Writing a Single Story Using a Variety of Poetry Styles by Kathleen Long Bostrom

It is my pleasure to welcome multi-published, award-winning children’s book author and poet extraordinaire Kathleen Long Bostrom back to Frog on a Blog. I featured Kathleen in the summer of 2020 when her board book Will You Be Friends with Me? came out. She spoke about the connection between writer and illustrator and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. To read that post, please click HERE.

Today, Kathleen’s here to share her latest picture book Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems and talk a bit about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. This book officially released this week from WaterBrook and features adorable, playful, and detailed illustrations by Janet Samuel. It’s perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and baby showers or simply to help a child navigate welcoming a new sibling into the family. It’s also a great choice for children and adults to learn about different poetry styles, including the very tricky Villanelle, of which Kathleen gives an example below. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Dr. Seuss taught me how to read. Not literally, of course (I read once that he didn’t particularly like children!) but through his marvelous books. The Cat in the Hat was my favorite. Through these playful, rhyming stories I not only learned to read but also fell in love with poetry.

When I began to write books for children, I felt drawn to writing in rhyme. I kept hearing that editors did not want to look at manuscripts in rhyme. Why not, I wondered? Don’t most children love rhyming picture books? As I began attending writer’s conferences, I learned the reason. Time and again, editors declared, “We get so many poorly rhymed manuscripts, we don’t even want to see them anymore.”

If I was going to write in rhyme, I had to do it well. No forced rhymes, no using stanzas that rhyme by twisting a sentence into something a person would never say. I worked hard at it, yet it never felt like work. I loved it! When I began to get books accepted for publication, many of them were written in rhyme.

After twenty-five years of publishing books, I am still learning, still loving the process of writing in poetry.  

Around the time I retired from serving as a pastor and turned to writing full-time, my best friend and I attended a children’s writing conference. She was then working as an editor in educational publishing. During lunch, I asked, “What are the areas in early education where more good books are needed?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Poetry.”

“Aha!” I thought. “I can do that!”

But what would make a story told in poetry unique? I researched the books currently on the market and looked for the gaps.

Then it hit me: write a single story in verse, but not limited to the rhyming couplets that I and most other authors used. Could I write a single story using a variety of styles of poetry? I read books that described different poetic forms. Was I surprised! I knew about haiku, limericks, sonnets. But Villanelle? Cinquain? Triolet? Fascinating!

I had to tell a story with all the necessary components: beginning, middle, end, including an arc with conflict and resolution. I wanted to write a story that would be pertinent to the lives of young children. I wanted to tell a story that would engage young readers, and in the playfulness of poetry, whether they were old enough to learn the specifics of the forms or not.

I pondered many potential topics but landed on the story of a young child learning about the imminent arrival of a new baby who must then face the reality of this huge change. I wanted to explore all the possible emotions—excitement, confusion, frustration, and ultimately joy—thus affirming that all emotions are part of the journey, to be welcomed and honored.

Once I carved out an idea for the full story, I needed to figure out which poem forms to use for each component. This took months! Each of the sixteen poems had to work within the story arc, but also to be a complete and independently executed poem.

Take the Villanelle: nineteen lines of poetry comprised of five tercets (three-line stanza) and one quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first stanza repeat alternately in the following stanzas. And the two lines of the refrain also form the final couplet (two lines) in the ending quatrain!

Here’s how it looks in my poem, “When Will This Baby Go Away?”

When will this baby go away?

He’s all mixed up with day and night.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


He cannot even talk or play.

Those dirty diapers are a fright!

When will this baby go away?


He sleeps and eats and cries all day.

Such bad behavior isn’t right.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Please send him back. I’ll even pay!

I took his hand—he took a bite!

When will this baby go away?


Oh, why do babies act this way?

That belly button! What a sight!

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Will he become more fun someday?

I can’t imagine that he might.

When will this baby go away?

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.

This one poem took months. I worked on the book for two years. What fun I had! On my writing days, I could hardly wait to get up and get started. The hours flew by. Hours and hours and hours, rewrite after rewrite.

