Tag Archives: tomi adeyemi

30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 5

WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #5: THEMES and MISSIONS

Today, I want to write about a subject that is very dear to my heart: Themes.

You see, for the longest time, I didn’t really understand the relationship between themes and writing a truly memorable story which readers will read OVER AND OVER again.

The relationship is really simple: You cannot write a best-selling novel without an overarching theme.

The theme is the backbone of every story, it is the central idea behind your story. Basically, it is what your book is about. In the last post, I described the theme as

“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.”

The most important things you need to know:

  • The best themes are based on emotion because, like it or not, human beings are creatures of emotion. The books that lasts longest in their minds are the ones that made them feel something. According to Lisa Cron in her best-selling book, Story Genius:

“In a story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading. It is emotion, rather than logic, that telegraphs meaning, thus emotion is what your novel must be wired to transmit, straight from the protagonist to us.” (Cron, 23)

Some emotion based-themes: revenge, love, fear, hope, war.

  • Themes also usually represent a universal truth. It is this universal truth that will resonate with your reader. This truth comes alive through the life/actions of your characters. Some very popular universal truths: Love conquers all, unity in diversity, good vs evil, bravery and confidence (The Harry Porter series by J.K Rowling), etc.
  • Themes can also reflect social justice issues like racial injustice (Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi), gender equality, poverty.

Without an emotion-based theme, your story will be a series of actions holding little or no interest for you and your reader. I know, because this has happened to me. I once wrote a 27,000 first draft of a middle grade novel and when I returned to it after a few months, I felt nothing. At first, I didn’t know why. The description of the setting was exquisite, the action scenes were wonderful with the right amount of tension, sweat and blood, but that was all it was, a book with a lovely setting and series of scenes, nothing more.

It took me 6 months to realize …. that the emotional core of my story was missing … that before my protagonist could go on a meaningful adventure in the 16th century, she had to deal with her major problem: “How to believe in herself when no one else will”

To determine the theme of your book, ask yourself the following questions:

What is the point of my story?

Why should my readers care?

  1. Action: Identify the theme(s) in the book(s) you love.

Is there a book you have read more than once? Yes? That’s the one you need. 😊

  1. Can you figure out the theme(s) using the questions above and below?
  2. What did you like best about this book?
  3. Which character’s story resonated with you and why?

2. Read.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • How to Find What You’re Not Looking For (MG) by Veera Hiranandani for themes of racial and religious discrimination, thriving in spite of disability, coming of age and of course the overall message that love conquers all.
  • Because (PB) by Mo Willems for themes of chance, kindness and its domino effect, finding inspiration through others, dreaming. This one made me cry. I write because Enid Blyton did. This book reminded me that I can dream today because someone else dared to dream.

More about Themes and Missions in the next post.

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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Photo credit: amazon.com

30 Tips for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 3

WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #3: KNOW YOUR ONIONS, well, GENRES

Let’s talk about genres. Children’s books have been divided into so many genres and categories that it is so hard to keep up. But here are the major ones.

NB: This post features children’s books by Nigerian authors.

GENRES*

Picture Books

Heavily illustrated; ages 3 – 8; 100 – 1000 words

Greatest Animal in the Jungle by Sope Martins

Juba and the Fireball by Yejide Kilanko

Mayowa and the Masquerades by Lola Shoneyin

Early Chapter Books

Illustrated; ages 4/5 – 8; 1000 – 3000 words

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Feyi Fay and the Mysterious Madam Koi Koi by Simisayo Brownstone

Chapter books

Few Illustrations; ages 6 – 9; 5000 – 20,000 words

Mafoya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku

No 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke

Middle Grade:

Rarely illustrated; ages 8 – 12; 25,000 – 50,000

A-Files by Victoria Afe Inegbedion

Akata Witch/What Sunny Saw in the Flames by Nnedi Okoroafor

Mirror on the Wall by Jesutofunmi Fekoya

Young Adult

Almost never illustrated; ages 13+ ; 40,000 – 100,000 words

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Other genres:

