What is a mentor text?
A Mentor Text is a book an author reads to help them in preparation to, or while writing, a picture book. Mentor texts are any other picture book that has something in common with the text you are writing. Mentor texts are meant to serve as examples of good writing for the student, or in this case, the person writing a new picture book.
What is the difference between a mentor text and a comp title?
A mentor text is used to help an author hone their craft by offering an example of good writing while a comp title, or comparison title, is a book used by an author in a query letter or pitch to garner interest in their book.
What are the benefits to reading mentor texts?
It’s a well known fact that to write picture books, the number one most important thing an author must do is read picture books! Especially in the picture book world, the market is always changing. What was publishable five years ago may not be of interest today. And understanding the picture book format takes reading, research, and effort. There are tons of resources out there, which I explore in this article on how to write a picture book. But every resource says the same thing: if you want to write picture books, read picture books. Examples:
- You are writing a parallel story, and you are not sure how to divide the focus between two main characters. Reading mentor texts might offer examples of how other authors do this.
- Your book is about a very young girl and her very old grandmother. You might want to explore ways authors authentically represent these relationships in an age appropriate manner.
- You want to write a picture book about the beach. You know picture books about the beach are a dime a dozen. How will you make yours stand out?
Where can I find mentor texts?
You can get your mentor texts anywhere you get your books. Some of us are parents or teachers so we might spend time reading to our kids or classrooms. But most aspiring children’s book authors read books from their libraries or local bookstores, or by purchasing their books online from places like bookshop.org.
Another way to get a curated reading list would be to follow one of these blogs or programs that are specifically set up to encourage writers of picture books to read picture books.
- ReFoReMo – Short for Reading for Research Month, the ReFoReMo event takes place in March annually, though their blog is chock full of book recommendations year round.
- Betsy Bird’s 31 lists in 31 days, Top 100 Picture Books, and Top 100 Children’s Novels
- Newberry Winners – Here you can download a PDF of all the medal and honor books.
- We Need Diverse Books book recommendations – We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
- Following along with state (or nationwide) Battle of the Books lists is a great way to keep up to speed on Chapter books and middle grade novels
How can I organize my reading?
My favorite resource for keeping track of my reading is Goodreads. I have created over sixty-five ‘shelves’ on Goodreads where I categorize all the books I’ve read into groups that make sense for me. Other authors create spreadsheets to record all their mentor texts, or to organize their study. I know some people who just keep a notebook list of all their mentor texts. The short answer is, do what works for you.
Now that you know and understand the benefits of reading and using mentor texts, I hope you’ll grab your library card and hit the shelves. There are so many books to discover, and reading picture book mentor texts will help you write a picture book too. Happy reading, happy writing!
Have questions, or want to write your own picture book? Contact me for more information or to set up a consultation.