Picture book

Picture book

A picture book is a popular form of illustrated literature—more precisely, a book with comparatively few words and at least one picture on each of its openings—popularized in the 20th century Western world.

The illustrations in picture books use a range of media such as chronologically enhanced digital spectrun, oil paints, acrylics, collage, quilting, watercolor and sometimes pencil. Picture books are most often aimed at young children, and while some may have very basic language especially designed to help children develop their reading skills, most are written with vocabulary a child can understand but not necessarily read. For this reason, picture books tend to have two functions in the lives of children: they are first read to young children by adults, and then children read them themselves once they begin to learn to read. Some picture books are also written with older children in mind, developing themes or topics that are appropriate for children even into early adolescence.

Most often, the author and illustrator are two different people. Once an editor in a publishing house has accepted a manuscript for a text from an author, the editor selects an illustrator.

Some of the best-known picture books include Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit, "Robert Mccloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings", and Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are". All these have texts written by their illustrators.

While pictures are iconic representations, resembling in some way the objects they depict, words are arbitrary signs, with no actual resemblance to the things they refer to. As a result, words and pictures convey different kinds of information, and the words and the pictures in a picture book communicate different aspects of the stories they tell together. They tend then to have an ironic relationship to each other--one tells or shows what the other is silent about. Competent illustrators often use these differences to create surprisingly complex stories out of relatively simple texts. Commentators have suggested a range of ways in which illustrators use aspects of pictorial representation to add complex information about the characters and situations outlined by the simple verbal texts of picture books: the size, shape, color and position of visual objects both on the two-dimensional plane of a picture and in the three-dimensional space it implies; the cultural and symbolic implications of the visual objects depicted; the use of a repertoire of visual styles to express specific attitudes towards the subjects being depicted; the relationship of the pictures to each other.

The precursors of the modern picture book were illustrated books of poems and short stories produced by English illustrators Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane, and Kate Greenaway in the latter years of the nineteenth century. These had a larger proportion of pictures to words than earlier books, and many of their pictures were in color. The first book with something like the format picture books still retain now was Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit", first published in 1902. The Caldecott Medal, named for Randolph Caldecott and awarded from 1938, is given each year by the American Library association to the illustrator of the best illustrated American book of that year.

Development and evolution

[ Zielinski, Linda & Stan; "Childrens Picturebook Price Guide", Chap. 1: Today's Golden Era Of Picturebooks; Flying Moose Books; 2006] In the late 19th and early 20th century, illustrated children's picture books were not economically feasible or accessible to a majority of the population, so the books were produced and marketed to a minority of relatively affluent families. Children's literacy was more the exception than the rule, since children were critical providers of labor to both the agrarian and industrial economies. Therefore education, by and large, was considered of secondary importance. Books specifically produced for the entertainment of children were rare, as the industry of children's literature was quite immature. The methods, quality, and economics of multi-color printing technologies were not cost effective for mass market picture books. Some cheap periodicals appealing to the juvenile reader started to appear in the early 20th century, often with uncredited illustrations. Only a few illustrators made their living by illustrating children's books during this period.

The small number of artists who were making their living illustrating children's books were extremely talented, as one can appreciate by looking through any of the books augmented with pictures by Arthur Rackham, Cicely Barker, Willie Pogany, Edmund Dulac, William H. Robinson, Howard Pyle, or Charles Robinson, to name just a few. Generally, these finely illustrated books had eight to twelve pages of illustrated pictures or plates accompanying a classic children's storybook. So, from the artist's perspective, the attention to those relatively few pages were quite high, and the examples are often exquisite.

Because of the high quality of illustration, this early 20th century period is often labeled the "Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration". But, these were definitely not 'picture books' as we understand the category today since the books had very few illustrations. Rather, a combination of elements came together to start the children's picture book industry: Compulsory education, children's literature, printing technology, and child labor laws.

Compulsory education

In 1852, Massachusetts was the first state to mandate a public education requirement for children. Over the next sixty years, compulsory education spread across the states, until finally in 1918, Mississippi became the last state to pass similar legislation. Obviously, this spurred the start of a major transition within the United States: from a country with a majority of illiterate children to a country with a majority of literate children.

