The Art Of: Mentor Texts & Book Lists

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What is a mentor text?

Mentor text is a term that is used in the writing industry. If you look it up in the dictionary, you won’t find it. I’d define it as a story that you use to help you improve or diagnose issues or expand your ideas on how to tell a story. Mentor texts can be used for narrative and visual storytelling.

What makes a strong mentor text?

For narrative storytelling: choose books that published within the last five years, that have a lot of good reviews or rewards, if you aren’t sure where to start (think: Kirkus or Texas Bluebonnet) and that are well-known within the industry, do editors/agents/creatives, Librarians consistently recommend this title or body of work?

For visual storytelling: All of the above plus you can study the illustrators of classic books, animators, designers, and master artists. Why? Because you can see a broader range on how other professionals presented pieces that also tackle design, color, composition, style in addition to the story.

How to use mentor texts?

  • Read: Read a lot, in succession (trends will stand out). For art, look at successful pieces by paid professionals
  • Copy: type out manuscripts/create master copies of art
  • Analyze: Stop and analyze for yourself. What works? Why do you think they made those choices? Write it down. Things stick better when you do.
  • Listen: attend classes/webinars where to professionals break down structure, voice, tone in narrative…this goes for art, too. Sometimes it is easier to see when a teacher walks you through the elements that are strong.

Why do Lists Help You Find Mentor Texts?

These lists are culled, vetted, voted on by panels and industry experts who read widely in the field. They’ve done their homework, so you don’t have to pick books at random (though that works, too!).

Even if the topic is completely different from your work in progress, if you approach each book as a chance to learn, your critical-thinking muscles will grow stronger.

Finally…The Lists

🔰ALA Best of Lists: American Library Association has lists of lists. Also check out their awards section (Newberry; Caldecott, etc.)
🔰Pura Belpre Winner: ALA award given to Latinx author illustrator which celebrates the Latino culture in their storytelling.
🔰Cyblis Awards Winners: an award for children and young adult authors/illustrators which focus on literary merit and popular appear.
🔰31 Days of Lists: Author, librarian, and blogger for the School Library Journal has created “Best of” lists for the past few years.
🔰Reforemo 2020: The best picture book mentor texts vetted by the Reading For Research Month blog.
🔰GLLI KidLit Months: Global Literature & Library Intitiave is an organization that promotes and collaborates with schools, libraries, and book industry professionals to raise the visibility of world literature.
🔰Society of Illustrators Annual Catalogs: so many to choose from, but each have a different focus.
🔰Kirkus Book Lists: trusted industry source for book reviews and recommendations.

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