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There are many ways to describe telling a story! Telling a tale, shooting the breeze, crafting a narrative, fracturing a fable, etc.

Spinning a yarn is another one.

Saying the same thing in a different way is one of those constant goals we have as writers and authors.

Today, I decided to explore the different ways three different authors spun their yarn and to see what I could learn from that.

One's a true bedtime book, one's a character-driven story and the third is rhyming text.

First up is A BEDTIME YARN by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller (Tundra Books, CAN, 2019). It was exactly 32 Pages sandwiched by endpapers.

Frankie is a little bear who has a hard time falling asleep. The dark is scary and he hates to be alone. So his mother gives him a ball of yarn to hold when he goes to bed, and she. keeps the other end in the next room, working it into a surprise for Frankie.

Every few nights the yarn color changes and Frankie dreams in all the colors that he and his mother pick out. Eventually Frankie and his mother create something special, continuing to remind Frankie that he's always connected to the ones he loves -- even when he is alone in the dark.

This book offers a soothing bedtime read which also introduces colors, both primary and otherwise, some even challenging the reader to find a close counterpart, like marmalade. Finally, Frankie lets go of the last ball of yarn so he can see what his mother has made with all the balls. This story is cute and clever with a very satisfying and snugly resolution at the end. So perfect for a bedtime book to wind little ones down for the night.

Next, we have Yazzy's Amazing Yarn by Cathy Nickell and illustrated by Emily Calimlim (28 Creative, CAN, 2017).

Meet Yazzy. She loves yarn. And she loves to knit. The problem is that her neighborhood park is dull and rusty. But not for long. This is the story of Yazzy who brings a touch of warmth to her favorite playground.

Like the above book, this is 32 pages between endpapers and also published in Canada. This story also involved yarn, but the main character did the knitting (which proved not so believable, but sweet), and had much more agency over the story than Frankie Bear. Also notable was the creative ways to utilize the yarn. However in this story the problem does not come as soon as it might, and the ending is much more contrived.

So comparing these the above two books, there is certainly something to be learned. Surprisingly, the passive character (Frankie) has more character change than the active one (Yazzy), which is interesting and provides fodder for a deeper read of the two and more discussion, as far as character, agency, plot, motivation, stakes, story problem, etc. If this is your thing, consider joining us at Mentor Text Talk, most Sundays at 6:30 PM EST.

It should be noted that sometimes Canadian books do not make for the best comps for American books as they have a different publishing model and different sensibilities, but I do like to read far and wide for the best foundation in reading kidlit. Also notice that I am sharing jacket copy. Always take note of this as these will provide good examples for writing your own pitches.

Today, I have saved the best for last! Diana Murray's Ned the Knitting Pirate. Now this story is truly a yarn!

The crew of the pirate ship the Rusty Heap are a fearsome bunch! They're tougher than gristle and barnacle grit. They heave and they ho and they swab and they . . . knit?

Well, one of them does, at least! Unfortunately for Ned, his knitting doesn't go over well with the captain and crew. They urge him to hide his hobby and strive to be scurvier, like pirates should be. But when the briny ocean beast shows up to feast on the Rusty Heap and its crew, maybe Ned's knitting is just the ticket to save the day!

Page-wise this one looks like a 40 page book, but the story and amazing art surely supports that. As one can see even from the pitch, this tale is a lively and colorful one, filled with pirate prose and one crafty little pirate. Lots of rollicking rhyme and seafaring fun. This book is a good example of successfully integrating an evergreen topic (pirates) with something that sounds like it doesn't belong (knitting). It certainly intrigues the reader and inspires them to want to find out why!


As always there is something to be learned from any mentor text we read, whether excellent or poor, whether a comp to our current WIP or not. Of course, I can't go in depth into each book here (even if it just has to do with lengths of books or ideas for pitches), but feel free to post any questions or discussion points in the comment section.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books! If you did please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. And if you want to discuss something share it there as well! Happy reading and writing!


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