As few weeks ago, I “attended” this year’s Writeoncon conference. One of the speakers was picture book author, Deborah Diesen. She gave a short vlog on rhyme and rhythm and offered good pointers for crafting poetry for children.
Deborah began by giving a definition: the basic unit of rhythm is a metrical foot. Then she presented four examples:
Iamb—an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, like the word, away
Trochee—a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, like the word, happy
Dactyl—a stressed syllable followed by 2 unstressed syllables, like the word, joyfully
Anapest—2 unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable, like the word, seventeen
The kind of foot and the number of feet per line makes up the meter or the rhythm of a poem. Deborah reminds us to stay true to that rhythm.
She also pointed out that a poem is more than matching the last syllable—a rhyme has to rhyme rhythmically. Deborah said, "Rhyme the last stressed syllable from the vowel sound on and everything that comes after the last stressed syllable." The word “today” rhymes with “away.” But “chickadee” and “playfully” don’t rhyme perfectly, even though they end in “e.”
It takes practice writing poetry for children. There are plenty of rules to follow. And some editors insist that authors strictly adhere to those rules. Deborah suggests buying a rhyming dictionary. In addition, you can study rhythm and rhyme in her book: The Pout-Pout Fish, a New York Times bestseller, or check out other rhyming books such as Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown , Wild about Books by Judy Sierra, or and Time for Bed by Mem Fox.