Still, mandated schooling was not rigorously enforced, and truancy was endemic across the country. Juvenile literacy was still the exception. Children were considered to be part of the working class, and, for all but the rich, an underlying foundation to the agrarian and industrialized economies. Children did not fully leave the work force until 1936, when the Fair Labor Act resulted in children entering schools in large numbers.

Children's literature

The notion of books specifically for children was rare during the mid-19th century. Books for entertainment or enjoyment were especially rare. The books that were made for children, by and large, were religious or educational in nature. The idea that children should be, could be, entertained by what they read was a relatively novel idea.

Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (Macmillan) in 1866 was one of the first highly successful entertainment books for children, and led to other commercially successful books in the latter part of the 19th century. Helen Bannerman's "Little Black Sambo" (Grant Richards) was published in 1899, and went through numerous printings and versions during the first decade of the 20th century. L. Frank Baum's "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (George M. Hill Co.) was published in 1900, and Baum created a number of other successful Oz-oriented books in the period from 1904 to 1920. Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" (Frederick Warne) was published in 1902 to immediate success. "Peter Rabbit" was Potter's first of many "The Tales of...," including "The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin", "The Tale of Benjamin Bunny", "The Tale of Tom Kitten", and "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck", to name but a few which were published in the years leading up to 1910.

In 1913, Cupples & Leon published a series of dust jacketed "All About" books which emulated the form and size of the Frederick Warne Beatrix Potter books. There were fifteen titles in the Cupples & Leon series, including "All About Peter Rabbit", "All About The Three Bears", "All About Mother Goose", and "All About Little Red Hen". The latter, along with several others, was illustrated by Johnny Gruelle.

In 1918, Gruelle wrote and illustrated "Raggedy Ann", published by P.F. Volland, and in 1920 followed up with "Raggedy Andy Stories". The two books were the cornerstone of a Volland series of children's books, each issued in an individual box, with dust jacket. The front of the box had a paste on cover that matched the illustration on the dust jacket cover. Other Gruelle books in the series included "Beloved Belinda", "Eddie Elephant", and "Friendly Fairies". Other illustrators in the series included Janet Laura Scott, John Rae, and Katherine Sturges Dodge.

These successes, and others that followed in their footsteps, helped establish the children's market as a viable commercial vehicle, leading up to 1920.

Printing technology—offset lithography

Perhaps the largest impact on the development of the picture book was the advancement in printing technology, which made tremendous progress in the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century. In particular, the technology for offset lithography made high quality color printing economical to use for mass produced books.

It is important to understand a little of the process of lithography, since it will lead the reader to a higher appreciation for picture books by illustrators of the 1920s and 1930s, the era in which the technology was fast developing. In addition, the advancements in lithography play a very important role in the picture book industry today.

Prior to the advent of lithography, gravure was the principal method of producing a high quality image to paper. Gravure is the process of engraving the image onto a metal or wood plate, applying ink to the engraving, then transferring the image to paper by impression. The engraving process was tedious, labor intensive, and not very conducive to correction. A lot of skill and technique was required to create the engraving, and the illustrator by necessity was highly connected to the engraving process.

Compared to gravure, lithography is much simpler to execute. Originally, lithography was simply drawing onto a stone using a waxy substance. The stone was then wet, and when an oily ink mixture was applied, it would adhere to the wax and repel from the wet stone areas. Pressing paper to the stone would then transfer the image to paper. In this way, etching an image into metal or wood was no longer required. This greatly economized the process of lithography over gravure, in terms of time, labor, and materials. The economics for producing illustrations in books was greatly improved.

In order to do multiple colors using lithography, multiple stones would be used, one for each color. On each stone an image needs to be created, each image particular to a particular color. For example, one image would be made just for blue ink, another for just the red ink, and so forth. Then, ink of a particular color is applied to each stone image, and the paper is pressed in steps. In this way, each step applies a color. When one speaks of a four-color press, then the steps might be red, blue, green and black.

