What Makes a Good Picture Book?
But, I read so many picture books I don't like.
I read some to my daughter and think:
- What exactly is the message this is sending? Is this what I want my daughter to learn?
- That was a great book until the last two pages. What a dumb ending!
- This book is only published because it is written by a celebrity.
- This book is only published because it is part of a series.
- This book is only published because a loveable, well-published writer wrote it.
1. Creative spin on an old topic/theme. This is why I like the pigeon books by Mo Willems. The pigeon is such a toddler--I want to drive the bus! I want a puppy! But these books are clever, funny, and original.
2. Word choice and the fewer the words, the better: Picture books should be SHORT. These manuscripts should be 1000 words or much less actually. And really pay attention to the word choice and flow of the text. I LOVE Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and so does my daughter. Wonderful example of this characteristic of children's books, in my opinion.
Maggie Mae: Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies--Maggie finds three clues, three suspects, and three shaky alibis!
4. Remember your audience: A picture book audience is supposed to be a child 7 or under and his or her reader (parent, grandparent, teacher). These children love to smile, adore their families, and go crazy over a cute puppy or kitty cat! Parents have to want to buy this book for their child, so you do have to consider that; but remember, your true audience is a child. This is why my child and I often do not agree on what book to read or check out from the library. But I'll tell you one thing: both of us LOVE Dr. Seuss. He's a classic, yes, but he knew his audience!
What do you think makes a good picture book? What are some that you like?
Margo L. Dill is the author of three books for children from picture books to young adult novels. She is teaching a class about taking hold of your children's writing career, which includes a critique, in the WOW! classroom this spring. To see this class and others, please check out: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html