Concept Books

Diary of a Toddler by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi

A Fun ABC by Sade Fadipe

Plays

Mouth Almighty by Salihah Agbaje

Graphic Novels

Anike Eleko by Sandra Joubeaud and Alaba Onajin

Comics

1897: Okiojo’s Chronicles Series

Nonfiction*

My Nigeria, Peoples, Places and Culture by Constance Omawumi Kola-Lawal

Social Justice Books

Eno’s Story by Ayodele Olofintuade

The Red Transistor Radio by Fatima Akilu

OTHER CATEGORIES

Action/Adventure

Ginika’s Adventures by Nnenna Ochiche

The Adventures of Obi and Titi: Queen Idia’s Mask

Series

Illesanmi Twins Series. Book #1 Mystery at Ebenezer Lodge by Dunni Olatunde

Half Hour Hara Series. Book #1 The Case of the Broken Eggs by Ugo Anidi

Science Fiction

Zahra the Windseeker by Nnedi Okoroafor

Folktales/Fairytales

Folktales are Forever by Efe Farinre

Biographies

Idia of the Benin kingdom by Ekiuwa Aire

Please note: This list is by no means exhaustive!

  1. Action: Get a library subscription

Try Bookworm Café. This outfit specializes only in children’s books and its Director is a children’s literature connoisseur.

Try ZODML, Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries too!

OR

Be like me, buy every single book on this list … AND MORE 😊

2. Read.

Read 2 to 3 books in each genre to determine which one appeals to you😊

Then when you find your niche, read as many books as possible in that genre. Good luck!

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*post on nonfiction coming soon

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30 Tips for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 2

WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #2: READ! READ!! READ!!!

Stephen King

15 years ago, I met my ‘then’ role model and I excitedly asked her the million-dollar question: “What can I do to become a world-famous writer like you?” I expected a million-dollar answer, a one-way ticket to stardom, the secret to Enid Blyton’s success, something utterly profound.

What I got was:

Read Read Read.

Mschew, I thought as I walked away.

A decade and some later, I know now that she gave me the best piece of writing advice in the world! In fact, this should have been Tip #1. 😊 Do you want to become a bestselling children book author? Please read hundreds of books by other children’s book authors! Hundreds! Thousands! Set a monthly reading target! There is NO OTHER WAY.

Also ….

A… Read what you would like to write

If you love historical fiction and you would like to write a piece of historical fiction set in Nigeria with a 12-year-old main character, please read at least 20 middle grade historical fiction novels set in Africa before you start writing. Read another 20 after writing your first draft. Note: Novels which provide examples of good writing are called mentor texts.

and

BRead like a writer.

When you read, look out for craft elements* that the writer used to perfection and write them down. Note the way the writer uses them. Elements to look out for: point of view, character development, plot, theme, worldbuilding/setting, dialogue, scenes, literary devices, etc.

  1. Action: Create a Read like a Writer Journal.

For every book you read, write the craft element that appealed to you in your journal.

Here’s what mine looks like:

S/NBOOK CRAFT ELEMENTOther
1Beasts Made of NightTochi OnyebuchiMemorable Action ScenesYA, African magical realism
2Zahrah the WindseekerNnedi OkoroaforWorldbuilding!!!!!!YA, African magical realism
3Aru Shah and the End of TimeRoshani ChokshiWorldbuildingMG, Mythology
4Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the SkyKwame MbaliaWorldbuilding, themeMG Mythology
5Lalani of the Distant SeaErin Entrada KellyWorld Building, Xter Development (Hetsbi)MG, Magical realism
6How to Find What You’re Not Looking ForVeera HiranandaniCharacter, 2nd person Point of view, emotional connection with writer: lots of heart, theme,MG, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Disability, Discrimination
7Children of Blood and BoneTomi AdeyemiWorldbuilding, Excellent Xter Development (Amari + Prince Inan), internal dialogue, 1st person point of view x 3YA, Yoruba Mythology, The Orisha
RLAW Table

This table shows you the stuff I loved/learnt from the books I’ve read in recent times but it also shows you something else: the nature of the story I’m currently working on and the type of story I’d like to try after this project.

I am currently working on a middle grade piece of historical fiction with elements of magical realism. The bit on mythology is for my next project. 😊

2. Read.

So, figure out the theme/genre of your next writing project and start reading.

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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*post on craft elements coming soon

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Beasts Made of Night

Title: Beasts Made of Night

Author: Tochi Onyebuchi

Publisher:  Razorbill

Number of pages: 295

Type of Book: Fiction, adventure, fantasy

Genre: Young Adult

Age: 13+

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Beasts-Made-Night-Tochi-Onyebuchi/dp/0448493918/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Price: $9.99

MY SUMMARY

Taj is the most talented aki in Kos, the best sin-eater in a town where sins are murderous beasts – inisisa – that make sinners sick until they’re drawn out from their bodies by mages and eaten by akis, where sin beasts leave tattoos on the bodies of the aki and drive them to madness before they get to adulthood, where the aki are treated as outcasts in spite of the fact that people depend on them to live, where even the royals depend on the aki they despise to maintain the premium placed on purity. When Taj eats the King’s sin, he becomes involved in a sinister plot that changes his life and threatens to destroy all he holds dear.

