What makes a great picture book?
A picture book is so much more than the sum of its words and images – it’s a dance between text and visuals, the expressly stated and the meaning between the lines, the creators’ vision and the young readers’ imaginations.
While it’s impossible to pin down the specific elements that make a children’s picture book unforgettable, these are some things that help in a big way:
- The art tells its own story – from hidden details that pop out every time you re-read the book to additional elements that lend depth, humour, or layers to the story, a good children’s book has art that brings a new perspective to a book, rather than just depicting what’s in the text.
- There’s food for thought – be it slapstick humour or a story about love and loss, a book for kids must linger in the child’s mind long after the reading experience is over. It will ideally raise interesting questions, fuel the imagination, or encourage a conversation about the themes in the book.
- Breaking stereotypes – while not all books have the scope for, or can take on the responsibility of, dismantling all age-old stereotypes, a good children’s book must at the very least attempt to represent more diverse characters, question traditional gender roles in kid lit, and be conscious of hidden biases, so that it might be easier to free ourselves from them and depict scenarios that keep up with the changing times.
- They’re timeless – a children’s book must steer clear of the trap of oversimplifying subjects or underestimating the target audience. It’s a cliché, but it’s also very true: a children’s book must resonate as much with a 5-year-old as it does with a 90-year-old, for one is never too old for a good story.