Originally, with lithography, the illustrator would draw directly onto flat stones. Over time, methods were created which allowed the illustrations to be drawn onto special paper, which could be transferred onto the stones. During the course of the 19th century, these lithographic stones were gradually replaced with metal plates, in which the image was made via a photographic process. These plates were less expensive and easier to work with, and evolved into the use of curved plates. Curved plates allowed for rotary presses, which greatly increased the economies of books printed by lithographic techniques. By the turn of the 20th century, rotary lithographic presses were becoming more and more common.

Better performing inks and color evolved in conjunction with the developments in the lithographic press. The ink's "magic" was in adhering to the paper and not to the impressioning device. The science of lithographic ink greatly improved the quality and economics of illustrations in print.

Beginning of the modern picture book in the U.S.A.

So, leading up 1920, the following socio-economic threads were coming together:

*More and more children were becoming literate, as the country had a sixty year history with compulsory education; the last state mandate was passed in 1918.
*Children's literature had become accepted, blossoming in the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century, and it was not unusual for publishers to target juvenile readers.
*Advancement in lithography technologies caused step–change reductions in the cost of printing. As rotary presses proliferated around the country, industry pressure was increased to find economically viable publishing content.
*Advancement in lithography technologies made it easier for artists to create high quality mass produced images, as a complex technique (etching) was removed from the publishing process.

The combination of social, technical, and economic elements came together in the mid– and late–1920s and the children's picture book industry was born.

Wanda Gág's "Millions of Cats" (Coward-McCann) published in 1928, could arguably be called the first notable picture book. Wanda Gág was a successful graphic artist, and this, her first picture book, won a Newbery Medal runner-up award. Started in 1922, the Newbery Medal is presented annually by the American Library Association (ALA) "for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year." "Millions of Cats" was the first picture book to receive an award. It is still in print today, nearly eighty years after its initial publication.

Wanda Gág followed with "The Funny Thing" (Coward-McCann) in 1929, "Snippy and Snappy" (Coward-McCann) in 1931, and then "The ABC Bunny" (Coward-McCann) in 1933, which garnered her a second Newbery runner-up award. Gag's books helped to prove that children's picture books could be commercially successful.Other early milestone picture books followed "Millions of Cats". In 1930, Marjorie Flack authored and illustrated "Angus and the Ducks" (Doubleday, Doran), followed in 1931 by "Angus And The Cats" (Doubleday, Doran), then in 1932, "Angus Lost" (Doubleday, Doran). Flack authored another book in 1933, "The Story About Ping" (Viking), illustrated by Kurt Wiese. All of these books are still being published today.

Platt & Munk played a part in the early development of the picture book market with publication of the "Never Grow Old Series" of children's hardcover picture books, issued with dust jackets. Beginning in 1930, the nine book series included retellings of several Mother Goose stories, and also included a 'new' edition of Helen Bannerman's "Little Black Sambo", this time illustrated by Eulalie Banks. To the general population, this is probably the most familiar of all the versions of "Little Black Sambo", and stayed in print until the early 1970s.

However, the most popular book from the "Never Grow Old Series" was the 1930 publication of "The Little Engine That Could", illustrated by Lois Lenski. This version stayed in print until 1954, when it was illustrated anew by George and Dorothy Hauman. The Hauman version is still in print today. Significantly, "The Little Engine That Could" spawned an entire line of books and related paraphernalia. In 2001, The "Little Engine That Could" stood 30th on Publisher Weekly's list of the top bestselling children's hardcover books. The book coined the refrain "I think I can! I think I can!".

In 1933, Jean de Brunhoff's Babar was introduced to American readership in The Story Of Babar (Smith and Haas). Originally published in French, Merle Haas translated the work into English, and was then published by “Harrison Smith and Robert Haas." Smith and Haas published The Travels of Babar in 1934, then Babar The King in 1935. In 1935, Random House became the publisher of Babar books, and has continued publishing books in the Babar franchise up to the present day. So, by the mid-1930s, the children's picture book market was firmly established.

