Every time I pick up a picture book I relive the joy of being a child.
Reading a picture book is very different from reading an adult book. With almost any book other than a Picture book (any book where there are many pictures and they are as important to the book as the words are). When I pick up an adult book I am most interested in the story (or stories) inside. It is the text that is most important.
When I pick up a picture book, it is the book I am most interested in. The entire book is the experience, not just the story. That is not to say that the story is unimportant, of course it is. A poor story usually means only one reading and loneliness on a shelf. But picking up a picture book means pondering the title, examining the jacket – both sides, then the cover, the inside flaps, and every single page thoroughly and if it’s a good book that will be done over and over again.
Every good picture book has at least three stories. There is the book itself and the child’s reaction to it, the feel of the book, its weight, its size, its paper, its colors and how the child feels about having the book in hand. Parents often despair when their child damages a book, colors in it, chews on it, tears or crumples pages in it. For a child, though, that’s part of the fun. A book is to be enjoyed, completely in every way that it can be enjoyed. I think that’s the goal of life for a child and their books help them fulfill that goal.
Then there’s the story told by the pictures, all the pictures – cover to cover. Sometimes each picture tells another story. Sometimes a picture might have more than one story to tell. Each picture deserves careful examination. That’s why a child will often stop the person who is reading a book from turning a page – the pictures are still being read. Sometimes the pictures are so compelling that words are not needed. A picture is worth a thousand words can be especially true in a picture book.
Then, of course, there is the text. The text is often the most important part of the book for an adult, because it’s the story that attracts an adult. I like to think the text is the most important part of a picture book for children, too. I like to think it’s the part of the book that causes the child to return to it, but it’s not. It’s the part of the book that can cause a child not to return, but it could be any of the three elements of a picture book – the book, the pictures, the text – that causes a child to want that particular book to be read again and again.
If you can step back into your childhood. If you can bring out that inner child and pick up a good picture book, you’ll have so much fun, fun that you might not have had for years.