Posted by: nancyisanders | February 16, 2013

Identifying the First Change


Let’s look at an example, the picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. It’s the winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, the highest honor awarded to a picture book each year. I always like to look at award winners to see how they handle plot.

The book introduces the main character’s problem in the title itself. Picture books often do this. The beginning of the book starts with an introduction to the main character, himself. Amos McGee. We see Amos swinging his legs out of bed, putting on his uniform, and getting ready for work.

On page 7 of the picture book, Amos arrives at work. The illustration shows him walking through the entry gates of the City Zoo.

This is the first significant change in the plot.

Yes, there were various scenes leading up to this point. But all those scenes showed the same thing: Amos getting ready for work. There was a scene where he made his breakfast. There was a scene where he walked out the door. There was a scene where he rode the city bus and arrived at work exactly on time.

But on page 7, something changed. Amos was no longer getting ready for work. He arrived at work. This was the first big change in the plot of the story.


  1. Hi Nancy, Just wanted to say I love this book. I read it to my grandson all the time! I am glad you chose this one for your example of plot development. I love the way you are presenting it just a little at a time. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Chris

    • Oh what a precious joy to share this book with your grandson! I love the sweet simplicity of friendship and caring that this book portrays. And I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts on plot. Hope they help you plot your own stories!

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