In August, I attended the Decatur Book Festival. My favorite session by far celebrated the picture book and included author and children’s book historian Leonard Marcus, author Laurel Snyder, author Mac Barnett, and author/illustrator Chris Raschka.
Here are some notes I took while listening in:
Last year, a front-page New York Times article talked about the picture book being on the way out, due to the digital revolution and ambitious parents interested in bypassing them all together.
Yet picture books still have an important place. They are a “gateway to a life-long appreciation of art and literature” and are “an authentic meeting place for parent and child.” Author Laurel Snyder believes picture books are the “most innovative form of writing [she’s] ever encountered.” Mac Barnett spoke of the “sweet spot” blend of literary and commercial literature that isn’t available in any other genre.
The simplicity of the picture book is deceiving. There is a tension between the text and image that is something bigger than the work the author and illustrator create. It is as if the two together equal more than the whole. Both adults and children make up the audience for these books, and the most effective satisfy both. There’s the “rhythm of the page turn” to consider, as illustrator Chris Raschka says.
“Your language becomes clear and true when you take words away.” – Laurel Snyder
“If I’ve written a picture book that works without pictures, I’ve failed.” – Mac Barnett