Strong Narrative Arcs for Picture Books

The Craft & Business of Writing

Deborah Halverson, assistant editor, Harcourt, Inc., also suggests studying these books as examples of strong narrative arcs.

Gleam and Glow, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Peter Sylvada. Traditional prose story: A family is separated by war, but they reunite with a new perspective thanks to people they meet during the separation. The ending is brilliant and effective because of the emotional setup—uncertainty turns to fear, then to sadness, then to hope.

That Summer, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Bary Moser. Poetry: The text and illustrations use a blend of memory and present-day events to carry readers through one summer with a boy whose brother is sick with a terminal illness. The younger brother starts a quilt, stitching images of his favorite things. When he can no longer finish the quilt, the older brother finishes it for him in a tangible expression of the theme of memory.

Whose Shoes?, by Anna Grossnickle Hines, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Simple text for young readers: A little mouse tries on the shoes of different family members, making her way through the entire family until she reaches her favorite pair of shoes: her own! The ending is a satisfying confirmation of self-identity after imagining what it’s like to be someone else.

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