Monday, 5 March 2012

What is a picture book? - Linda Strachan

It is fascinating to see  just how wide a spectrum the term 'picture book' can cover.

It can be a board book.
This is one of our family favourites that has stood the test of time.   It is a series by Stephen Cartwright where the child has to find a different creature (Duck, Bird, Puppy etc) in each book.

 In the original version there were no words in it at all, but in later additions a few words were added to each page.  The simple familiar illustrations which are not too fussy, make this an easy book to read with babies and very young children.

I think I prefer the older version with no words at all and the discussion of the picture is something that makes sharing it with a child all the more fun.

A board book
 is a lovely introduction for very young children and the thick board pages make it easier for little fingers to learn how to turn pages, without destroying the book in the process.

Probably what we think of most frequently, when we say picture book, is the familiar large format book for small children, where the pictures take up a lot of the space on the page.

This is where picture books come into their own as the images help to tell the story allowing the writer to cut out any unnecessary words and hone the story so that it flows and has rhythm.
The text may look deceptively simple and will often involve repetition, and sometimes rhyme.

 Picture books for young children are designed to be read out loud.  But for many people reading out loud is not something they have had much opportunity or occasion to do, quite often not since they themselves were novice readers at school.
For some parents it can be a new and at times daunting experience. But for the child the flow of the story is so much more important than the performance or any little mistakes the parent makes.

One of the joys of reading picture books is how inventive they can be and how even quite young children can understand layers in the story.

 One great example of this is Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram. Bob does his normal job every day - clearing up the moon after the tourists have left - and he laughs at the idea that there might be such a thing as aliens.

 The delightful thing is that  behind him on the moon and even on the bus he takes home back on earth the reader can see little aliens are everywhere but Bob hasn't noticed them.  Of course the children see the joke right away.

Another book I discovered recently is Baby Pie by Tom MacRae and Nick Ward.  Three little trolls Oink, Boink and Moink are looking for a baby for their baby pie.

I wondered about this at first but my little granddaughter of two and a half loves it and she adores joining in when they say
                 'lick lips, pat belly, my oh my!'

But of course the trolls are... well I won't spoil it for you - just to say that the baby ends up smiling and the trolls get more than they bargained for!  A delightful story, the twist at the end and repetition makes it fun to join in.

There are also longer picture books
where the story is much longer but the illustrations still take up around 50% of the book. As children get older they still delight in being read to but may be able to read it themselves.

Some stories are not written for  one particular age group. We all love a good story and stories such as the tale of Greyfriars Bobby, that faithful little dog who slept every night on his master's grave for many years, delight old and young alike.
Growing up in Edinburgh the statue of Bobby was a familiar landmark so when I was asked to write a version of  Greyfriars Bobby I was delighted.  It was great to be working once again with illustrator Sally J. Collins, whose images capture scenes of Edinburgh beautifully.

I often come across children of 8 and 9 who feel they are too old for a picture book and understandably they are still asserting their right to be  moving on from picture books, which can be seen as a sort of rite of passage.  But I think it is a pity that we tend to think that picture books are only for young children (although if you look for them, there are a few that are quite scary and definitely for older children and adults).

Do you have a favourite picture book?
Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages, from picture books to teen novels and writing handbook  Writing For Children


Paeony Lewis said...

Seeing tiny toddlers sitting on their own and turning the pages of a book always delights me, especially if the book is upside down! Although what delights me the most is seeing an adult and child sharing a book - it's such a simple 'together time' that also encourages reading, concentration, and a joy in words, pictures and stories. Good blog, Linda.
Oh, and I read 'Dear Zoo' so much I can still recite it 15 years later. And 'Owl Babies' by Martin Waddell was one of our favourites with it's reassuring story about separation anxiety.

Abie Longstaff said...

Lovely post. I still enjoy picture books even now and my favourite ones sit on a shelf above my desk to inspire me. Some of them, such as 'Dear Daddy' have very little text but are still so heartwarming and emotive. One of my longer length favourites is 'Tim all Alone', which my children still love (at 10 and 8 years old).

Linda Strachan said...

I agree, Paeony. It is such a lovely thing to do, reading with little ones, a precious time.

It's great when books stay in your head years later.

Linda Strachan said...

Another favourite of ours, which is sadly out of print now but our old copy still survives, is Wide Awake Jake by Helen Young and illustrated by Jenny Williams.

It's a great bedtime story and it is wonderful to see our children reading it to their own little ones.

Penny Dolan said...

A favourite "picture book" for older children was Graham Oakley's wordless "Magical Changes", a book completely full of horizontally-split pages that cleverly creates, with each fresh combination,a host of endless fantastical landscapes.

And another I've used with lots with children when out visiting was "The Time It Took Tom" a wonderful picture book by Nick Sharratt.

Probably both now out of print but charming ify ou can find them.

A recent utter favourite was Oliver Jeffers "The Incredible Book Eating Boy."

madwippitt said...

Never too old for a good picture book! Maybe it's one of those things you come back to when you're older and have got over the whole growing-up childhood thing of not wanting to look childish? I have a copy of The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit that makes me weep (in a good way) And although I hsave no idea what it was I remember loving one picture book so much when I was very little that when it fell apart I was so upset that my Dad gave it a new life by making the pictures into a beautiful hand made wooden jigsaw puzzle. (And was then up half the night trying to put it together so I'd see it when I woke up!)

Moira Butterfield said...

The picture books we share the most become family treasures, don't they. They make a very precious emotional bond between adults and children. The books that I shared with my children are forever etched in my mind, and they make me smile just thinking about them.I had a big surprise when I got new neighbours,and it turned out that the book they shared most with their now teenage son was a book by me, done so long ago that I had forgotten it. He was a little bit freaked out and I was both amazed and delighted to have provided the experience for them.

Jane Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Clarke said...

Yes, sharing a picture book with children is a very precious thing. When my boys were young, their favourite picture book was Dear Zoo - and like Paeony, I can still see every page in my mind's eye. My choice now would be David Wiesner's Flotsam - it has no words at all, but draws you into an extraordinary layered and complex story that can be enjoyed by a child and an adult on totally different levels.

Moira Butterfield said...

I love Flotsam, too! I always buy it as a present for any family youngsters that come my way. It used to be that if a book was produced without words, it attracted VAT because it was officially classed as a toy. I don't know what the rule is now - Such a silly one.

Alison Boyle said...

Thanks Linda for the reminder that board books are picturebooks, not just the standard twelve spreads we've come to associate with the term. Our favourite early board books were Satoshi Kitamura's cat character called Boots published by Anderson Press. A spare, muted illustration style with perfect text. Young children don't need everything to be bright and hitting you between the eyes.

Linda Strachan said...

What a lovely thing to do!

Linda Strachan said...

It must have made your day, Moira!

Linda Strachan said...

I don't know Flotsam but will look out for it, Jane.

Linda Strachan said...

Such a shame when they are out of print and hard to find.