Friday, 25 April 2014

Never Put Your Giraffe in a Scarf - A Cautionary Tale by Tamsyn Murray

 
First, a confession: I broke my own rule. As you can clearly see, my giraffes are wearing scarves. But I can justify my mistake - where I live, 99% of the giraffes could wear scarves without a single problem. It's only when you go towards the Midlands and the North that giraffes might get a bit of stick for their accessories. Why? Because in a southern accent, giraffe and scarf can be made to rhyme. In a northern accent (see also American), they can't. And before you know it, you have hoards of disgruntled parents (OK, two so far) complaining that your rhyming picture book DOESN'T ACTUALLY RHYME.

What I should have done, of course, is put my giraffes in the bath. That rhyme works no matter what accent you use (although I'm struggling somewhat with South African). And I suppose that's the point of this cautionary tale - if you're grabbed by the unshakeable urge to rhyme, make sure it works universally (don't worry about Mars - they don't understand the concept of rhyming there). In fact, I try to deter my students from writing rhyming picture books - they're a hard sell because obviously publishers need to ensure a text translates to as many territories as possible and rhymes rarely translate well into other languages. In the case of Snug As A Bug, they don't translate at all - the only co-editions of this little picture book are US and Australia. Even then, I get tentative enquiries from parents in California asking if I can suggest a way to make geeraff rhyme with scarff. I mumbled a bit about British charm and hid for three days.

So learn from my mistake, all you picture book writers: if you must make your picture rhyme, never put your giraffe in a scarf.

You're welcome.

6 comments:

catdownunder said...

True - but sad because children love rhymes, particularly ridiculous ones.

Nicola Morgan said...

Years and years ago, I dabbled as an artist, and I did in fact have a giraffe in a scarf character :) Giraffes really do requires scarves - and if only the plural of giraffe was girarves...

Good luck! The book looks great.

Cavan Scott said...

See I've been struggling with a picture book that I've been writing because I thought that perhaps it should rhyme but I couldn't make the story and humour work that way.

So you think that non-rhyming books are an easier sell then?

Cavan Scott said...
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Stroppy Author said...

Cavan, it's well known that publishers don't like rhyming picture books (on the whole - of course there are exceptions) for the very reasons Tamsyn points out. It will be *much* easier to sell your picture book if it doesn't rhyme. Cadence, 'bounce', alliteration, other sound qualities are much more important.

Tamsyn - it's also the editor's job to spot problems like that. Were they snoozing? Nice-looking book, though :-)

caroljchristie said...

Great post! Reminds me of Roger McGough's poem, Bath, Avon - "I have a problem with Bath./I use the short a, rhyming it with math,/ whereas southerners put in the r. Barth.//So my living there would be a kind of hell/(although a lively place by all accounts)./Never have an operation you cannot spell/ Or live in a town you mispronounce."