Posted by: nancyisanders | January 28, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Books: Chart Published Plots, Part 3

Now let’s chart the plot and structure of the picture book, The Camping Trip that Changed America.

Before we do, though, I just want to mention that this picture books is historical fiction. It’s NOT nonfiction. But I wanted to include this book as an example for two reasons.

#1 It is called a “slice of life.” Many editors I am getting feedback from seem to be interested in slice of life picture books whether nonfiction or historical fiction. I thought this book was a great example of this genre.

#2 I wanted to examine a historical fiction picture book here on our journey just in case you might decide to switch from nonfiction to historical fiction. Sometimes when we’re digging around in cold hard facts, we come to a point in our research when we realize that we will have a better children’s story if we switch gears to write historical fiction instead of nonfiction. That’s okay! In fact, many editors are perfectly fine with this. So I wanted to give all of us this option in case we reach that point. So unless you’re writing this picture book for a publisher who insists on nonfiction, feel free to switch over to writing historical fiction instead.

Okay, now back to our chart. Once again, let’s use a copy of the Basic Plot Worksheet A. Print it out and write down the information on it.

Start by filling in the stats on the left column.
* Fill in the title and the author’s name, Barb Rosenstock.
* The publisher is Dial.
* The copyright is 2012 in the author’s name. So this book is very current. Another reason this is a great example for us to study.
* According to Amazon, the Target Age is 6-8.
* The word count is 1409.
* Under notes, make a note that is is 32 pages. This is the page length we’ll be aiming for in our manuscripts.

Now we’re ready to fill in the plot chart.
Once again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the key thing we want to look for is SIGNIFICANT CHANGE.

In the first column under “Beginning,” you can answer the question, “How does the story start?”
* Introduce two key people

Change 1: Roosevelt reads Muir’s cry for help to save forests (p. 6)

In the second column under “1st Half,” you can write:
Gets ready for camping trip.

Change 2: Enters Mariposa Grove (p. 15)

In the third column under “2nd Half,” you can write:
The camping trip

Change 3: How can I help protect it forever? (p. 27)

In the fourth column under “End,” you can write:
Inspirational ending (pages 28-29)

And on the last line, note that there is Back Matter on pages 30-32.

On the line that goes from beginning to end, rising up toward the right, write:
Chronological events built tension

Here’s what my completed chart looks like:

basic plot worksheet a camping trip

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