In 1936, Munro Leaf's Ferdinand (Viking) was published, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Immediately successful, Ferdinand went into multiple printings within months of publication. Ferdinand was the first picture book to crossover into pop culture. Walt Disney produced an animated feature film, and in conjunction published a Walt Disney Studio's version of the story, along with corresponding merchandising materials. Ferdinand was a national phenomenon, and Life Magazine featured a story on the book, film, and creators in their February 21, 1938 issue. The story's anti-war sentiment struck a nerve in a pre-war America.

Child labor laws & Caldecott awards

The Elson Basic Reader (Scott, Foresman & Co.) was published in 1930 and introduced the public to "Dick and Jane". The early reader series exploded in popularity during the late 1930s and early 1940s, especially after Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which dramatically increased the percentage of children able to attend school.

Child labor

In 1938, the United States Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act , making it illegal for children under 14 years of age to work full time. Although education had been mandated on a state-by-state basis beginning in 1852, the economic benefits of working children had kept the public from wholeheartedly embracing truancy laws.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was enforced at a federal level, and caused a large number of school age children to leave the workplace and enter school. In turn, the number of formally educated children increased the quantity and variety of beginning reader books. Beginning reader books nearly always included clarifying or instructive pictures. As more children became literate, the demand for entertainment books increased, and the result was a step change increase in the capitalistic forces to create picture books for the market.

Dr. Seuss

In 1937, Theodor Seuss Geisel's first book for children was published, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (Random House). Prior to the publication of Mulberry Street, Seuss was a successful graphic artist and humorist. Look Magazine published a feature article on Seuss in the June 7, 1938 issue, titled “On Unheard of Animals," an article about some of his crazy animal creations.

Mulberry Street was immediately successful, and Seuss followed up with The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins in 1938, followed by The King's Stilts in 1939, and Horton Hatches An Egg in 1940, all published by Random House. Each of these books was commercially successful, and Seuss and his children's books became nationally popular. Life Magazine featured an article on Seuss in the Dec. 15, 1941 issue, and Newsweek published an article on Dr. Seuss creations in the February 9 1942 issue. WWII served as a break in Seuss's book career, then from 1947 to 1956 Seuss had twelve children's picture books published, each of which are still in print today. More on Seuss later.

Caldecott awards

In 1938, the American Library Association (ALA) began presenting annually the Caldecott Medal to the most distinguished children's book illustration published in the year. The Caldecott Medal was established as a sister award to the ALA's Newbery Medal, which was awarded to a children's books for literary merit and presented annually beginning in 1922. Therefore, in 1938, a highly creditable organization began presenting an award annually to a picture book and illustrator, lending great credence to the blossoming art form.

Interestingly, in the decade leading up to the first Caldecott Awards, three of Wanda Gág's picture books won Newbery awards for their literary merit, probably hastening the inception of an annual award for children's illustration. The Caldecott Awards continue to be presented today, and have grown in stature and prestige over the past 70 years.

The first Caldecott Medal was awarded in 1938 to Dorothy Lathrop for her illustrations in Animals Of The Bible (Frederick Stokes), written by Helen Dean Fish. Thomas Handforth won the second Caldecott Medal in 1939, for Mei Li (Doubleday), which he also wrote. Nearly all of the Caldecott Medal winning books are still in print today.

Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline (Simon & Schuster) was published in 1939 to some fanfare. The original publication of the book was preceded by a feature in the September 4 1939 issue of "Life Magazine". Madeline was also selected as a Caldecott Medal runner-up, which today is called a Caldecott Honor book.

So, by the end of the 1930s, the children's picture book, barely a decade old in its established form, was firmly entrenched as a successful commercial vehicle.

Little Golden Books

In 1942, Simon & Schuster began publishing the Little Golden Books, a series of inexpensive, well illustrated, high quality children's books. The first twelve books were all published simultaneously, in hard cover format with dust jackets. At a price of 25 cents, the series was met with instant commercial success.

The books went into multiple printings nearly immediately, devoured by a population hungry for a children's book of this sort. Inexpensive, yet of high quality and high durability, the Little Golden Books fulfilled an unmet need of the country's growing juvenile reading population. From a parent's perspective, LGB's were a worthy economic alternative to the comic book.

The eighth book in the series, Poky Little Puppy, is the top selling children's book of all time according to a 2001 list of bestselling children's hardback books compiled by Publishers Weekly. Four of the top eight books on the Publishers Weekly list are Little Golden Books. Many of the books have become icons within the picture book marketplace including Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, Scuffy The Tugboat, The Little Red Hen. Several of the illustrators for the Little Golden Books later became staples within the picture book industry. Corinne Malvern, Tibor Gergely, Gustaf Tenggren, Feodor Rojankovsky, Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Garth Williams are just a few of the illustrators who contributed to this successful book publishing series.

Many book collectors do not realize that the first thirty-five LGB's were issued with dust jackets — from 1942 to 1947 — at a standard 25-cent price. These dust jacketed versions also have a blue cloth spine. There is an active collecting community of first edition Little Golden Books. Collecting Little Golden Books (Krause Publications), by Steve Santi, is the authoritative price guide. Online auctions for first printings are especially competitive. High quality and high demand, coupled with very limited supply, begets high prices.

During the mid-forties to early-fifties, the American Library Association's Caldecott Awards continued adding to the credibility of illustrated picture books as an acceptable art form. During that time, many prominent artists were either at the top of their craft or at the beginning of a lustrous career, and had won either a Caldecott Medal or Honor award. These included such notables as Marcia Brown, Barbara Cooney, Roger Duvoisin, Margaret Bloy Graham, Berta and Elmer Hader, Robert Lawson, Robert McCloskey, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Leo Politi, Tasha Tudor, and Leonard Weisgard. By 1955, such picture book classics as Thidwick, Ferdinand, Madeline, Make Way For Ducklings, The Little House, Curious George, and Eloise, had all been published.

Cat In The Hat and the Beginner Books

Up until the mid-1950s, there was a degree of separation between illustrated educational books and illustrated picture books. That all changed, dramatically and with much national fanfare, with the 1957 publication of Dr. Seuss' "The Cat In The Hat" (Random House). Here was an early reader, full of 223 madly rhyming words, which made its way into our elementary school classrooms.The Cat In The Hat is a tremendously important book. Not just an important picture book or an important children's book, but an important book without any qualifiers! The publication of the book in 1957 forever changed the way in which children would learn to read and be educated. Reading COULD be fun!

Prior to the publication of his first children's book in 1937, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (Random House, 1937)), Theodor Seuss Geisel was a prominent and successful humorist illustrator for such magazines as Judge and Life. By the time of The Cat In The Hat's publication, Dr. Seuss was a very successful children's book illustrator, having published twelve children's books, three of which had won Caldecott Honor awards. Actually, prior to the publication of The Cat In The Hat, one could easily say that Dr. Seuss had already had two successful illustration careers, one as a humorist and one as a picture book creator.

Mr. Geisel created The Cat In The Hat in reaction to a Life Magazine article by John Hersey, published in the May 24, 1954 issue, titled "Why Do Students Bog Down On First R? A LOCAL COMMITTEE SHEDS LIGHT ON A NATIONAL PROBLEM: READING." In the article, Hersey was critical of the then current state of school primers,

"In the classroom boys and girls are confronted with books that have insipid illustrations depicting the slicked-up lives of other children. [Existing primers] feature abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls." "In bookstores, anyone can buy brighter, livelier books featuring strange and wonderful animals and children who behave naturally, i.e., sometimes misbehave. Given incentive from school boards, publishers could do as well with primers."

Hersey's arguments were enumerated in some ten pages of Life Magazine, which was the leading periodical of its time. After detailing many issues contributing to the dilemma with student's reading, toward the end of the article, Hersey redundantly asked:

"Why should [school primers] not have pictures that widen rather than narrow the associative richness the children give to the words they illustrate—drawings like those of the wonderfully imaginative geniuses among children's illustrators, Tenniel, Howard Pyle, "Dr. Seuss," Walt Disney?"

Geisel responded to this "challenge" by rigidly limiting himself to a small set of words from an elementary school vocabulary list, then crafted a story based upon two randomly selected words—cat and hat. The results of this personal challenge are nothing short of amazing!

