Monday 15 July 2024

Can AI Write a Good Picture Book? Lynne Garner

In my role as a teacher, I’m being encouraged to embrace AI. As my boss say’s “it’s not going away.” So, I recently decided to explore AI and use it as a research tool for a small collection of how-to books I’m working on. The main issue I’ve had with the research the AI has produced is it makes up random URLs to support the information it’s found. This has meant I’ve had to find supporting information to ensure what it has created is correct. So, it’s not saved me any time. But I wondered how good or bad it would be at writing a picture book. So, I opened my usual AI platform and as July is ‘the’ month for being Wild About Wildlife (and I am wild about wildlife) I asked it to:

 

“Write a 1,000-word picture book story over 12 double page spreads based on the national celebration of wild about wildlife month.”


The results were not quite what I’d expected. This is what it generated.

 

Spread 1-2: Introduction

"Every July, a special celebration begins—Wild About Wildlife Month! All around the world, people come together to learn about, protect, and celebrate the amazing creatures that share our planet."

Illustration: A lush forest filled with animals, birds flying, deer grazing, and a river flowing through. 

 

Spread 3-4: The Forest

"In the forest, creatures big and small play important roles. Foxes dash through the trees, rabbits nibble on fresh green leaves, and birds sing beautiful songs from their treetop homes."

Illustration: A close-up of the forest, highlighting different animals like foxes, rabbits, and birds in their natural habitats.

 

Spread 5-6: The Ocean 

"Beneath the waves, the ocean teems with life. Fish of every colour swim gracefully, dolphins leap and play, and sea turtles glide through the deep blue sea. Each one is a treasure of the ocean."

Illustration: A vibrant underwater scene with colourful fish, a playful dolphin, and a majestic sea turtle. 

 

Spread 7-8: The Savanna 

"On the open savanna, mighty elephants roam, lions rest under the shade, zebras gallop across the plains, and giraffes stretch their necks to munch on tall trees. This is their wild kingdom."

Illustration: A vast savanna with elephants, lions, zebras, and giraffes under the bright sun.

 

Spread 9-10: The Mountains 

"High in the mountains, bears forage for berries, eagles soar high in the sky, and mountain goats leap from rock to rock. Life here is rugged and beautiful."

Illustration: Snow-capped mountains with a family of bears, a soaring eagle, and a shy mountain goat. 

 

Spread 11-12: The Desert

"In the desert, where the sun blazes hot, camels trek across sandy dunes, a fennec fox peeks out from its burrow, and cacti bloom with brilliant flowers, showing life thrives even in the driest places."

Illustration: A desert scene with camels, a fennec fox, and blooming cacti under a starry night sky.

 

Spread 13-14: The Rainforest 

"Deep in the rainforest, vibrant parrots chatter, monkeys swing from tree to tree, and sloths move slowly along the branches. This green world is full of wonder."

Illustration: A dense rainforest with colourful parrots, curious monkeys, and a slow-moving sloth. 

 

Spread 15-16: Protecting Wildlife 

"Wild About Wildlife Month reminds us that we can all help protect our wild friends. Planting trees, keeping rivers clean, and respecting animal homes make a big difference."

Illustration: Children planting trees, picking up trash, and observing animals respectfully. 

 

Spread 17-18: Learning and Exploring 

"Learning about wildlife is fun! Reading books, watching videos, and exploring nature helps us understand how important these creatures are to our world."

Illustration: A classroom with children looking at books, a computer showing wildlife videos, and a teacher holding a globe. 

 

Spread 19-20: Families Celebrating 

"Families celebrate together by having picnics in the park, watching birds through binoculars, and even joining wildlife parades. It's a month full of joy and discovery."

Illustration: Families having a picnic in a park, watching birds, and participating in a wildlife-themed parade. 

 

Spread 21-22: Our Wild Planet 

"Our planet is home to so many amazing animals. From the tiniest insects to the largest whales, every creature plays a part in the web of life. Let's celebrate and protect them all!"

Illustration: A globe showing different habitats with animals from each habitat around it. 

 

Spread 23-24: Conclusion 

"As Wild About Wildlife Month comes to an end, remember to carry its spirit in your heart all year long. Let's be kind to animals and the earth, and always stay wild about wildlife!"

Illustration: A beautiful sunset over a landscape filled with diverse wildlife, a rainbow in the sky. 

