PiBoIdMo, Anybody?


November is PiBoIdMo Month!

PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) is a come-up-with-30-picture-book-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Tara Lazar is the mastermind behind PiBoIdMo.  She invites writers, illustrators, and industry professionals to share inspiring posts on her blog all month long.



I have been a contributor to PiBoIdMo since the beginning. What an honor! I am crazy about this challenge.

For me, coming up with a good idea is the hardest part of the entire picture book writing process. I love having a month that is completely dedicate to IDEAS.

In past PiBoIdMo posts, I’ve encouraged picture book writers to celebrate the weird stuff in life, put a twist on the familiar, use setting as a takeoff  point, try a variety of structures, and start things off with a title.

And THIS is my 2014 PiBoIdMo Post:

How To…”How To”

For PiBoIdMo 2012, my blog post focused on a variety of ways a writer can structure a picture book.

This time around, I wanted to share a different approach to framing a story.

*drum roll, please*



The How-To…Structure offers readers information on, you guessed it, how to do something.

Keep in mind, however, this structure isn’t just a list of bland, disjointed steps for accomplishing a task. Nope. Nope. Nope. These steps (along with the art) need to tell a real deal story. There should be a beginning, middle, and end. There should be characters, conflict, plot, setting…. There should be opportunities for your readers to feel something.

Some good examples of books that use the How-To… Structure are as follows:

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham


So You Want to Be a Rock Star by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds


How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan , illustrated by Lee Wildish

howto.how to babysit a grandpa2

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinison, illustrated by Kate Hindley


Your Challenge: Jot down a few possibilities for some How-To… books of your own. It might help to think in terms of a title. Even easier, just fill in the blanks to the prompts below and see where they take you.

How to__________

Guide to Being a ________

The __________ Handbook

This is what happened when I just filled in those blanks:

How to Catch a Dragon

Guide to Being a Big Brother

The Pirate’s Handbook

Extra Credit:  Analyze the picture books I mentioned earlier in this post. How did those authors incorporate the How-To…Structure? Do you see some sort of story arc in these books? Did you notice any special word play? The rule of threes? What did you find particularly satisfying in those books?

Happy brainstorming, everybody!


Tammi Sauer is the author of Nugget & Fang, Princess in Training, and many other picture books. She has another eleven books under contract. Her latest manuscript sold at auction. It followed the How to…Structure. Ooh.




Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Wow, the PiBoIdMo line-up is impressive! And I love all these great ideas, including the “how to” structure. And (sigh), as usual, more books to read . . .

  2. Tammi – I’ve been having fun playing with that ‘How to’ prompt. Also: really nice to see the ideas in your PiBoIdMo posts from previous years — thanks for sharing those!

  3. Thanks for the How To tips, and for the links to your great advice from years past, Tammi!

  4. You’re welcome! I hope my PiBoIdMo posts lead to lots of great ideas.

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