I’ve already mentioned how into books we were when my daughter was young and how when she was about 18 months old, she had her first library card.
Well, we’d go to the library every couple of weeks, and she would pick out her allotted 10 books. It was a ritual that I really enjoyed. She was allowed to look at everything in the children’s library and to pick whatever books interested her. Sometimes, that included books that weren’t picture books, but meant for older kids. No matter. We looked at pictures and I would read or tell her what the pictures were about. Reading the first sentence of each paragraph often works well. 🙂
Her topics were very organized, too. Shannon liked dinosaur books, of course, but also animal books and funny picture books. I have to admit that the picture books were the most fun for me. And really, when people think about writing for kids, this is the type book they think of first. Though they still simple simplistic in style, they’re anything but.
Here’s a list of great picture book authors:
- Don Freeman: Corduroy
- H. A. Rey, the Curious George series
- Stephen Kellogg: the Pinkerton series
- Margaret Wise Brown: Goodnight Moon
- Crockett Johnson: Harold and the Purple Crayon
- Dr. Seuss (of course)
- Bernard Waber: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile
- Ludwig Bemelmans: Madeline
- Chris Van Allsburg: The Polar Express
- Ezra Jack Keats: The Snowy Day
- Tomie De Paola: Strega Nona
- Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are
- Marc Brown: the Arthur series
- Harry Allard & James Marshall: The Stupids
And on and on and on… There are so many picture books, but these were on our list more than once.
And we’d go home with our 10 books and Mom would read them — all in one sitting.
And the next day, Mom would read them — all in one sitting.
And every day, Mom would read them — all in one sitting, until it was time to go and get a new stack from the library.
So, Mom became very interested in writing for kids. I can do this, she thought. And so she did, though her children’s writing morphed into writing for older groups. But…
You can, too. This is a perfect way to start. Go to the library and get those books in the list above. Then, read them all in one sitting. Every day for a week. By the end of the week, you’ll have a much better understanding of how children’s picture books work.
Look at style and language. Notice the number of pages and how many words on a page. See how the illustrations do half the work in some books. It’s a real education.