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14:14 PB ELEMENT Blog Review: WORDPLAY – Looking at Stars Beneath Your Bed by April Pulley Sayre

February 19, 2014

StarsBeneathYourBedCover(This is post #6 of my 14:14 Picture Book Element Reviews, conducted by Christie Wild, February 14-28, 2014)

Title: Stars Beneath Your Bed
Author: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrator: Ann Jonas
Publisher: Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins Publishers
Year: 2005
Words: 987

I don’t remember if I read a review of this book, or whether it had caught my eye in the local library, but I was familiar with it.  I decided to revisit it and analyze it for story elements as part of the 14:14 Picture Book Challenge.

The most striking element that immediately becomes obvious in this book is the use of wordplay.  Sayre poses her story of dust in a way that is immediately pleasant and personal. Her skillful use of prose describing the presence and origin of dust involves several aspects of this element. The late Ann Jonas’ scenic illustrations strengthen the effect of wordplay in each colorful spread.

First and most obvious is her use of lyrical language.  Her words flow like a dust cloud, gently and deliberately, throughout the story.  Look at this first page section:

“At sunrise,
the sun, low in the sky,
peeks through dusty air.
Dust from us and dirt and dinosaurs
scatters light, painting the sky like fire.

You can hear the smooth flow if you read it aloud.  And if you look closer, there are several aspects of wordplay that can be tagged.  Look at it again, as I diagram the wordplay:

Sayre writes this paWordPlay-STARSragraph with similar phonemes, the sounds of long ‘i’ and short ‘u’ repeated.  The alliteration of “dusty, dust, dirt, and dinosaurs” and choosing verbs that have the sun “peek[ing]” and “painting” add to the lyrical flow of this passage.

With this diagram it’s obvious that Sayre has made use of alliteration and phonemes to ‘create’ that delicate sense of flow with her words.  This continues throughout the story.  Metaphor is employed as well, with the sun ‘painting the sky like fire.”

But juxtaposition is another aspect of wordplay employed here with the meanings of words.

Sayer throws onto the first page an idea that ‘wows’ me.  “Dust from us and dirt and dinosaurs…”
I immediately am mixing it up with extinct creatures.  That sparks an instant interest in my mind.  She continues to mix the dust of dogs (robust animals) with the dust of butterflies (delicate insects).  The idea that “burning toast” and “erupting volcanos” have something in common heightens my interest. And makes breakfast much more intriguing.  This wordplay juxtaposition continues in the story, with oceans/deserts, with outer space/forests.

This is a delightful use of wordplay and I am made more conscious of the power of contrasting meaning and relevant opposites when I engage this element in my story writing.

How have you used the elements of wordplay in your writing?  Hope you will share in your comments.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ceciliaaclark permalink
    February 20, 2014 2:43 am

    another fabulous review with so many things for me to take away and think about plus an interest in reading the book. Thank you

  2. February 20, 2014 6:01 am

    What a great review. And I love how your diagram so effectively displayed the word play. Yet another book to put on my “to-read” list.

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