Successful before the publication of the "The Cat In The Hat", after its publication, Dr. Seuss became an 'overnight' national phenomenon. After the publication of "The Cat In The Hat", numerous feature articles were published in Life, Look and other prominent periodicals. The book's characters, along with other Seuss creations, were extended into toys and other products, occurring long before co-merchandising and line extensions became commonplace for children's character marketing.

The Cat In The Hat was published by Random House. However, because of its success, an independent publishing company was formed, called Beginner Books. Geisel was the president and editor. Beginner Books was chartered as a series of books oriented toward various stages of early reading development. The second book in the series was nearly as popular, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, published in 1958.

Springing from this series of beginning readers were such standards as A Fly Went By (1958), Sam and the Firefly (1958), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), Go, Dog. Go! (1961), Hop On Pop (1963), and Fox in Socks (1965), each a monument in the picture book industry, and also significant in the historical development of early readers. All are still in print and remain very popular over forty years after their initial publication.

Creators in the Beginner Book series were such luminaries as Jan & Stan Berenstain, P. D. Eastman, Roy McKie, and Helen Palmer (Mr. Geisel's wife). The Beginner Books dominated the children's picture book market of the 1960s, and still plays a significant role today within the phases of students' reading development.

Early Readers

In 1957, on the heels of Beginner Books' The Cat In The Hat, came Little Bear, the first of the "I Can Read" series of books, published by Harper & Brothers. Written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by a then relatively unknown Maurice Sendak, the two collaborated on three other "I Can Read" books over the next three years.

From 1958 to 1960, Syd Hoff wrote and illustrated four "I Can Read" books: Danny And The Dinosaur, Sammy The Seal, Julius, and Oliver. Each of these books is still in print today, and has served several generations of developing student readers. By 1960, sixteen "I Can Read" books had been published by Harper & Brothers. The early success of the "I Can Read" books and the Beginner Books, both from a commercial and learn-to-read perspective, initiated the blurring between educational and entertainment books.

This phenomenon favorably impacted the consumer market for children's books. The economic forces that percolate early reader books to market became more formalized, forming a business infrastructure for the picture book industry. As a result, more and more illustrators could begin to economically support themselves by illustrating children's picture books.

By the 1970s, printing technology had evolved so much that the illustrator became less and less involved with the printing process. The advent of photography to create negatives for lithographic printing meant that the illustrator could focus on their medium of expression, rather than on the techniques necessary to get the image onto a press. Today's illustrators do not have to be involved in the color separation process, although some choose to do so.

Involved parents

Still, up until the 1970s, the educational selection of books was in large part the business of the ALA librarians and the country's educators, since these organizations largely controlled the books our children were formally exposed to in schools. This changed beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as credible journalists and educators went public with scathing exposes and rebuttals of the shortcomings and failures of our public education system, forever changing the laissez-faire attitude of parental involvement in their child's elementary education. Parents began becoming more connected to the educational development of their children, which fueled a greater involvement in what their children were reading.

This social unrest toward public education was in part why the U.S. Secretary of Education created the National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1981, and directed it to present a report on the quality of education in America for him and the American people. The Commission's report, published in April1983, was titled "Our Nation At Risk."

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that under girds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments."

In response to "Our Nation At Risk," a measure of books, newspaper and journal articles were published in the mid- and late- eighties, both citing, supporting, and countering the findings of the commission (and continue to be published today). It is our opinion that a by-product of this mass of social dialogue was a shift within the group of informed and concerned parents, away from total dependency on the public school system, and toward joint responsibility for the education of our children. This shift is still in process and has created a social group we refer to as the involved parent.

Today's involved parent, in this modern era of illustrated children's picture books, is motivated to not only read to their children to improve their reading and language skills, but is highly participative in the selection of the particular books. This pervasive participation is increasing variety and diversity of the demand. It is also improving quality, since the competition for the readers' eyes and minds is fierce among publishers, and they realize quality begets sales. So there is improved quality of the word, obviously, and also improved quality of the illustration, since writers understand that good composition, storyboarding, and pictures help tell and sell the stories.

