By Katrina Moore
Picture books, by their nature, are books in which the pictures tell as much (sometimes more, sometimes all) of the story as the words. When done well, this is why picture books are so magical. In 40 or less pages (mostly) and 500 or less words (usually) we are made to laugh, or cry, or wonder, and in the very best of cases . . . all of the above.
So how do you craft such a magical marriage between words and illustrations?
And how is this done if you are only the author?
Let’s share some stellar examples:
Sometimes, the words are purposefully open to interpretation, like in SOMEDAY by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds:
This can also lead to illustrations that amplify the drama and escalate the tension (and humor),
like in CHARLOTTE AND THE ROCK by Stephen Martin Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill:
Sometimes, the words are charged with emotion, leading to illustrations that are giggle-worthy,
Or downright hysterical, like in David Shannon’s NO, DAVID!:
Sometimes, the words are super silly, and the illustrations create the perfect compliment,
Sometimes, the words are intended to be ironic (and if you are the author-only, this is an instance where you will want to include an art note), as in Cate Berry and Charles Santoso’s PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME, where the words say,
In the above picture book examples, the words and art flow together fluidly, sometimes complimenting each other, sometimes elevating each other, sometimes opposing each other, and sometimes balancing each other so beautifully that the matches are seemingly made . . .
in picture book heaven.
So as you craft your picture books, think:
How can I leave room for the illustrator?
What purposeful word choices can I use to make a big splash?
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. Her second picture book, GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by the amazing Xindi Yan, is a humorous and heartfelt story about a little girl, Daisy, and how she connects with her Chinese grandfather across cultures and generations, forthcoming from Little Bee Books in 2020.
When she is not writing or teaching kids in elementary school, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
Rita D. Russell
8/30/2018 01:26:14 pm
Great post, Katrina, with awesome examples! Language is so very important in picture books -- no room for wasted words.
9/4/2018 06:42:58 am
Thank you, Rita!
8/30/2018 07:07:21 pm
I liked how you showed different ways to do this -- thanks for a thought-provoking post!
9/4/2018 06:44:54 am
My pleasure, Andrea. I’m so glad it got you thinking :-)
Amy Danner Terranova
9/2/2018 05:03:54 am
Thank you for showing us - not just telling us!!
9/4/2018 06:46:14 am
You’re welcome, Amy! I always learn more when I’m shown, too :-)
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Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!