Wednesday, March 07, 2012

100 Picture Books

At the BDAC illustration conference we got to hear picture book author Anne Bowen talk about picture book writing. (she's very good, check out her books)

This is the best picture I got of her. She is in the scarf.

She mentioned hearing somewhere that a person should read 100 picture books before they try to write one. Now, I am sure in my time I have read at least that many. But it can't hurt to do it again.

I decided to read the 100 books and pay special attention to the writing. Normally I pay most of the attention to the illustrations so this was a bit of exercise for me.

I started checking books out at the library and reading them. I picked books randomly off the shelves making sure not to judge by the illustration or how well known the book is.

I haven't gotten through the whole hundred but here are some of my over all observations so far.

First: I noticed that I don't like a lot of picture books.

Second: Books that have gotten, or are getting, a lot of attention usually deserve it, especially when compared to all the other books out there.

Third: The shorter the text the better I like it. When I look at a picture book I imagine reading it out loud to a child. If it's too wordy I don't think I would get through with out skipping parts. The shorter tighter stories also felt more fun and less weighed down by words. 

I also enjoyed the books that have a narrative story rather than those that were more of a list type book. But I think the list books tended to have a better rhythm and rhyme scheme in their writing.

Here are some of my favorites so far.

I felt like each of these books have fun tight text, told a great story, and worked well with the illustrations. 

What kinds of things have any of you discovered about picture book writing?

 Buy Prints or Cards and Gifts illustrated by Manelle.  


  1. I think I probably read 100 picture books every few months! :) And I still haven't tried to write one. I just like reading them. Still, I think that is very good advice. Glad to hear you liked Chilly Milly Moo - that's one of the ones I recently put on hold - I'm excited to read it. I often read picture books and think, "Hmmm, I wonder what Manelle would think about this book?" No kidding - actually that happens fairly often. Have you read Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly? That's one of my new favorites.

  2. Awesome. I do miss talking about books with you. I'll have to check that one out and let you know what I think.

  3. Just passing by and had a look around. Love your work. 'Goose's library' made me smile - probably as I am a pen & ink artist (and write)

  4. Thanks John. It's always nice to know people are looking at the content not just being board.



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