THUMBS UP AND DOWN

UP: This book is a masterpiece. It packs a mean punch with adventure, magic, humour, tragedy, light romance, great pacing, world building and imagery, the use of sensory language, the use of Igbo 😀 , a pseudo Nigerian setting, all in one story. It is YA fantasy at its best. Compared to most books in the same genre, it is short and sweet. I got it because it came highly recommended as mentor text for a novel I’m working on. I love it because it didn’t disappoint at all. In fact, it surpassed expectations.

Tochi is gifted with writing amazing scenes. This gift is pronounced in the action scenes in the book. He uses sensory language and amazing pacing to create scenes which suck you in and make you feel like they’re unfolding right before your eyes. I cannot rave fully about this book without giving spoilers. Spoiler alert: The arashi’s appearance was nothing short of MAGNIFICENT! I had goosebumps! I put the book down, shouted, picked it up and continued reading. 😀

Then the ending, oh my God, the ending!!! It ended with a cliff hanger. He got me!

Finally, the absolute best part of all of this: There’s more to come! Crown of Thunder, the sequel is available online.  

Here’s a paragraph where we’re introduced to our very first sin-beast:

I don’t even hear the doors close behind me, because the sin-beast rears up and roars in my face. I stare up at a massive lion, one of the biggest I’ve seen. The inisisa is formed of shadows so dark that it seems to suck all the light out of the room, even taking the glow from the daga in my hand. Its claws, inky tendrils of black, click against the floor tiles as it settles back on its enormous haunches. Sin made into living, breathing flesh by dark magic.

DOWN: It had a bit of the sagging middle syndrome. There was a brief lull in the story somewhere in the middle (or should I say the beginning of the middle😀 where I found myself struggling to avoid skipping whole paragraphs. I eventually understood why that section was necessary but it was much slower than the other sections of the book.

RATING

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

HAVE FUN WITH THIS BOOK

  1. Read an excerpt here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/545186/beasts-made-of-night-by-tochi-onyebuchi/9780448493916/excerpt

CHALLENGE: Beasts Made of Night 

CREATE (WRITE a Story/Poem OR DRAW)

  1. Read the excerpt using the link above, then read the excerpt of Children of Blood and Bone in this post and compare the literary devices used by both writers.

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com.

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 13+ 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 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 22nd 2020.

Next Book of the Week:

THE ADVENTURES OF OBI AND TITI: QUEEN IDIA’S MASK by O. T Begho

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Children of Blood and Bone

Title: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Publisher: Ouida Books (2018) / Henry Holt and Co (BYR) (2018)

Number of pages: 531; 544

Type of Book: Adventure, African, African Mythology, Medieval, Fantasy,Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Genre: YA (Young Adult)

Age: 13+

Available here: https://thebookmarketng.com/product/children-of-blood-and-bone/https://www.amazon.com/Children-Blood-Bone-Legacy-Orisha/dp/1250170974

Price: N4500; $12.73

MY SUMMARY

It starts with a quest, because all books with elements of magic, mystery and mythology must have quests. 

Zelie, her brother and their enemy-turned-friend, princess Amari go on a quest to bring magic back to Orïsha. Amari’s father, the tyrannical King of Orïsha, believes that magic is the source of all evil so he banishes magic. He destroys all the relics and temples of the gods and kills all the magi leaving the diviners. The diviners are children of magi who haven’t become magi and therefore have no magical powers. Years later, a scroll appears which awakens the magic in diviners. 

The quest: Zelie and her crew must find and take three sacred items – the scroll, a dagger and a sunstone – to a sacred (disappearing) island that appears only during the summer solstice. There, they must recite the incantations on the scroll in the temple of the gods during the solstice or lose the chance to bring back magic to Orïsha forever. 

THUMBS UP AND DOWN

UP: Everything! I loved absolutely everything about this book: the writing style, the imagery, the characters, the actual story, the world building, everything. I loved reading it, I know I’ll read it again, and I can’t wait to read Book 2 (it’s a trilogy by the way)! 

It’s a masterpiece. What I loved about it?