The 'primary reader books', such as the Dick and Jane series, has almost entirely vanished from our elementary school curriculum. Instead, it has been replaced by commercially produced early reader books, typified by the Beginner Book series. The beginning reader books now used in the elementary school system must both educate and entertain. No longer is the selection of the early reader books wholly the responsibility of the educational administration across the country.

In 2006, the American Library Association started awarding the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award to the most distinguished beginning reader book.

"The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, […] will be given annually beginning in 2006 to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children's literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year. The award is to recognize the author(s) and illustrator(s) of a beginning reader book who demonstrate great creativity and imagination in his/her/their literary and artistic achievements to engage children in reading."

An interesting aspect is that the award is presented to both the author and illustrator, in "artistic achievements to engage children to reading." Quite a noble purpose. In addition to the recognition the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award provides to deserving creators, it is also a validation of the contribution of the illustrations to the effect of the picture book upon the reader.

Notable illustrators

* Ludwig Bemelmans
* Jan Brett
* Virginia Lee Burton
* Randolph Caldecott
* Eric Carle
* Walter Crane
* Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
* Tomie dePaola
* Wanda Gag
* Kate Greenaway
* Clement Hurd
* Ezra Jack Keats
* Mercer Mayer
* Robert McCloskey
* David McKee
* Chris Raschka
* H. A. Rey
* Maurice Sendak
* Peter Spier
* William Steig
* Dr. Seuss
* Chris Van Allsburg


Although generally picture books are generally considered to be the best literature for young children there has been some debate as to the actual purpose for them. Perry Nodelman in his book "Words About Pictures," as will as many others have pointed out that pictures are not automatically understood. The cultural researcher Deregowski for example found that people without formal schooling where unable to see many of the illusionary and perspective effects present in pictures. The young children that read most picture books then do not understand many of the things that are happening in the pictures.

Of further concern as Nodelman pointed out is the fact that pictures can actually make it more difficult for children to read, as they try to interpret the words based on the picture.

The function of pictures in young children's literature is more an attempt to make the book more interesting rather than a means by which children can learn to read. Pictures also serve as a means by which children can learn to understand many different forms of art. As different picture books are illustrated in many differing styles they can help to teach children to understand these different forms of art. This understanding is important in our highly visual society which uses graphics and graphs form many different forms of communication. Just as important the visual appreciation that comes from picture books can help to bring greater joy to children as they grow and are able to appreciate the art in the world around them.


External links

* [http://picturingbooks.imaginarylands.org/ Picturing Books a Website About Picture Books]
* [http://www.lib.muohio.edu/pictbks/ Children's Picture Book Database at Miami University] - a place for designing literature-based thematic units for all subjects.
* [http://childrenspicturebooks.info ChildrensPictureBooks.info] - Picture book reviews and information.
* [http://homepages.nyu.edu/~oa333/picturebook.html Bibliography on the Picture Book] - Secondary materials for study of the Picture Book.

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  • picture book — picture books also picture book N COUNT A picture book is a book with a lot of pictures in and not much writing. Many picture books are intended for children …   English dictionary

  • Picture Book — Album par Simply Red Sortie 1985 Label Elektra Records Singles   Money s Too Tight Holding Back The Years Come To My Aid …   Wikipédia en Français

  • picture-book — [pik′chər book΄] adj. so beautiful, neatly maintained, charming, etc. as to be a suitable subject for a book of pictures; picturesque [a picture book country inn] * * * …   Universalium

  • picture-book — [pik′chər book΄] adj. so beautiful, neatly maintained, charming, etc. as to be a suitable subject for a book of pictures; picturesque [a picture book country inn] …   English World dictionary

  • picture book — n a book for children with many pictures in it …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • picture book — picture ,book noun count a book for children that consists mainly of pictures with little or no writing …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • picture book — n. a book containing pictures or illustrations, with little or no text …   English World dictionary

  • picture-book — ¦ ̷ ̷  ̷ ̷ ¦ ̷ ̷ adjective : suitable for or suggestive of a picture book: as a. : picturesque : fairy tale a picture book village b. : ideal …   Useful english dictionary

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