Picture Book Appeal

I love picture books.  I read them every day with my preschoolers.  Some of them get read every day, while others lounge on the shelf half of forever before being noticed.  So what makes a good picture book?

Okay, what makes a good picture book in my opinion?

  • My favorite picture books are those where the text and the pictures work together and independently to create a richer meaning.  This doesn’t mean it has to be a picture search.  Rather, I want the text and the words to complement each other.  A great example: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
  • My second favorite kind of picture book is one that uses the page turn.  What does this mean?  I love the pauses that turning a page creates.  It’s a chance to catch your breath and lounge in the moment.  It’s a chance to rev my imagination.  It’s suspense at its finest.  A time where I am surprised and delighted to turn the page.  A great example: The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.
  • Another favorite trait?  Lyrical language.  I heart The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.  If ever a writer has mastered the art of economy, it is Ms. Donaldson in this book. 
  • What else do I love?  Turning the page and finding the unexpected.  There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer rocks my socks off.
  • A good belly laugh is almost always appreciated by parents and kids alike.  Laughing out loud with a child is the most magical connection we can have with the little people.  A great read: Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin.
  • Another important component in changing a book from a casual read to a daily favorite is readability, including cadence and rhythm.  If I can’t pronounce the words, if the sentences don’t flow or if I’m tripping over my tongue with poetic, but unnatural prose, I will curse the book in words I can’t pronounce, but most certainly do flow.  Then I’ll throw it in the give-a-way pile, never to be seen again. To this end, I love Speedy Little Race Cars by Dawn Bentley.
  • An absolute must for me as a mom and a preschool teacher is the read-again factor.  There are times I literally close the last page of a book and open the beginning for a second, back-to-back reading.  If  I hate the characters, the plot, or if any of the above mentioned factors aren’t done well, I will recycle the book quicker than I slap annoying mosquitoes.  One I’ve loved listening to as a kid and now love reading as an adult is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! by Judith Viorst.

So there you go.  A completely unscientific list of books and the reasons why I (and my preschoolers) love them.

What is your favorite picture book and why is it a compelling read?

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6 responses to “Picture Book Appeal

  1. I love all your choices! I don’t have a favorite picture book. It’s too hard to choose!

    • Laura,

      Not sure I have a favorite either, though I’d have to say The Gruffalo may be it in terms of contemporary books. Where the Wild Things Are will likely remain a forever favorite. It’s too awesome not to love.

      I pray picture books never go out of style!

  2. My son is seven, but he’s very visually oriented, so last year my husband and I decided, instead of going the “early reader” route (those books aren’t usually that interesting!), we’d just keep reading picture books, but with my son reading to us as well as us reading to him – often, there are more difficult and new words in a picture book than there are in an early or easy reader.

    So I go through a LOT of picture books, and I’ve been really impressed with the quality of books that are out there. I love your list. I think the kind of picture book that works the best at our house is one that has vibrant, colourful images and a fun, quirky story. A bit of a surprise tucked in here and there is also nice!

    • Belle,

      Thanks for weiging in. You are so right. There are tons of beautiful, fun and imaginitive picture books out there. They are my favorite reads with kids, as it’s such a great time to learn. Read aloud PBs definitely have more difficult vocabulary which is what makes them so wonderful to share. It’s great that your son reads them to you now. Such a fun milestone.

      Does he have a favorite? One he always turns to?

  3. I teach preschool as well and they love picture books! They look forward each day to listen to a story right before lunch. My little critters like the Pinkalicious books and Gilbert in the Deep (about a shark) and Silly Sally. Of course the howl every time they hear the word UNDERWEAR (hehe) in a story. Cracks them up!

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