A. West African Mythology. I loved reading Britannica as a child because it showed me the myths and legends of different parts of the world, Roman and Greek ones, etc. This book was my first foray into West African Mythology especially the Orïsha, so it hit all the right buttons! I loved learning about the gods of Yoruba mythology: Ori, Oya, Sango, Yemoja, Ogun! I loved it so much that I now want to do a course on West African Mythology because I want to learn and write about Igbo gods too. I loved the fact that it was set in Nigeria and i loved the use of a lot of Yoruba (which I can’t understand by the way).

B. The highlight of the book for me: The Setting!! The World building: the ten Maji clans and their different powers and deities; the animals (the leoponaries and panthernaires); Ibeji, the desert city, where the slaves fight to the death for the pleasure of nobles in an arena the size of the Roman Colosseum filled with (wait for it) water! Note that water typically goes for one gold piece per cup, a small fortune for the inhabitants of the city. Imagining Chândomblé, the lost temple of the sacred sentaros, the protectors of magic, almost brought tears to my eyes. Did I mention that I am a lover of medieval movies? I am. So it was so easy to imagine every little scene in this book. 

C. The characters are relatable. The most fulfilling emotional arc was Amari’s. She went from a timid, scared-of-her-own-shadow little princess to an amazon at the end. 

One thing is sure, Adeyemi is a wonderful storyteller and she had me enthralled from the first page until I finished the book, five days later. (This kids-at-home business won’t let me shine)

Here’s when we first get a taste of the power of magic in the hands of diviners. 

Though Binta resists, Kaea pushes the scroll into her grip.

Light explodes from Binta’s hand.

It coats the throne room in its magnificence—brilliant golds, shining purples, sparkling blues. The light arcs and shimmers as it cascades, a never-ending stream erupting from Binta’s palm.

“Skies,” I gasp, terror at war with the awe bubbling inside my chest.

Magic.

Such imagery!!!

If I had to distil the highlights into three words, they would be Mythology, Magic, Medieval. 

I strongly strongly recommend this book to everyone particularly lovers of history, mythology, and Nnedi Okoroafor’s books.

Note that this is a multiple award winning book and a New York Times Bestseller.

The story is phenomenal. It is an epic. Definitely my best book of this year.

DOWN: The only down (which wasn’t that serious really) was the fact that it was a bit hard to differentiate between the voices of the two female characters (i.e. Zelie and Amari). Many times, they basically sounded the same.

RATING

5 Stars

TRIVIA

Read an excerpt here: https://read.macmillan.com/mcpg/childrenofbloodandbone-excerpt3/

CHALLENGE: Children of Blood and Bone 

CREATE (WRITE a Story/Poem OR DRAW)

1.    What is Orisha? Write a short 1000-word essay 

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 13-16 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, September 28th 2020. 

Next Book of the Week: 

SULWE by Lupita Nyong’o

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We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Title: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Author: Ryan T Higgins 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Number of pages: 48

Type of Book: Fiction

Age: 4 – 8

Buy it herehttps://www.amazon.com/We-Dont-Eat-Our-Classmates/dp/1368003559/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=We+Do+Not+Eat+Our+Classmates&qid=1600365413&sr=8-1

Price: $14.50 (Hardcover)

MY SUMMARY

In this absolutely hilarious story, a T-rex, Penelope, discovers on her first day of school that her classmates (all children) are really tasty. Mrs. Noodleman and Daddy tell Penelope over and over again not to eat her classmates but they are delicious and she just cannot resist. Well, one day, Penelope learns the hard way that being a snack is not fun … *read the book* 

THUMBS UP AND DOWN

UP: Humour. This book made me laugh and laugh. It also emphasizes the golden rule in the funniest way possible and it’s a funny reminder that experience really is the best teacher.  

DOWN: None.

RATING

5 Stars

HAVE FUN WITH THIS BOOK

CHALLENGE: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates 

CREATE (WRITE a Story/Poem OR DRAW)

1.     Find the names of three characters in the book in the crossword puzzle below (6 – 8 year olds)

ZDPYHNMKDGWBX
VNWESWILLIAMO
KBAANDBELGEAN
HBGRLEWLDLUEN
IWBUSTLKRREIT
ODSJABEONRIUS
OCNKWETRPIDBA
LXSSAELPREPLF
2. Write a different ending for the story. 50 words only.

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 12:00 am on Friday, September 23rd2020.

#Nigerian residents only

Next Book of the Week:

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi

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photo credit: amazon.com