Posted by: nancyisanders | July 18, 2012

Picture Book Writing Exercise

From time to time here on my blog this summer, I’ll be posting various suggestions for writing exercises you can do on your own or with your critique group to help improve your picture book writing skills. If you really want to dive into the world of picture books, you can even form your own mentoring group this summer like I did this past year.

Meet together or online in cyberspace 4 or 5 times to discuss favorite picture books you’re reading, evaluate picture books with the same picture book rubric we used in our group, and offer feedback on brand new picture book manuscripts you’re writing. Your picture book writing will never be the same!

Want to learn how to improve your picture book manuscripts by basing your story on a universal theme that tugs at every kid’s heart? Try this exercise out for size.

1. Borrow Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator from your library or purchase it and use it as a reference.

2. It is important to always have a strong universal theme in your picture book manuscript. To download a copy of your very own list of Universal Themes for young children, visit the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Click on the link for the UNIVERSAL THEMES AGES 4 TO 7, download it, print it out and add it to your personal writer’s notebook.

3. Brainstorm ideas about friendship, the universal theme Mo Willems used in his book, Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Choose a favorite toy to be the best friend of your main character.

4. Write a fresh and original approach to the universal theme of friendship in a picture book manuscript of 500-800 words where the main character is best friends with a favorite toy.


  1. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and resources. I’m in the midst of printing out now, much appreciated. Love Humphrey’s blog!

    All the best,

  2. Thanks, Nancy, for the universal themes list. Now I really miss my La Habra library! I wish I could read all these books you mention!

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