 

Back Cover:

"Join the adventure! Celebrate the beauty and importance of wildlife with this colourful journey through different habitats. Let's protect and cherish our wild friends every day!"

Illustration: A montage of various animals from the book with the words "Wild About Wildlife" prominently displayed. 

 

As you can see it’s not a story. There’s no character having to resolve a problem. No story arc. No use of the magic number three. No nice surprise plot twist or resolution and some of the text feels a bit preachy.

 

But what it has produced is the possibility of a non-fiction picture book. Perhaps the text from the first page could become part of my book blub:

 

Every July, a special celebration begins—Wild About Wildlife Month!

All around the world, people come together to learn about, protect,

and celebrate the amazing creatures that share our planet."

 

Perhaps I’d use this or something based on this from pages 21/22 as my opening double page spread:

 

Illustration: A globe showing different habitats with animals from each habitat around it.

 

“Our planet is home to so many amazing animals. From the tiniest insects to the largest whales, every creature plays a part in the web of life.”

 

I’d then explore some of the habitats already highlighted. But I’d expand it and explore all of the habitat’s found on this wondrous planet. Perhaps I’d work on the idea of the web of life for each of the habitats, which is mentioned in spread 21/22.

 

Or…

 

Perhaps I could create a character who is wild about wildlife and travels the world and explores each habitat in a stand-alone book. Oh, I’ve just created a series. Perhaps they solve a wildlife issue. Maybe like this wonderful man who provides new homes for hermit crabs who have been forced to make homes from our rubbish. Check him out below: 



So although what was generated wasn’t what I wanted or expected it has generated something I could work with.

 

My conclusion from this experiment is I’m not too worried about AI at the moment. But as it progresses, I may change my mind and worry writers will become the endangered species.

 

However, I wonder if will it ever be able to make the leaps I’ve made whilst writing this post? I wanted a stand-alone picture book story but I've ended up with an entire non-fiction series. 

 

If there’s an editor out there looking for a new non-fiction series, please feel free to contact me. 😁


Last but not least how do you feel about AI and picture books?

Monday 1 July 2024

Did you know that UK authors get together? Moira Butterfield

 IMPORTANT TIP! There’s a very useful thing you can do to help you feel happier as an author, and that’s talk to other authors! 

 I can recommend this from experience. A few years ago a fellow author introduced me to the Scattered Authors Society, a UK-wide group of traditionally published children’s authors of all sorts (with some living in other parts of Europe). It was set up by authors for authors. Authors do the admin and run the online chats and events for each other. 

 

There’s a retreat or two held every year for those who'd like to spend a few days in person with fellow authors. The attendees run creative workshops for each other and spend precious time writing as well as socialising. I went to my first one filled with trepidation and imposter syndrome, but I didn’t have to worry. I soon made connections and found the creative author-run workshops a revelation. They have really helped me to free-up and vary my writing. The workshops are varied and inclusive, from creative art to problem-solving sessions and writing games that push creative buttons! 

 

Meanwhile there’s a Facebook group for us to chat privately between ourselves. Anyone can post a question or observation – does someone have advice on school visit fees, a new keyboard, a book title dilemma, a difficult edit, getting a new agent or chasing payment, for example? There are sensible rules to the group – nothing defamatory – to make it work the best it can. Twitter/X it most definitely is not. It’s friendly and supportive. 

 

We are planning on having more local meetings in the future, where authors in the same area get together to have some fun creative time with minimal cost. We had our first local meet-up of 'sassies' in the southwest last week, and we were so excited to be together we talked and talked, as well as having a writing game or two and eating the delicious treats brought by everybody. 

 

We also have regular zoom get-togethers for members who want to drop by online. Some of these are social ‘hellos’ and we’ve decided that some in the future are going to focus on specific topics of interest to authors - school visits or applying for grants, for example. By pooling our knowledge we benefit each other. 

 

There are regular blogs, too, on books that people have read and would like to discuss. 

 

The whole thing is a £15 fee for life – just a one-off payment and you’re in for good! 

 

Do check out the website at scatteredauthors.org  (where you’ll be greeted with a picture of our fab winter woodland retreat location).  

 

It would be great to welcome you! 





 

 scatteredauthors.org


Moira Butterfield has published many books for children. She is looking forward to August, when Nosy Crow publishes Welcome to Our Playground, the follow-up to her bestselling Welcome to Our World. Nosy Crow will also be publishing Look What I Found by the River, a follow-up in Moira's National Trust Look What I Found series. 


instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor