Writing picture books that rhyme

by Victoria

Are you interested in writing picture books that rhyme?

There’s no denying it, children love reading picture books which rhyme. Writing in verse really engages them. I know this from my children. Both have been drawn to the books that rhyme and have learnt them off by heart very quickly. They find it fun to listen to most of a line and fill in the last word.

Collage of picture books

When my daughter was tiny one of her firm favourites was Monkey Trouble by Julia Donaldson and later on the King of Space by Johnny Duddle. My son’s current favourite is Pirates in the Supermarket by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton. The rhyme is great and the story's also really clever. My son thinks these four lines are hilarious:

'So Eyepatch digs a great big hole,
And no one says, "Do not!"
He buries his huge treasure chest
Right where eggs mark the spot!'

He also adores the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson. We’re currently counting down to watching the stage version of the Gruffalo’s Child in London at Christmas. Here are four lines describing the Mouse:

Writing picture books: Reading the Gruffalo's Child

'The Big Bad Mouse is terribly strong
And his scaly tail is terribly long.
His eyes are like pools of terrible fire
And his terrible whiskers are tougher than wire.' 

But there are so many excellent rhyming picture books out there. I don’t know about you but I find them a pleasure to read too. And if they’re so easy to read then they must be easy to write, right?

Well that’s what I hoped…

The first thing I learned about writing picture books that rhyme...

Writing in rhyme comes naturally to some and is a bit more of a struggle for others of us (ahem!) There are also a lot of technical terms -  remember learning about iambic pentameters at school? How about the trochaic tetrameter?

The good news is that you don’t need to understand all the technical terms to write in verse but you do need to tune your ear to tell if the rhyme and meter of your book is working. Count the syllables, is the stress in the right place? Have you lost the rhythm?

If so, change things around. Another tip I found is to look at where you place long words. Make sure they are not interrupting the meter. (OK more changing around coming up.)

Read it aloud

A good way to tell if the rhyme and meter of your picture book is working is to read it out loud or ask someone else to. 

I’m not at the stage where I’m ready to share my work in progress with anyone but I do find it helpful to hear it ready by someone else. A writer friend suggested using the Kindle voice over app which will read your text back to you. 

Making it rhyme

All this is assuming you can make it rhyme in the first place. I sat for ages with my pad and pen trying to come up rhyming words until I jumped on Google and realised there’s help out there.

The Rhyme Zone is a total godsend. You type in the word you want to find a rhyme for and it brings up a list of words with one syllable to four or more. Even if you can’t find what you’re looking for you’ll get some ideas.

Don't force it

I've tried it. You shoe horn a word into your verse because it rhymes but it doesn’t make a lot of sense and I’m assured doing this won’t help our quest for publication. It’s best to take the line apart and see if you can find something that’s a better fit.


And if all that wasn’t enough, remember in the midst of rhythm and rhyme the story at the heart of your picture book. You still need to have an excellent plot.

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