Monday, March 5, 2012

The Problem with Picture Books... Part 2

I think the problems with picture books generally stem from three misconceptions.
1. Picture books are short, and therefore, must be simple.
2. Picture books are for very young readers or listeners, and therefore, must be simple and may be slight.
3. Picture books are timeless.

These misconceptions are particularly dangerous because they are partly true. Here are the more accurate versions of the statements above.

Picture books are short. In fact, one problem we see a lot at Affordable Manuscript Assessments is texts that are too long and wordy. They may certainly be simple, but they don't need to be.  As mentioned in part 1 of this post, picture books should be layered stories.

Picture books are often for very young readers or listeners, and therefore, may be simple and occasionally slight. Most slight texts are rejected these days, simply because of the requirement for layered stories. Picture books can also be meant for (or at least accessible by) readers of ten or so. The fashion for "older" picture books comes and goes and the market for these is probably smaller than that for younger readers.

Some picture books are timeless. There are stories around now (in print) that were published when I was a little girl in the early 1960s. Some are older still. These are generally stand-out texts that have dated, if at all, charmingly. Most don't have have human protagonists. For every The Story About Ping and The Cow that Fell in the Canal there are hundreds of stories that are permanently out of print because they are felt to be dated, trite, sexist, ageist, or just plain out of step with modern literature.

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  1. It takes a lot of skill to write a good picture book. Too hard for me I suspect.

  2. It's an interesting challenge all right. Never know until you try, though.