WRITERLY WISDOM: Corey Rosen Schwartz




Rhyme and Meter, GOLDI ROCKS Style!
By Corey Rosen Schwartz


There are a lot of resources on the internet for people who want to write in rhyme. But… I’ve never seen a post that steers you toward one type over another. In my opinion, not all meters are created equal. Some are definitely better for picture books than others.

Let’s compare a few.




Mama Bear’s Stanzas

I said, “Sit down,

It’s time to eat.

Please come and try

your cream of wheat.

But Baby said,

We’d better not.

We’ll burn out tongues.

It’s way too hot!”


too short

The problem with this meter is…. The distance between rhyming words is too SHORT.
i SAID sit DOWN. (2)

it’s TIME to EAT (2)

please COME and TRY (2)

your CREAM of WHEAT (2)

There are two stressed beats per line, which means four stressed beats (or 8 syllables) between rhymes

When this goes on for a while, it starts to feel very sing-songy. Also, since you only have eight syllables between rhymes, it tends to lead to forced rhymes. The rhymes are coming too often, which makes it difficult to tell the story you want to tell. The rhymes end up driving the story.

I see this in a LOT of manuscripts.


Papa Bear’s Stanza


Mama Bear made porridge and she called out “Time to eat.”

I yawned and rubbed my eyes and then I got up off the couch

It smelled so good. My favorite kind- delicious cream of wheat

But it was hot. I burned my tongue. I jumped and hollered, “Ouch!”



too long

The problem here is… the distance between the rhymes is too LONG.

MAma BEAR made PORridge AND she CALLED out, “TIME to EAT” (7)

i YAWNED and RUBBED my EYES and THEN i GOT up OFF the COUCH (7)

it SMELLED so GOOD. my FAV’rite KIND- deLICious CREAM of WHEAT (7)

but IT was HOT. i BURNED my TONGUE. i JUMPED and HOLLered, “OUCH!” (7)

There are seven stressed beats per line which means 14 stressed beats (or 28 syllables) between rhymes. The rhymes are so far apart, the reader can completely lose the thread. It kind of defeats the point of writing in rhyme, which is to help kids predict what is coming.



Baby Bear’s Stanza

Mama Bear made cream of wheat

But I am not a fool

I saw the pot was scorching hot

And warned them, “Let it cool!”

Baby Bear’s stanza is just right. It’s neither too short nor too long.

MAma BEAR made CREAM of WHEAT (4)

but I am NOT a FOOL.(3)

i SAW the POT was SCORCHing HOT (4)

and WARNED them, “LET it COOL!” (3)


just right


It also has another feature that I really recommend. It does NOT have the same number of stressed beats in every line! When the meter has the same number of stressed beats in every line, it can start to feel monotonous (Think GREEN EGGS AND HAM)

Remember, when you are writing in rhyme, you want to make the rhyme scheme and meter work FOR you, not AGAINST you. Don’t choose a crazy ABAB rhyme scheme like Papa Bear did. It’s much too difficult and all the extra work it requires doesn’t really provide any pay off to the reader. Did anyone even notice that the first and third lines in Papa’s stanza rhymed? For me, getting in an internal rhyme has a much greater pay off.

Work with a meter like Baby Bear’s and you will have seven stressed beats (or 14 syllables) between rhymes. This gives you ample opportunity to tell your story without being constrained by the rhymes. It will allow your picture book to turn out “Just right!”




After publication of her first picture book, Hop! Plop!, Corey longed to write a fractured fairy tale. But coming up with a clever twist wasn’t easy.

Then one day, when her son was three, someone asked him if he spoke Spanish. His answer was, “No, but I speak a little karate.”

Instantly, the idea hit her…the three little pigs could go to ninja school! KIYA!

Corey has no true Ninja training, but she can sure kick but in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, New Jersey. 

Corey is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012) GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, 2014) and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD (Putnam, 2014) are just some of her books.  You can learn more about Corey and her books at www.coreyrosenschwartz.com

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Corey Rosen Schwartz



***Welcome to BOOK NOOK REVIEWS where I will share my thoughts (and reader rating) on a variety of children’s books…from board books and picture books to chapter books and young adult novels. Why, I might even sneak in an occasional family-friendly adult novel when I get the chance. If my review entices you to buy the book as a gift or to even add to your own home library, why not share this post with others by clicking on the social share links below!***


Title: The Three Ninja Pigs

Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz

Illustrator: Dan Santat

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Ages 4-8


“Once upon a dangerous time,
a wolf loved to huff and to puff.
He’d go around town
and blow houses down
till three little pigs cried, ENOUGH!”





The wolf is back on the prowl and the three little pigs better watch out! Houses are being blown down. The first little piggie decides to use aikido on the big bad wolf. The second little piggie tries some jujitsu. But only the third little piggie uses the true power of the martial arts to defeat that bag of hot air!


Why you should read it:


I confess the fact Ms. Schwartz gave this classic tale a martial arts twist captured my attention at first, but it was the lyrical tone to the rhyming text which kept me eagerly turning the pages to see what happened next. Illustrations by the talented Dan Santat compliments this engaging tale. Kids of all ages will cheer these three little piggie heroes as they karate chop their way to a wolf bully-free life!


Like-O-Meter Rating:


5 out of 5…Grab it! 


**Rating scale**
5 out of 5…grab it!
4 out of 5…think about it.
3 out of 5…take or leave it.
2 out of 5…maybe not for you.
1 out of 5…forget about it!


Author Profile Pic

International best selling, award winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection.