Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme: My Current Dilemma

If you'll allow me to vent here for just one minute or two...(Let me clarify. This is not a whine, it's a plea to listen and advise.)

I spent the past five years working in an elementary school, and the last two as the librarian assistant. I've read hundreds of books to children while there. I've witnessed the sheer delight on children's faces while I'm reading a rhyming book, as they clap, snap and bob their heads along with the rhythm of the story. I spent months each year working with the Kinders teaching them about rhyming words, as it is one of the requirements to graduate Kindergarten. Yes, this is true. I've relished the moments when they  uncontrollably shout out, "That rhymes Mrs. Fite!"

Think about a rhyming book or story you loved from when you were young...don't you just cherish that memory? I do. Right off the bat (and I realize this is poetry, but still), I think about the poem, Sick, by Shel Silverstein. I memorized this as a young child, mostly because it rhymed, making it easier to recall the text in my mind.

Naturally, as a writer with a passion for children's books, I wrote an adorable story about a tiny acorn, the chosen 1 out of 10,000 acorn, who faces his fears of getting lost, being eaten or not being able to find his special seed, and leaps from his father's branch, burying himself in the earth below, only to wake up the following spring, an energetic oak tree sprout. (Long sentence, but you get the gist of the story, right?) It's delightful and it rhymes, which seems to be the death of my wonderful story.

I have read many times in the past year, on dozens of agent's / publisher's / magazine's websites this simple comment: "Absolutely no rhyming stories".

I will not mention the name of the company, but here is a summary of their comment: "The last thing the children's book publishing industry needs is another rhyming book about a tooth fairy."

Although, my book has nothing to do with a tooth fairy, it does rhyme. I'd be a complete idiot to send Little Acorn's Big Fall to this particular person.

Here are the two main reasons (I believe) why so many agencies and publishing houses reject rhyming stories.
1.) They are not written in correct rhyme schemes.
2.) Rhyming is outdated. (What? Rhyming is timeless!)
***These are the two main reasons I've come up with numerous times in my research in trying to find an agent for my Little A. I did, in a quirky query, challenge an agent to read the full text, even though it rhymed. She did request a full, however, it's been four weeks, and I'm assuming, dead in the water. Moving on.

My text was edited by a literature professor, and she specifically assisted me with the rhyme scheme. We made sure it flowed in an even, natural AABB scheme. I entered it in the Cheerios contest last fall, and when it didn't win, I began to query agents and publishers, to no avail. 

Writers out there, if you're listening, please comment here. Tell me your thoughts and opinions on rhyming text. I need to hear from you regarding my current dilemma. I'm faced with the possibility of changing the text to NOT rhyme or leave it be. 

I don't know how many more rejections Little A. can bear without wilting his little trunk. :(


  1. Despite the prevailing buzz to never, ever write a rhyming book, some still squeak through to publication. That said, the rhyme has to be impeccable, fun, easy.
    Have you tired smaller publishers?
    No one can decide for you whether you should change your story to a non-rhyme. But you could always play around with it and see how you feel??

  2. Catherine brings up a good point - Little A might be a Big hit with a smaller publisher. Besides, I think trends change and you might just be ahead of the trend on this one, so don't give up on Little A!

  3. Catherine and Nisha, good point taken! I'll start looking into smaller publishers. I found one this morning, which again stated, "no rhyming," which drove me to write this post. That doesn't mean every small press will disapprove.

    Catherine, you're right, the rhyme must be impeccable. To my knowledge and skill, and that of the professor who edited it for me, it is. I'd love to have another few sets of eyes on the text itself without having to put out an arm and a leg in costs though. Times are tough with no steady job at this point. I actually thought about emailing a few high school English teachers to help out in exchange for me volunteering, just to make sure the rhyme works.

    I thought a while back that I'd try out a non-rhyming version with Little A. I think I'll move forward with it and see how it goes. Who knows, the story may work even better without the rhyme.

    Thanks for commenting:))

  4. I don't know about the publishing end of it. But when I was an elementary school teacher, some of the children's favorite read aloud books of the ones I read in my class were rhyming books. I think their all-time favorite was "Puff the Magic Dragon". I say go with your gut feeling and stay true to your work. Best of luck.

  5. This is hard, because I've also seen that "never a book that rhymes" rule, yet I worked in a kindergarten class and have two small children, myself, and they love a book that rhymes or has some manner of rhythm throughout. They connect with it. I'd say keep trying with agents who don't specifically say "no rhyming," but maybe fiddle with it in the meantime to see which version you like best. I really always thought the rule was "no rhyming" due to the lame attempts people made at rhyming, rather than having actual good prose.

    Either way, I wish you luck with your decision. It isn't an easy one. I wish I could give you better feedback.

    BTW, I found you from She Writes. I'm wondering how you get the little icon on your page from there. I'll have to go peruse the site and find out!

  6. I don't know anything about the agents but personally I like rhyming books. My child will be 18 on Wed but when I go to the libray I always spent some time in the Children's section seeing what's new. I say rhyme if you want to, just be patient.

    See you back at SheWrites

  7. Thanks, D.L., Shannon, and Michelle for your comments! All of your comments sum up for me to stick with it, which I will. I agree with you all, children like rhyme, it's as simple as pie.

    Shannon, you are correct, I think their main reason for not wanting to look at rhyme, is because it's written poorly or they seemed forced into rhyme. That was one of the things the professor specifically looked for in her edits.

    Thanks to all for your support:)) I made the decision yesterday to tinker with it, change the rhyming text and ship it specifically to the list of agent's I've crossed off my list, just to see what happens.

    Shannon, I found the "badge" on She Writes on the right side column on "my page," about 1/2 way down. You can click on "get badge". :))


  8. I guess we should toss out all of Dr. Seuss since rhyming is "out."

  9. I know, right! Rhyming is not only educational for children, but it's fun, too. Thanks, Laura, for stopping by!

  10. I have a piece that rhymes, and I'm embarrassed to even show it to anyone, because rhyming has become so unpopular! Let's bring it back ladies! By the way, I have another book I'd like to send out...somewhere....any advice?

  11. Journeytoepiphany,

    What sort of book is the one you're looking to submit?
    You shouldn't be embarrassed to show anyone your rhyming story. It never hurts to submit, and it'll never get looked at if you don't let anyone see it! :))