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khep in re_mused

Picture Books: Sad Endings?

I am working on a children's picture book as a personal project (publication goal, but I am really at the beginning), that is a retelling of a 13th century story. The original story ends with love lost and (to be honest) fatality (via a duel). I would like to stick to the original story, retold for picture book format, however I am wondering how the ending will be taken? It's an ancient, culturally-based tale, with ties to real history, and I think it could be done really well (enter blood/sweat/tears), and has a lot of merit, but I'm not sure how a sad ending of this type would be taken amongst kids, parents, or possible publishers? I would have loved it as a child, but I have been a nonfiction junky all along.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. :)


Hmm. I think I'd have a better idea of what to respond if you could direct me to the story you're retelling? I do know that I've read a picture-book biography of Frida Kahlo, so dealing with difficult and painful subject matter in picture-book format is possible. It might be in your interest to direct your book toward adults who appreciate such things. Maurice Sendak's Dear Mili ends with the death of the child and her mother amid the Holocaust, so that might be a model for you.
There are numerous children's books that have ended with tragedy or death (some of them beloved classics and award winners), so I don't think this is a problem as long as it's well-written and not patronizing in tone to the intended audience. I'll admit, it's hard to judge this particular story since I have no idea what it's about. However, I'd say trust your instincts: if you honestly felt it couldn't be done without traumatizing children and angering parents, you probably wouldn't have started working on it. :)

January 2008


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