Tag Archives: jacqueline woodson

30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 4


What is the difference between a book that stays on the Bestseller list for years and the one that is dumped after the first three chapters? What is the difference between the book that keeps you up all night, flipping the pages, when you have 1001 things to do and the one that you need to be bribed to read? What is the difference between the truly memorable and unputdownable books and the bleh ones?

5 elements!!!

Like a good pot of soup, every story needs some essential ingredients (elements) to create a memorable sensory feast for the consumer. Can you imagine making tomato stew without tomatoes? 😊 In the same way, you cannot create a good story without these elements.

Here they are: The five MUST-HAVE elements of a good story.
Character: Every good story must have a character or characters. These are the persons, animals, creatures or things who perform the action in the story. Our stories revolve around them. There are two main types: the main character(s) (the protagonist) and the supporting character(s) (secondary and tertiary characters). You can have multiple main and supporting characters. 

Plot: In simple terms: What happens in your story? The plot is the series of related actions that make up your story. What happens to the characters in your story? What do they do?

Setting: Three things to consider: Place, Period and Mood. Place: Is your story set in Nigeria, Japan, your village? Earth, Mars, an imaginary world? What about the period: 2000 years BC, 3014 AD, the 16th century? Some place where time means nothing? Mood: Is the atmosphere ominous? dark? hopeful? peaceful? tense?

Theme: This is the heart of your story. The story itself. Often the reason why readers will love your book and return to it over and over again. What universal truth does your story proclaim? Love conquers all? One good turn deserves another? Unity in diversity?

Point of View (POV): Who is telling the story? A narrator? The main character? The main character and several supporting characters? Or wait for it!! The narrator, the main character and the supporting characters? How is this person telling the story? Are they talking to themselves? Talking to another character? Telling a story or talking directly to the reader? There are 3 types of POV: First, Second and Third person point of view.

Other important elements:

Humour: Is your story humourous? If yes, what type: dark? satirical? ironic? hyperbolic? Juvenile? The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen
Literary Devices: Do you employ literary devices to make your words sing or to make your story lyrical? The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Scenes: Are the scenes in your story action packed? Do they have a clear goal and a beginning, middle and end? Love, Sophia on the Moon by Anica Rissi
Poetry: Is your story in verse: that is, structured like a poem? Is it free verse or does it rhyme? Star Fish by Lisa Fipps
Structure: What is the layout of your story? Does it use the rule of threes? Is it a parallel story featuring 2 stories playing out at the same time? Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Noble. Does it feature the 3 or 4 act structure? Or the hero’s journey? Is it an epistolary? Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague

1. Action: Identify these 5 elements in the books you love

Is there a book you have read more than once? Yes? That’s the one you need. 😊 
a.	Identify the 5 elements in this book
b.      Figure out how the author used these elements to make this book memorable.

2. Read.
Here are some of my favourites:
For characters: Children of Blood and Bone (YA) by Tomi Adeyemi: Prince Inan and Amari and The Junie B Jones Series (CB) by Barbara Parks: Junie B Jones.
Note that books with memorable characters will most likely be part of a series. Memorable characters form the backbone of most series. 

For setting: Zahrah the Windseeker (MG) by Nnedi Okoroafor and Amari and the Night Brothers (MG) by B. B. Alston; Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky (MG) by Kwame Mbalia

For Theme: How To Find What You’re Not Looking For (MG) by Veera Hiranandani and Echo (MG) by Pam Munoz Ryan

For POV: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (PB) by Mo Willems and Hello Universe (MG) by Erin Entrada Kelly

For Plot: Holes (MG) by Louis Sachar and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team (MG Nonfiction) by Christina Soontornvat

Some of these books ticked multiple boxes for me. 

Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you! 

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Juba and the Fireball

Title: Juba and the Fireball

Author: Yejide Kilanko

Publisher: Narrative Landscape Press; Ayoka Books

Number of pages: 35

Type of Book: Fiction; African

Age: 4 – 8

Available here: https://narrativelandscape.com/product/juba-and-the-fireball/ ; https://www.konga.com/product/juba-and-the-fireball-by-yejide-kilanko-5096161; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Juba-Fireball-Yejide-Kilanko/dp/1999292073 

Price: N2000, N2000; 9GBP


‘Anger burns like fire. If you don’t control the flames, they will consume you.’

Juba has a terrible temper. He constantly gets in fights, breaks precious things and makes his mum sad. Will he learn to overcome his anger or will it consume him?

Juba and the Fireball is a warm and delightful tale about a little boy’s struggle with anger, personified as a fireball that lives in his stomach.


UP: I absolutely loved the illustration of the fireball. I was thrilled to pieces by the stories Juba’s dad told him and the way he told them and the relationship between his parents. Kilanko has a way with emotions. Again, as she did with “There Is An Elephant In My Wardrobe”, Kilanko breaks down a difficult emotion that many children struggle with and proposes a successful and mindful way of dealing with it. She also helps parents understand what children go through when they are consumed by anger. Her dialogue is realistic. I found myself laughing on the first page at the exchange between Juba and his mother. They could have been my son and I. J

Juba’s father is one of the highlights of this book for me. One of my favourite lines from the book was his:

“When people give us the gift of their forgiveness,

we honour it with changed behaviour”

He reminds me very much of my grandfather. He is a sage and he doles out nuggets of wisdom through proverbs and stories. This book also features the story within a story structure and several poetic devices which make it lyrical. The alliterative ‘s’ sound is a common feature throughout the book. It is definitely a must-read for children. More and more books which discuss negative emotions and how to overcome them must be made for children. Kilanko does a great service to humanity with her books.  

DOWN: None


4 stars


  1. Ask your child to tell you three things they can do to calm down when they are angry. Brainstorm some good ideas: reading, exercising, counting breaths, singing, etc.


  1. Help your child cope with anger: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/children-and-young-adults/advice-for-parents/help-your-child-with-anger-issues/

CHALLENGE: Juba and the Fireball


  1. Write a short story about a time when you were ngry and how you overcame it. (100 words)

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 4 – 8 age range. The first correct entry will be announced on this page and will win a copy of this book.

Answers must be submitted before 12:00am on Sunday, July 2nd  2021 

Next Book of the Week:

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

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photo credit: narrativelandscape press