I could go on and on about all the forms, but I’d end up writing a book about writing a book! Instead, read the book first, and simply enjoy the story (and the fabulous illustrations by Janet Samuel). Then read the descriptions of the poem forms at the back. Which ones catch your fancy?

Try writing your own. Start with a limerick, or haiku (senryu), or a simple, rhyming couplet. Have fun with it! Let the words dance and sing on the page.

Maybe even try your hand at a Villanelle? You can do it!

I’d love to read your poetry. Thank you for reading mine.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is an award-winning author of over fifty books for children. Her books are published in over twenty languages. She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now writes full time. As a middle child, Kathy was both the new baby and the older sister who later became a mother of three herself. She knows whereof she rhymes!

For more information, please visit kathleenlongbostrom.com.

Happy Book Birthday to SINCE THE BABY CAME by Kathleen Long Bostrom!

Title: Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems

Author: Kathleen Long Bostrom

Illustrator: Janet Samuel

Publisher: Waterbrook & Multnomah Kids

Release Date: May 2, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: Since the Baby Came offers a unique take on a timeless topic. The heartfelt and humorous drama unfolds completely in verse, addressing the full range of emotions a young child experiences when a new baby joins the family—from surprise and confusion to feelings of neglect and jealousy to wholehearted tenderness and affection. The book also introduces young children to the playfulness and fun of various forms of poetry, from senryu to villanelle.

For more information and parent/teacher resources, click HERE!

Also, please come back and visit this Friday when Kathleen will stop by to talk about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. Don’t miss it!

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Building a Diverse Library: Practical Tips for Families and Educators by Shetal Shah

Please welcome children’s book author Shetal Shah to Frog on a Blog. Her debut Shakti Girls: Poems of Inspiring Indian Women launched just this week and is perfect for Women’s History Month! Through 13 poetic, biographical stories and colorful portraits (by artist Kavita Rajput), the book introduces kids to real Indian women who’ve accomplished incredible things in the fields of science, politics, sports, math, and activism and exemplify Shakti, a Hindi word meaning feminine energy and strength, power, and a force to be reckoned with. Shetal is a former educator currently pursuing her mission to positively impact and inspire girls from all backgrounds with her writing and to bring diversity to bookshelves. I asked her to stop by and talk about the importance of showing diversity in children’s literature and diversifying curriculum to bring visibility to all students. Let’s hear from Shetal!

The year was 1999. I was a senior in high school experiencing a heavy dose of seniorities and found myself at the local Barnes & Noble more often than planned. On one of my weekly trips, I walked into the store and a beautiful henna-inspired cover with a name that felt familiar caught my attention. The author, Jhumpa Lahiri, I knew right away was of Indian descent. Could it be that a South Asian author made it to the New York Times Bestseller list? This was new to me. I immediately grabbed the book, Interpreter of Maladies, and ran home to dig in. After a few days of indulging her words, I felt a sense of comfort, peace, and home that I had never felt from reading especially the novels assigned at school. It wasn’t long before I returned to the bookstore and actively sought out the works of other South Asian authors, including Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakurni, and Salman Rushdie. While there were few at the time, I knew getting my hands on as many as possible would recreate the feeling of being seen and understood as much as my heart needed.

I know my experience is not unique. Scholar Rudine Sims Bishop, who famously coined the phrase “mirrors and windows”, explained that “literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation…” When children see themselves in book pages, they feel seen and valued. They feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, no longer an outlier or exception to the full American story. As a window, diverse books expose children to different cultures and contexts helping them expand their capacity to appreciate and understand differences. “Research has shown that children notice race as early as six months, begin to internalize bias between the ages of two and five, and can become set in their beliefs by age 12.” If children are not exposed to the diversity of the world starting at a young age, then they will not be prepared to navigate and reap the benefits of this diverse world when they are adults. What better way to start than with books?

