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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Picture Books Mini Workshop: Part One: Types

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Look at picture books as scenes in a play.” Phyllis Root

We don’t always think of genre in picture books, however even the youngest versions still have different types and a wide range of interests.

1.     A storybook is a pre-schoolers’ version of a novel.

2.     A concept is 1/2 way between essay and advertisement; it explores an idea.

3.     An information book is like a young child’s encyclopedia.

How do you decide which one you are drawn to write? If you have a strong imagination and love to tell stories, then a storybook is a good place to start. If you are interested in explaining ideas and are a little philosophical, then try a concept book. If you are a curious collector and lover of facts and enjoy exploring the world around you, then information books might be a fun fit.


To a young child everything is new. They love the books that connect especially to their world. I have lost the reference note as to where this list originally came from but it is an excellent reminder to identify with the voice and emotional perspectives of toddlers and pre-school ages.

Subjects include: “animals, everyday excitements such as trucks, stoves, marching bands, relationships with siblings, parents, grandparents, and monsters who spill milk and keep children awake at night. Three year olds are interested in the bathroom, spilling, making a mess, and making fun of adults.”

Be prepared for the unexpected ideas as well. I had taken my grandsons for a walk and parked the stroller’s emergency brake as I went to help my older one. And suddenly heard the two-year old gasp loudly. I quickly turned around and saw him mesmerized by the sight of the waterfall, that I had forgotten he had never seen before. For days afterwards he wanted to see pictures of waterfalls. I know if I ever write a story for him there must be a waterfall somewhere in the setting.

When you can find your own place in the story and your interests as well, then the more depth and originality you will be able to convey. Plus your own personal curiosity will sustain you throughout the whole process.

Action Steps:

Note that the action movement should go from left to right. Think in scenes rather than lines as you read.

1.     Make a library visit to the picture book area and pick out a random number. Then, without reading any content, scroll through and see if you can identify them according to the categories above. Upon what details did you make your decision?

2.     Read at least two or three in each category. What differences do you notice in presentation both verbally and visually?

3.     Choose one category that interests you the most and find five or six books to take home for study over the next few weeks. This week make a mini chart and note the similarities and differences among them.

Share: What is one of your favorite picture books? Why?

Read deep, marcy

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