Picture Books 101

Leonard S. Marcus in Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book writes:

A picture book is a dialogue between two worlds: the world of images and the world of words…Picture books also forge a dialogue between generations: between the artists and writers who create them and the children who compose their primary audience (3).

If you’re early in your picture book writing journey, the most practical advice I can offer is to begin by READING. This cannot be overstated! 

Read lots and lots of picture books: First, as a reader. What appeals to you? What doesn’t? Then read as a writer. Study. Analyze. What makes one picture book succeed where another fails? Read the classics – there are many wonderful lists that can guide you. And read piles of picture books published within the last five years. Type up some of your favorites, allowing the language, rhythm, and cadence to seep “into your bones.” 

Remember – picture books are a tight art form, similar to poetry, written to please and satisfy all, from the youngest listener to the adult reader. Picture books are an aural (listening) and oral (speaking) experience. Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to the joy of reading. Many of the best books have stood the test of time and have gone on to be shared with a new generation of young ones. These books are deceptively simple, but hair-pullers to write!

I hope you’ll find the following series of “Picture Book 101” essays and interviews, as well as these “best of” lists a good place to start as you begin your own picture book writing adventure. Enjoy! 

Essays and Interviews

 “Best of ” Lists