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Carrie Charley Brown
Hey you! Let's shake up your writing a bit.
Writer friend, you can make your picture book manuscript a little different by changing one thing: Point of View (hereafter, called POV). I did a little investigating into second person POV in picture books, and there are a bunch of books out there for you to read and use as mentors.
What IS Second Person Point of View?
There is very little written about second person POV in picture books specifically. So, I turned to The Power Of Point Of View by Alicia Rasley and Characters And Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card to explore second person POV in depth.
Second person POV…
· Uses the word YOU to address the reader or uses an IMPLIED YOU (as in directions or steps).
· Forces the reader to participate in the story.
· Tells the story in a unique way and can be experimental.
· Allows the reader to become the main character, so he/she has to participate in the story.
· Is usually written in present or future tense. Because present tense feels immediate, it makes a reader feel more like he/she is experiencing the action during the story.
· Just because a narrator addresses the reader for a paragraph or so, doesn’t mean that the whole text is second person point of view. (Case in point, the introduction to this blog post is written in second person POV, but rest of it is not). Often it’s the reader's participation that sets second person apart.
Second Person Point of View in Picture Books
There are many different ways that writers craft second person stories. The categories I’ve created below are of my own making. I wanted to make a note of trends on how authors are currently using second person POV.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good starting point if you want to study second person point of view.
Nonfiction Books that Utilize Second Person Point of View
Much to my surprise, I found a fair number of second person POV books that were nonfiction. These nonfiction texts not only present factual information, but they also invite the reader to feel a part of the story and to imagine what it would be like to be in that situation or be a certain person.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
How To Books
The “How To” format was probably the most common structure for second person POV stories that I read. Almost all of them are humorous and fantastical, but these books are incredibly fun to read and reread.
How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco
Daring the Reader to Interact with the Book
The Monster at the End of this Book was the first book of this type that I ever encountered as a kid and it was a hugely fun read. In fact, when I read it today, I still hear my mom’s voice and how she read it. Luckily for my kids, that book is still around and many more have added to this fun genre.
Some second person POV books demand that the reader interact with the book, sometimes even making the reader manipulate the book in order fully appreciate the reading experience. In some cases, the word YOU isn’t used directly, but it is clear that the reader is being addressed directly, and actually being commanded to participate.
Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
Press Here by Herve Tullet
Persuasive writing is by its very nature trying to convince the reader to feel something, do something, or believe something. I also found two examples of persuasive writing in second person POV. Both of these works are hilarious and also good at using persuasive writing techniques.
Have I Got a Book for You by Melanie Watt
Reader Becomes a Character in the Story
In some cases, the “you” in the story allows the reader to become a character in the story, even if the “you” character is depicted in illustrations. Unlike the ones where you interact with the text, the “you” might not look like “you” because the characters are actually pictured.
If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (and other books in this series)
How Second Person Point of View Affects Tone
Overall the vast majority of the books I read in second person POV were funny and quirky in some way. There were a few exceptions like The Iridescence Of Birds and Imagine A Day, which were both poetic and beautiful.
For the complete list of books that I read in second person point of view, click here to download a printable list.
Do you have a picture book that is just not working like it is? Is it a funny book? Try writing in second person point of view. It will, if nothing else, be a great exercise for your writing. It may not work for your particular book, but you’ll never know unless you try it out.
Marcie is giving away a copy of her new e-book, Mentor Texts for Writers Book 1, at the conclusion of ReFoReMo!
What an achievement to write this amazing resource! Congrats, Marcie! I own a copy of this book and it is jam-packed with tons of research that assists me in taking mentor texts by storm. From writing education, to step by step research examples, to elemental picture book recommendations and studies. What a perfect way to continue ReFoReMoing after ReFoReMo is over. And we'll have one up for grabs!
To be eligible for this prize, leave a comment for Marcie here, read daily, and record your efforts. You must also be properly registered to be eligible.
Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth grade by day and writes in the wee hours of the morning. Her book-nerdiness shows through because she is a certified school librarian and also holds an MA and MFA in children's literature from Hollins University. She blogs about making time to write and how to use books as mentor texts at: www.marcieatkins.com.