Whether it’s small steps or broad strokes, any action toward building a more inclusive curriculum and school or home library will make a positive difference in a child’s life. Families, schools, and educators either in a diverse or homogenous community can use any of the following ideas to get started:

  1. Develop an annual ritual of evaluating books in your curriculum and library. What percentage of books reflect characters from diverse backgrounds? How many were written by people of color? From here, create a SMART goal to strive for to grow your diverse library.
  2. Assess the books in your (or your child’s) curriculum, including summer reading lists. What percentage of characters and themes reflect diverse cultures and identities? Are students and families from diverse backgrounds and identities reflected in these books? Identify the gaps and find the titles to fill those gaps. For schools and educators, set a numerical goal or standard to ensure that future book lists are representative of diverse backgrounds. Families can reach out to their teachers and suggest or donate titles to add to the class library.
  3. Do your children love story time? Rotate diverse themes and characters when reading to them. Set some rules or routines to ensure you include a number of diverse selections every day.
  4. Not sure where to find diverse books? You can use tools like Diverse Book Finder, Social Justice Books, and even social media to help you discover diverse titles.
  5. Shop for books at your local BIPOC-owned bookstore. Consider partnering with them to host your next school book fair or birthday party!

Setting measurable goals and developing intentional strategies and tactics to reach those goals is an effective strategy for building more diversity and inclusion in a school’s curriculum and school or home library. By focusing on these concrete goals, you are ensuring there is measurable progress being made to close any gaps and help your children feel validation and belonging while offering a window into another world. As I moved on from high school, I sought out educational settings as both student, teacher, and mother where inclusion was starting to become normalized. As a result, I started to see myself as a valuable member of society who has something unique to contribute. I can only imagine what impact this would have made on me had I grown up with access to more diverse books. Better late than never, I say.

SHETAL SHAH grew up to the sounds of Bollywood and the delicious smells of her mother’s Indian cooking in the suburbs of New York City. As a second-generation Indian-American, Shetal hoped to one day see more stories of girls like her fill the shelves of local bookstores.

A former educator, Shetal taught world history in all-girls schools where she was reminded how curriculum and literature inclusive of women from diverse backgrounds can have a positive impact on girls’ self-esteem, identity development and belonging. Shetal also developed and led numerous educator workshops, presenting at national conferences covering topics on pedagogy and diversity and inclusion.

Shetal currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and her two young boys while pursuing her writing and mission to bring diversity to bookshelves with stories that inspire. “Shakti Girls” is her inspiring debut.

Follow Shetal on social media:

Facebook | Twitter: @ShetalWrites 

Instagram: @Shetal.Shah.Writes and @Shakti_Girls

Poetry Month Book Review: An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z

Title: An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z

Illustrator: Rachael Saunders

Publisher/Year: The School of Life/2021

I admit it, I don’t post about poetry very often here on the Frog. But, April is Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by sharing a children’s picture book filled with fun poems? And lovely illustrations, featuring adorable animals?

But An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z by The School of Life, with amazing art by Rachael Saunders, is more than a fun read. It features 26 emotions from anger to melancholy to zeal, each one encompassing a two-page spread with a new animal and setting. The goal of the book is to help children develop emotional literacy. Some of the featured emotions are more straight forward, such as boredom, fear, or happiness. And some are more complex, such as embarrassment, insecurity, or vulnerability.

Sample from L is for Loneliness:

If Loneliness was an animal,

It would glide throughout the deep:

No ears to hear its lonely song,

No company to keep.

Children experience many different emotions, and some have difficulty expressing them properly or even articulating what they’re feeling, leaving them with another feeling–confusion. An Emotional Menagerie aims to help children understand and deal with their feelings and emotions in a healthy way.

Though the rhyme isn’t perfect in every stanza, children will still likely be engaged listeners as an adult reads them each poem. And they will definitely enjoy viewing the charming animal pictures while they listen.

My favorite spread: T is for Tranquility

During these extra-trying days, I can’t think of a better time to share a book about emotions with our kids.