Does My Picture Book Need to Rhyme?

June 5, 2023

Child being read picture books. Photo by Lina Kivaka on
Child being read picture books

Hey, folks!

I think that when a lot of writers decide to write a children’s picture book, they immediately believe it has to rhyme. But does it actually?


Writing a rhyming picture book is a worthy goal, but you have to ask yourself – does the rhyming add to the story? Or, more importantly, does it detract from the story?

Something I look out for in picture books, but even poetry in general, is whether the rhyme is pulling its weight. And trust me, if someone writes a poem or book in rhyme and they chose rhymes simply to make the pattern work, it shows. In those cases, it’s not pulling its weight and something needs to be done. Always remember, the story comes first. If the rhyming is feeling forced, if it distracts from what’s happening, try writing the story without rhymes. Likely, you’ll either:

1. find that once you see the story in full and everything that needs to happen in it, finding good rhymes comes easier (or at least without as much hassle), or

2. find that the story is actually a lot better without the rhymes.

Both are valid. Don’t be afraid to play around with your story, either, and write one with rhymes and one without. Do consider starting without any rhymes, at least for plotting purposes. That might reduce the chances of having any rhymes “leading” the story (i.e. rhymes that are clearly there just so the rhyme could happen – they don’t contribute anything to the story itself).

But what if you’re determined to write a book in rhyme? That’s perfectly fine! However, you need to keep some things in mind.

  • Don’t add a rhyme for the sake of it. If you’re struggling to find a word that fits with the rhyme AND that works for the story, go back and rework the story itself. Don’t force a rhyme so hard – chances are, it’ll be distracting to the reader. (These are the “leading” rhymes.)
  • Children’s books avoid using imperfect or slant rhymes. The occasional one is fine, but make sure there aren’t too many peppered in. Rhyming books in part help children learn how to read by allowing them to guess what’s coming up – you can’t do that with slant rhymes.
  • Make sure to be consistent with the rhyming pattern. If you’re changing the pattern part-way through, there needs to be a reason. For example, if the character is listing off a bunch of things they need to buy for a birthday party in the middle of the book, having every line rhyme could be a way to make the list feel even longer. But don’t change it up without a good cause, and expect that an editor might point it out and suggest changing it.

Never feel that you have to write a picture book using rhymes. If it’s a concept that you genuinely don’t like, then don’t do it! If you want to try your hand at it, enjoy the process. And have patience – rhyming can be tricky, especially when you’re dealing with perfect rhymes. Take your time and think through each line. It’ll work out in the end!

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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