Learning by studying picture books

We are working like snails through the Ann Whitford Paul book called “Writing Picture Books” in the Word by Word Facebook group, but that is probably a good pace. We do a chapter a week, which consists of a reading and then homework. This homework includes reading at least one new picture book per week.

A new picture book I read recently, which was recommended to me by someone in a another group, is called “The Day the Crayons Quit” (ages 3-7). The book is written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, and it is one of the current bestsellers.

A group of crayons has a bunch of concerns, such as being overworked or ignored, which they wish their owner, Duncan, to address. So they write him a series of letters. How will Duncan make the crayons happy?

While studying this book, I noticed a couple of things that I had learned from Ann Whitford Paul. First of all, the author writes in the rather unique point of view called mask voice, using the voice of the crayons. In some of the homework exercises, Whitford Paul asks us to play around with point of view. Traditionally, most children’s picture books are told in the same way, in the third person. Changing the point of view may make the book stand out. It certainly does in this case.

Another thing Whitford Paul mentions is that the books that become bestsellers must appeal to both adults, who are the gatekeepers, and children. But children and adults often have different tastes. When you come across a book that appeals to both, you have a winner. In this case, my daughter and I loved it. She read it first, and then she could not wait for me to read it to her. And I admit it, I laughed harder than she did at some parts.

This book is one that is worth reading to your child and one worth studying, if you are a children’s book author.


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