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MOWMT Day #19: Erin Dealey Can't Find a Mentor Text

When You Can't Find A Mentor Text

by Erin Dealey

What happens when you can’t find a mentor text? This post is about both sides of that coin. I used them when I realized I wanted to write DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins / Illus. Luisa Uribe) entirely in friendly letters between Earth and Room 5. I have always been a fan of epistolary stories, so I went straight to my favorites. Here are my notes and takeaways:

Ike, the dog, has a great voice.

The story set up is a news article, and other articles show up later to move the plot.

Ike writes all the letters; there is no correspondence with another character like DEAR EARTH.

Text is prose.

My takeaway: Voice is key. Also the Post Scripts add even more fun!

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers, Philomel.

Again, voice is key, and this one has different voices needed for each crayon.

Story set up is via a letter from Red Crayon, who gets right to the point.

They are all writing to Duncan, so again, no back and forth from another character.

The text is prose

My takeaway: No matter what, make sure there is a story arc. This one moves from crayon complaints to crayon problems (ex when Yellow and Orange aren’t talking to each other.) to a solution. I definitely wanted DEAR EARTH to offer solutions to keep the book hopeful.

THE JOLLY POSTMAN…or Other Peoples Letters by Janet & Allan Ahlberg, Little Brown

I have loved this book since our daughter was small and it still delights.

There are different voices and posts from various nursery rhyme characters.

The story set up is in rhymed text, with the letters and posts in prose. Ah-hah!

The story arc is the post man delivering letters, even to –uh oh—the Big Bad Wolf disguised as Grandma.

My takeaways: I love how the combination of rhyme and prose gives the voices flexibility. I used this combination when Bernard, the class clown, takes over writing to Earth in the summer and (spoiler alert) becomes president of the Earth Heroes when school starts again. I also love the interactive quality of JOLLY POSTMAN, and wanted to further engage readers with questions, and the Earth Heroes pledge at the back.

I hope you’ll check out DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5, to see how I combined these elements. But let’s move on to the other side of the coin—when you can’t find a mentor text.

The idea for The HALF Birthday Book (Illus. Germán Blanco / Genius Cat Books / April 2023) hit after the Vice Principal of the elementary school where my daughter was teaching said, "Your mom should write a Half Birthday book," because he couldn't find one for his kids. I usually don't pursue these suggestions but when I looked for picture books on this topic, the only mentor texts I could find were:

MAX’S HALF BIRTHDAY a Max and Ruby early reader by Rosemary Wells, Illus. Andrew Grey / Penguin Young Readers 2018; OSCAR’S HALF BIRTHDAY by Bob Graham/ Candlewick 2005, and a Berenstein Bears birthday book from 1986! In contrast, there were tons of blogs and internet How-To activities for Half Birthday celebrations. All I knew was that I wanted to combine How-to DIY activities with a celebratory story. The result is a party-in-a-book about four Half Birthday Buddies.

A similar thing happened with my upcoming book, CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Illus. Kayla Stark / Sleeping Bear/ coming July 2023) Some of our family members live near the ocean and look forward to their community’s annual Holiday Boat Parade. Like many events, it was canceled during the pandemic, so I decided to send them a picture book about it. You guessed it. There were ZERO picture books about a holiday lighted boat parade but TONS of such events around the world. So, yes—I did. It’s one part counting book + boats on every spread + a missing Santa, and I cannot WAIT to share it with everyone.

My takeaway (and yours): If there isn’t a mentor text—WRITE IT, friends.

My blogpost prize: I’m offering a 30-minute Zoom chat about anything writerly—for your class, your critique group, or YOU…and a signed copy of The HALF Birthday Book.

Bio: Erin Dealey's original career goal was Olympic Gold Medal tetherball player. When that didn't pan out, she became a teacher, theater director, actor, mom, screenwriter, and author of over a dozen children’s books (so far), including DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe), The HALF Birthday Book (Genius Cat Books / Illus. Germán Blanco), and CHRISTMAS AHOY! (Sleeping Bear / Illus. Kayla Stark). She lives in northern California with her husband and welcomes any opportunity to visit schools around the world to encourage stewardship and motivate young readers & writers. You can find her online at and on social media as @ErinDealey. (She will follow you back!)

Web site: Twitter: @ErinDealey

Insta: erindealey Pinterest: ErinDealey

And more at DealeyLinks


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