I stumbled upon this game while waiting in a doctor’s office with my three kids. They had already weighed themselves and climbed up and over the exam table enough times to shred the paper. As tensions grew higher over whose turn it was to enjoy the centrifugal force of the spinning stool, it seemed a matter of time before we would have to be seen for an injury other than the one for which we came.
“OK,” I said. “Put that down. Get off the floor. Don’t put that in your mouth. How about this? I’ll say a line from a book, and you name the book.”
There was a pause in the action.
“How about…‘kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!’”
“Blueberries for Sal!”
“Aggle Flaggle Klabble!”
It was impressive. They could do it. And they loved it. It came to be called “That Game” and is still a favorite when we’re waiting somewhere or riding in the car.
Want to try a few? (Post your answers in the comments.)
- He went back to eating spaghetti in the bathtub.
- bing bang pop!
- Pirates have green teeth—when they have any teeth at all.
- toast with a great deal of butter on it.
- It was a sad day in Bubbaville.
- “Have mercy!”
- and it was still hot.
As a writer I like this game for another reason. It’s interesting see which lines the kids and I can recall without the book nearby. They are colorful. They are fun to say aloud. They create singular and/or fantastic images. And I know I read these lines with more enthusiasm or drama—because they’re more fun to read. But it’s easy to see how these lines could have been more ordinary. The author could’ve settled for something less.
“Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” for instance, could’ve been “plunk, plunk, plunk,” or there could’ve been no onomatopoeia there at all. Robert McCloskey could’ve moved right from “Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail” to “She picked three more berries and ate them.”
Thankfully, he did write “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” It’s such a realistic blueberry-on-tin-pail sound—and it’s just plain fun to say. In fact, the memory of those particular words read aloud in my own childhood was what made me suck in my breath and snatch Blueberries for Sal off the bookstore shelf as a new parent. This was a book I wanted to read to my kids.
Studying these favorite lines prompts some useful questions as I review my own work. Have I populated my manuscript with fresh images and spectacular words that are fun to say—words that could even someday be quoted in That Game? Or do I have a lot of lines that go plunk, plunk, plunk?
I fear the latter. Back to work.
Megan Maynor recently won her second Shabo Award from The Loft for her picture book manuscripts. Currently, she is playing a new game, “Complete Your Middle Grade Novel.” It’s a long game. And the rules are hard to decipher. But she loves it.
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