My FAVORITE type of children’s literature!
Seriously… Picture books hit some kind of deep down place in me.
Just of hint of sentiment in the story and I’m all slobbery.
Which can get some pretty odd looks from those being read to.
So what ARE picture books?
That question seems somewhat self-explanatory, but just because a book has pictures in it, doesn’t make it a “picture book.” Many books have illustrations here and there throughout the text, such as chapter books with several pictures per chapter, or a storybook with an elaborate illustration for each story. Picture books, however, have a much stronger connection between the text and illustrations. Often, the text is very sparse… sometimes only a few words per page. The average picture book has less than 1000 words in the entire book. What the text leaves to the imagination, the illustrations… on nearly every page… clarify for the reader. You really can’t “read” a picture book without looking at the pictures, because much of the detail is in the artwork. Some picture books have no words at all… but we’ll get to them later!
The collaboration between author/editor and illustrator is very unique, and varies from book to book. Some authors have no say in the style of illustration that will be used for their manuscript, as a publishing house chooses the best illustrator for the job. Some authors give very detailed instructions about who will illustrate their book and how it will be done. I think the best picture books are the result of a good relationship between author and illustrator… Where the writer gives some basic suggestions and trusts the artist’s skill… and where the artist submits ideas back to the writer to see if they’re on the same page. (Pun intended.)
Picture books offer a great opportunity for some beginning “Art Appreciation” discussions with your kids! Help them really look at the illustrations by pointing out details as you read the story. Discuss the mood of the pictures… Is it a bright, sunny day or a stormy, windy night? Are the illustrations flat and stylistic or three-dimensional and realistic? Can you tell what medium the artist used? What about getting out some of the same stuff to make their own pictures? Can you find other books illustrated by the same artist?
Picture books also give you a chance to teach inference skills they will need later on as they learn to read. Can they guess how the character is feeling by the illustrations, even if the text doesn’t tell you? Does the picture give you a clue about what will happen when you turn the page? (“Page turn” is a BIG DEAL in picture books!) Does anything in the illustration refer to other stories or books your child might recognize?
We’ll spend this week looking at some well-known picture book artists…
…Who are your favorites?