Picture Books Aren't Easy

Picture books have undeniable charm. The right one will stick with you for life. The perfect combination of illustrations and effective words can make anyone smile and your heart feel three sizes bigger. I’m still drawn to picture books. A beautiful cover illustration forces me to open the pages until I’m in a trance that others may call “reading an entire picture book in a bookstore.”

Unfortunately, some writers think of picture books as the “easy way out.” I’ve heard it many times and it’s always disheartening: Someone gets frustrated with the idea of writing a novel (it’s admittedly not for everyone) and decides instead to write books for children. I’m not against novel writers trying out picture books because some authors are experienced enough to write both without any problems. However, writing a picture book only because they contain “a few simple sentences” is not the right approach.

Picture books are complex. The good ones, anyway. You know how difficult it is to compose a thought within Twitter’s 140 characters limitation? Well, try writing about achieving your dreams, the importance of sharing, the power of friendship, or how to deal with grief in thirty sentences. Writing a picture book isn’t all about rhyming a few words together and cutting and pasting a cute illustration or two. Even Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, a seemingly nonsensical story, required a certain imaginative mind and a mastery of the English language.

Picture books require very special writers. A picture book story either works really well or it doesn’t work at all. There is just as much thought, hard work, and imagination put into a picture book as there is in an adult fiction novel. It’s silly to think that a smaller word count automatically means a picture book is easier to write. It takes a skilled writer to create a powerful story.