Posted by: nancyisanders | July 9, 2020

Mentor Text for Nonfiction Picture Book Biography

As you know if you follow my blog, in March I started a series of posts about writing a Nonfiction Picture Book Biography. CLICK HERE to start at the beginning of those how-to steps.

I finished the first draft of my picture book biography somewhere in April/May. (I’m still tweaking it.)

But because the libraries were shut down and none of my mentor texts arrived, I set this aside for awhile and have been working on other projects.

Now that our library is semi-operational, the books I ordered in back in March are finally coming in. Here is one of them: Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos.

I want to share it with you because it is simply brilliant and it’s sending me in a new direction with my picture book biography.

When I wrote my most recent nonfiction picture book biography manuscript, I started with a pivotal scene from my subject’s childhood. Then I brought her to adulthood and featured another pivotal scene. And then I ended with one final important scene in her history-breaking career.

But author Monica Brown chose a different way to portray the life of Frida Kahlo. She chose to feature Frida’s many animals and paint a story of her life based on these. Most pages start with the sentence: Frida had a pet named XX. Then the text goes on to show how Frida was like that pet.

This format has inspired me so much that I’m going to schedule a few upcoming playdates and personal writers retreats so I can play with my topic again. I want to rewrite a new draft of my picture book using this book by Monica Brown as my mentor text.

That’s right. I’m going to write a totally new draft of my picture book biography using a unique mentor text.

So many times we cut ourselves short as writers. We write a picture book manuscript and then we feel like we’re finished with it and then we start to submit it. We forget to “play” with it. Experiment with it. Enjoy the journey and write multiple drafts in different formats.

Each time we do this, we become better writers and our stories become better, too! I encourage you to pull out a picture book manuscript that you wrote (whether recently or long ago). Find a brand new mentor text and rewrite that story using your new mentor text as a guide.

Have fun!


  1. Thanks, Nancy. I’ll try it!

    • Check out this book and you’ll see what I mean. It is a game changer!

  2. Now you’ve got me curious, Nancy. I’ve got to read this one to see what you’re talking about. Thanks so much for always sharing.

    • I’m so glad you’re going to check it out! It’s such a creative format and voice!

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