Picture Books

More than any other genre of children’s literature, picture books best represent childhood to many of us. Memories of being read to by a parent, grandparent, or teacher when we were young, maybe curled up on their lap.

The emotions these books stir up in us probably have as much to do with the memories of that closeness to caring adults as they do with the pictures and words.

However, the illustrations and text in a picture book ARE extremely important. So important, in fact, that editors won’t even consider accepting a writer’s submission for publication unless certain guidelines are followed, including topic, style, and length. (See Writing a Picture Book below for details.)

Choosing Good Books to Read

So how do you decide which books to choose for your child? Here are a few things to look for:

  • Is the story fast-moving?
  • Will the words hold your child’s attention, maybe through humor or an unusual plot?
  • Does the story have a happy ending?
  • Would you enjoy reading the book to your child? Your own interest in a book can be contagious!
Children’s librarians can be great resources when you’re trying to find good books for your child to read. Sales people who work in the children’s sections of most large bookstores should also be able to make some good suggestions.

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you can search for these books online as well.

Popular Picture Books

Listed below are 10 of the best illustrated storybooks for kids, according to online resources and my own personal experience:

Writing a Picture Book

Writing a picture book is a little like writing poetry, only more structured. The words in a poem create visual images – things you can experience with your five senses, not abstract “things” that are vague and unclear.

This is important in books for small children, too. That’s because preschool-age children can only relate to things from their own world: activities or events they’re familiar with (getting ready for bed, playing outdoors, taking a bath, etc.), or feelings (loneliness, fear, joy, etc.).

Since feelings are abstract, the author and illustrator need to communicate these feelings through events and illustrations that show those feelings.

For instance, a story might feature a small boy becoming separated from his mother in a store. The illustrations could show the child hiding behind some clothes, afraid to talk to strangers, and the text could explain what’s happening.

Looking at the pictures and hearing the words will probably help a child deal with his or her own feelings of fear better the next time they’re in an unfamiliar situation.

As with poetry, words in a young child's storybook need to express thoughts powerfully in as few words as possible. They also need to fit on a set number of pages (typically 24 or 32, although baby books are usually 16 pages).

To make it easier to plan the layout of your book, create a “dummy” or an imitation of the finished product. This can be done by folding or stapling blank sheets of paper together. This dummy is only intended to help you figure out where to place the text and pictures on each page. It’s NOT something you’ll be sending to the editor.

For information on other aspects of writing children’s books, see my page on writing children’s books. If you’re interested in seeing more information on finding good children’s picture books, or on writing them, let me know.

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