In my last post I talked about Top Ten Things Librarians Look for In Middle Grade and Young Adult Books. Many of those points also apply to picture books. So in this post I’m going to talk about what makes a picture book story time worthy.
Generally, picture books are meant to be enjoyed by a child together with a parent, a teacher, or a sibling. After polling my fellow librarians, I came up with ten points that make a picture book a top choice for story time:
1. An evergreen topic made fresh. There are certain themes that kiddos gravitate towards such as space, pets, dinosaurs or retellings. Marcie Colleen’s newest release Penguinaut!, illustrated by Emma Yarlett, is a fresh space adventure story, while Tammi Sauer’s Mary Had a Little Glam gives a classic nursery rhyme a new twist.
2. Books that are fun!!!! Fun can be in the way of illustrations, or funny words or situations. Dr. Seuss makes use of whimsical characters and even stranger lingo like the Lorax (no surprise his books elicit tons of laughs!) So does Alastair Heim’s hilarious No Tooting at Tea, illustrated by Sara Not.
3. Actions or phrases that can easily be repeated. Children like being part of the experience and it’s made even better when they can chant or sing along. Author Robert Munsch makes use of repetition in many of his books.
4. Interactive picture books such as Press Here by Herve Tullet or Mo Willems’ Pigeon series (kids love being able to say no to that ever-persistent kid-like pigeon!)
5. Lyrical language or picture books in rhyme. Sandra Boynton is master of engaging rhymes and picture books that roll off the tongue (bonus when you haven’t had time to practice!)
6. Short and sweet. While there is room for both short and long stories, sometimes short is the way to go, especially with younger kiddos. But just because a picture book is short doesn’t mean it isn’t fully fleshed out, like in Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.
7. Picture books that fill in gaps, especially books that offer diverse perspectives. These include books such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, or Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson.
8. Stories that prepare kids for the future or stories that are with the times, such as Josh Funk’s How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios.
9. Books that step outside the box or are unexpected in some way, such as Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Maximillian Villainous, illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, which like the Despicable Me movie turns what it means to be a villain on its head. Or The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (no explanation needed!)
10. Nonfiction, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), or even fictional stories that help children understand the world around them. Any nonfiction picture book by Nancy Churnin fits the bill because her stories are not only well told but also interesting.
Many of these examples could fit into multiple points. It is my hope you will use this list to help you position your story. More than anything we want exceptional stories and authors we can trust (there is a reason I often incorporate books by Josh Funk and Tara Lazar in my story time line up!)
Please feel free to comment below and I promise to reply. Stay tuned for my November post, in which I’ll offer tips to help you plan and execute a successful school author visit (from the perspective of a librarian, of course).