books, I like to read them for pleasure. But then I also like to study them and analyze them and try to understand what works and what doesn’t.
To help me evaluate my favorite Charlesbridge published nonfiction picture books, I developed a picture book rubric that I fill out. It’s amazing how filling in this rubric helps me then write and self-edit my own picture book manuscripts to make them shine!
To download a copy of your very own NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, visit the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Click on the link for the NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, download it, print it out and add it to your personal writer’s notebook. This will really help you keep track of the books you’ve read.
Here’s how to fill in the rubric:
* At the top, rate the nonfiction picture book. A 5 star rating means it’s tops and definitely a book you want to study and use as a mentor text to help write and improve your own manuscripts.
* Fill in the title of the book so you can file these rubrics alphabetically in your writer’s notebook.
* Write down the author’s and illustrator’s name so that you can look for more picture books by your favorite writer or artist. If your book doesn’t have an illustrator because it uses photographs instead, either note this here or just leave blank.
* Include the date of the copyright as well as the name the copyright is under. A more current date, especially within the last 2 years, means that it’s a good indication of what is being published in today’s current market for picture books. If the copyright is under the author’s name, that means the rights belong to an author and was probably offered a royalty-based contract. If the copyright is under the publisher’s name, that means the rights belong to the publisher and the author was probably paid a one time fee.
* Be sure to write down the publisher and list any awards you know of. (If you are using this rubric for a book by a different publisher than Charlesbridge, you can visit the publisher’s website and explore their site for potential book ideas to submit to them.)
* On the top right ,write down the date you read the picture book.
* Include a short summary inside the box. Practice writing a 1-sentence summary of each picture book you read and it will help when you’re writing a pitch for your own nonfiction picture book manuscript!
*Opening Page: The opening page often works with the cover in a picture book, so answer Y for yes or N for no for each item on the list to note if it is accomplished in either the cover or opening page.
* Main Topic: The main topic is very important in a nonfiction picture book. Learn to evaluate how the author develops the this.
*Structure/Plot: Some nonfiction picture books have predictable plots such as So You Want to Be President which includes lists of different presidents. Others use a story arc that has a set up, a conflicting middle, and a resolution. Some editors prefer one type of structure/plot over another. Evaluate the type your story has to better understand Charlesbridge’s (or the particular publisher you are targeting) likes and dislikes.
*Craft: Study the craft and techniques the author used and mark your observations here. If a story is commercial, it means it could have toys or other products to sell with it.
For the optional section, feel free to write your evaluation on the back to have more room. Identify the book’s universal theme, or underlying theme that every kid can identify with such as losing a first tooth or moving to a new house. You can also jot down any thoughts you want to remember about this book.