Thursday, October 7, 2010

Every Word Counts: Lyrical Language

Whether a writer is crafting fiction or nonfiction, every word counts. This is especially true when it comes to picture books where just a few words have to do A LOT of work.

Since I’m as much a scientist as I am a writer, I’ll start out with a scientific finding: The anatomical structure of our ears and the physical laws of sound wave transmission make certain combinations of sounds and syllables particularly pleasing to us. That’s why devices like alliteration, rhythm, and repetition can give writing a magical quality. We call it lyricism.

Here are some examples of lovely lyrical books that focus on natural history topics.

Vulture View by April Pulley SayreThe sun is rising.

Up, up.
It heats the air.
Up, up.Wings stretch wide
to catch a ride
on warming air.
Going where?
Up, up.

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller
The sun’s arc drops lower as the top of the world angles away from its source of heat.

White sky and earth create flat light, and it is hard to see where land ends and sky begins.

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart
In the heart of winter, a deep layer of snow blankets fields and forests, ponds and wetlands.

You spend your days sledding and skating and having snowball fights.

But under the snow lies a hidden world.

All of these books have a calming, comforting tone that make them perfect as bedtime stories but they can also enrich science lessons. The lyrical language helps readers fall in love with the books--and their topics.

Can you think of other books with beautiful lyrical language? If so, please share them in the comments section.


Gretchen Woelfle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gretchen Woelfle said...

Byrd Baylor's books about the desert and Native American life are old favorites of mine.

Susan E. Goodman said...

An oldie but goodie for me is Round Buildings, Square Buildings and Buildings that Wiggle like a Fish. And Dance by our own Susan Kuklin

Jan Greenberg said...

Melissa, I call your examples of lyrical language, sensory words - qualities in a poem or an artwork that remind us of things we can taste, touch, see, smell or hear. I am doing a writing workshop in November and will use the books you, Gretchen and Susan have suggested.

Michelle Cusolito said...

Yes, Yes... Byrd Baylor is one of my all time favorite authors! Lovely language and rhythm.