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I have been enjoying Shelf Elf’s 30 Picture Books in 30 Days. Inspired by Candlewick Press’ 365 day celebration of picture book wonder (We Believe in Picture Books), Shelf Elf decided “every day of September, I am going to be posting a review of a picture book that makes me happy and shows everyone why we should all believe in picture books.” She has done a fantastic job sharing her belief and joy, not to mention some very exciting picture books, authors and illustrators.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of celebrating October… I was over at The Tattered Cover (a lovely local indie bookshop) and I thought, I could do this, but how to choose. …and then I went to the very substantial Denver Public Library: Central. Holy Moly there are so many picture books! The thing is: N is too old and tall and graceful to toddle around and pull books like we used to; she is barely closer to the floor than me. I also live a mournfully long way away from my nephews and niece who are all under the age of…are the eldest in 2nd grade already?! So I’m not sure if I will do 31 in 31 or how I will be choosing the books as I go, but I think I am going to go with the picture book celebration momentum such as Candlewick Press, Shelf Elf, Carl V. w/ The Insomniacs and Jessica’s post at The Bluestockings Society have provided me.

In his essay “Picture Books: Who Are They For?“, Artist/Author Shaun Tan writes:

Picture books are synonymous with Children’s Literature. But is this is a necessary condition of the art form itself? Or is it just a cultural convention, more to do with existing expectations, marketing prejudices and literary discourse?

The simplicity of a picture book in terms of narrative structure, visual appeal and often fable-like brevity might seem to suggest that it is indeed ideally suited to a juvenile readership. It’s about showing and telling, a window for learning to read’ in a broad sense, exploring relationships between words, pictures and the world we experience every day. But is this an activity that ends with childhood, when at some point we are sufficiently qualified to graduate from one medium to another? Simplicity certainly does not exclude sophistication or complexity; we inherently know that the truth is otherwise. “Art,” as Einstein reminds us, “is the expression of the most profound thoughts in the simplest way.”

And it’s clear that older readers, including you and me, remain interested in the imaginative play of drawings and paintings, telling stories, and learning how to look at things in new ways. There is no reason why a 32-page illustrated story can’t have equal appeal for teenagers or adults as they do for children. After all, other visual media such as film, television, painting or sculpture do not suffer from narrow preconceptions of audience. Why should picture books? It is interesting that observe that when I paint pictures for gallery exhibitions, I am never asked who I am painting for.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessica says:

    I love this. I kind of always dismissed pictures books until I had a kid and had a chance to read (and reread and reread) lots of them. Like any other form, there are bad ones and good ones and great ones. And the great ones deserve just as much attention as the great novels.

    I can’t wait to see what else you do to celebrate this month!

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