Monday 6 January 2020

New Year Resolutions by Chitra Soundar

It's 2020, the start of a new decade. For the first post of the year, I wanted to start with celebrating the New Year.

A new decade and a new year not only brings on a new calendar, a new blank diary to write in but also new year resolutions. We all make them; we all break them. Some we forget, some we abandon and perhaps the hope is one of them will stick.

           In that context of making new resolutions, I’ve been looking at picture books that help children form good habits and break bad ones. Gone are the days when children’s books were didactic and full of rules and crazy consequences full of warnings. As this book of Victorian verse will attest to, children were told what not to do and the dire consequences of breaking rules.

Modern picture books especially those published in the last decade we have just bid goodbye to, has creative approaches to teaching children form good habits. A word of caution for all writers, I learnt early on in my writing career - keep it fun and be conscious of the creeping adult voice full of judgement.

Here are some examples of how to do that. 

In this book, Mo Willems highlights the universal angst of all parents and children – bedtime. Children want to have parties, read more stories, dance their night away while parents are tired and frustrated.
            How about eating habits? Some children won’t eat squishy tomatoes and others wouldn’t eat peas. Some won’t eat fruits and some wouldn’t touch an egg for any reason. Charlie has a wonderful idea to make Lola eat her tomato when she cries I will never not ever eat a tomato.

The third most important thing to a child - being active. Some children are readers, some are jumpers and some are holler-yollers. Often their activity levels are exact opposites to their parents. When parents want to rest, children want to play and vice versa. Isn't that a fantastic writing opportunity - in-built conflict and lot of relatable situations. 

However, if you wanted to introduce children to start off with a wonderful habit of doing yoga, here is a book that shows how to learn simple postures. Perhaps it’s a parent and child habit-forming book. Was yoga in your resolution for this year? I'm thinking of adding yoga to mine.

The trouble with telling children what to do is we don’t always follow our own rules. So we preach without practicing – go to bed early, no TV, eat your veg or don’t pick your nose. Children are observant. They know when parents break rules and that make children push that envelope of rebellion a bit more. Here is Daisy telling her mum, why giving advice is easy and following it might not be so.

As a picture book writer, these books inspire me to think about different things to write about. (Notice all the underlined phrases in this post.) Children struggle with forming habits as much as adults do. Sometimes it’s about being consistent, sometimes it’s in the follow-through. Are you inspired to write a fun story for children that introduces the concept of making habits – good ones and fun ones? Here is an inspiring activity to start you off.
Brian Moses introduced a classroom activity on 2nd Jan that children might love to do – maybe this will inspire you to write funny picture books about funny (or maybe even serious and important ) resolutions.
Did you make a resolution for the new year? Can you think of a funny one for adults and one for a young person? Here is my example:
Grown-up: I’ll go to bed before midnight - but it's always before midnight in some country, aint it?
Child: I’ll never eat a snail when its head is out. Ugh!

Add yours in the comments section or tweet it to us @picturebookden 

Chitra Soundar is an internationally published author of over 40 books for children. Her books have been published in the UK, US, India, Singapore and translated into German, French, Japanese and Thai. Her picture books have been included in the White Ravens Catalogue, IBBY International Books of USA, the prestigious Bank Street Bookstore lists and have been shortlisted for many awards. Find out more at and follow her on twitter at @csoundar.

1 comment:

Lynne Garner said...

Great post - thanks for sharing.

It wasn't planned as a book to teach manners but I gave my 'Dog Did It' book to a friend. He and his wife soon realised they could use it to teach good manners to their little girl. Whenever she did something viewed as bad manners they mentioned the book and she'd shyly stop whatever unwanted activity she was doing. If only I'd have thought of that!