Rhyme and rhythm in picture books

Earlier this week I dreamed that I wrote a Little Golden Book— but somehow forgot to tell anyone. In the dream, I was flicking through the book (which was illustrated by Lucinda Gifford but in the style of Gabrielle Wang!) and I thought, ‘This is lovely. I must blog about it.’

I don’t know whether this is sad or something to be proud of. Am I obsessed or simply dedicated? Blinkered or focussed? I have no idea. But it did lead me to the ‘good’ bookcase and our stash of Little Golden Books.

Caboose cover


As a child in the 60s these were my two favourite LGBs. Ours was not a bookish household, but now and then my mother would pick up a LGB at Woolworths. If I recall correctly, the children’s books were located directly adjacent to the Dairy Snow machine. I was enchanted by both.

I remember feeling great empathy for Mr Caboose. His trials and tribulations were very real to me. Now, as an adult and having chosen a career in the arts, I still empathise with him.

And he slammed on his brakes.

And he held tight to the tracks.

And he kept that train

From sliding down the mountain!

In the last Girl and Duck Q & Q video I talked about rhyming picture books. I even reviewed a couple of favourites.

But of course rhythm is just as important when we’re writing picture books. Perhaps even more important— we can choose not to write a rhyming story but we must never overlook rhythm. There must be a discernible beat to our words, we have so few to play with, we must tinker until they read like lines from a songbook.

As a kid I responded intuitively to the rhythms of The Little Red Caboose. No doubt it helped train my ear for future delights (pardon the pun), for poetry and Shakespeare and…The Waterboys. Ahem.


The Colour Kittens, on the other hand, fascinated me mostly because of the illustrations. I would stare at them for hours, lose myself in all the colour madness.


Who would have thought that yellow and red together made orange? It was a revelation. Forget the colour wheel, the kittens had it covered.


I adored the ‘night’ page best. It was hypnotic. The perfect pairing of text and illustration:

And in all that brown,

the sun went down.

It was evening

and the colours began to disappear in the warm dark night.

Did you have a favourite Little Golden Book as a child? Perhaps you’re reading them to your children? Your grandchildren?

I’d love to hear your story.


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12 Replies to “Rhyme and rhythm in picture books”

  1. My fave is (still) The Sailor Dog about a seafaring dog called Scuppers who is a neat freak and loves sailing the seven seas to visit exotic places and new clothes. A perfect life…

  2. “The Monster at the End of This Book, starring Grover” was and still is my all-time fave! My kids loved it, too.

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