Becoming a Picture Book Scholar

   Ann Whitford Paul talks about the importance of picture book writers to
   become picture book scholars. She believes that a picture writer must read
   and study a lot of picture books before (s)he could write her own book. And
   this makes a lot of sense. Today, I want to reflect on the concept of becoming
   a picture book scholar.
   Picture book writers should spend an ample amount of time reading
   picture books. It would be especially helpful if you looked at most of the new
   picture books that come into your local library.  Just make it a habit to read
   ten or more picture books per week.  This will keep you seeped in the rhyme
   and structure of picture books.
   But when you set out to read a picture book, don’t simply read from cover
   to cover and put it away. You must study the picture book, especially ones
   that really appeal to you. Think about the book. Think about the story line.
   Does it appeal to you? Is it a topic that you would like to tackle?
   Take notes on the book. How many characters are in the book? What is the
   role of the main character? If you had to write a story on this topic, would
   your main character act in a similar way? Or would your main character act
   more passively or aggressively?
   Study what works for you in the story.  Write it down. Write down what
   doesn’t work or doesn’t appeal to you as well.  This is invaluable information
   when you write your own picture books.
   If an author really appeals to you, you may want to read several books by
   the same author. What topic does (s)he like to write about? Is (s)he better at
   writing on one topic rather than another? Which topic do you think (s)he is
   best able to write about? By answering these questions, you will be carving a
   niche for yourself in writing picture books.          
   ~ Happy Reading!
   ~ Irene


2 thoughts on “Becoming a Picture Book Scholar

  1. This is terrific advice for aspiring writers and absolutely supported by the information shared with me by authors who’ve contacted me in connection with my Picture Books blog. Since picture book format is so short, many writers have said that the challenge is not what to put into your book, but what to leave out. Also, if you’re not illustrating your own work, you need to think about how you writing will support the images, and vice versa. Again, great advice! And after reading hundreds of books, you should still look for your own special “slant” to make something that is original.

  2. Hi Keith,

    Writing picture books is really hard work! And knowing what to include and what to delete is very, very difficult and takes a lot of practice.

    Thanks so much for visiting and for sharing your expertise.

    Take care,

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