Mentor Text Monday: Once Upon a Memory

March 24, 2016

What writers and illustrators can learn from Once Upon a Memory:

How to…

  • infuse lyrical language and meter
  • create a guessing game with compelling questions and predictable rhyme
  • enhance the text with whimsical and vibrant illustrations
  • provoke discussion with intriguing backmatter and related questions
  • combine fantasy and reality in a way that resonates with children and adults
  • Include concepts like “before” and “after” that teach and delight


“Does a cake remember it once was...grain?  Does an ocean remember it once was...rain?”  

Once Upon a Memory, written by Nina Laden and illustrated by Renata Liwska beautifully combines lyrical language, rhyme and whimsical illustrations to create a moving book about memories.  The personification of each object helps the reader enter a magical world of “before and after”.  The structure of this story lends itself to guessing what words will come next, and even when the answers are unexpected, the predictable rhyme will make you want to read this book more than once.  We also adore the back matter at our house!  The author and illustrator both share memories and ask:  “What are some of your favorite things to remember?”  This question inevitably leads to great discussions about memories of cookies and how we should be making more cookies and therefore creating more favorite memories!  This book is a luscious read and well worth studying as a mentor text for anyone who wants to write lyrical, yet sparse texts.

Happy Reading and Writing,



Kirsti Call is the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo or Reading for Research Month, a research challenge and blog focused on mentor texts for picture book writers. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013 with Character Publishing. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus and is a CYBILS panelist.


Great Read!

By Mara Kim Amazon review, Verified Purchase

"This is another great read from [ICL]... When I saw this particular one, I grabbed it immediately ... This book is a great addition to a writer's (whether published or not) shelf ... I highly recommend their writing courses. You receive feedback on your work from published authors. You will be encouraged but also pushed to make your story from good to great."