Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Picture book tips and tricks, part 5 of 5: Let the story breathe

Part 4.

In the term “picture book,” the “picture” comes first. Some argue the same should be true in the execution. Some have said that however long a picture book manuscript is, it’s always too long. There’s always a little more that can be cut to further demonstrate the economy of words.

Authors are sometimes afraid to let a wordless scene speak for itself. Fears: Will it seem out of place? Will the story lose momentum? Will my meaning be clear? Even if so, will smaller details be lost?

To that I say an emphatic no. A purely visual scene can have great impact and often approaches poetry without the usual tools of that trade (i.e. alpha-numeric language). Most such scenes that I can recall come toward the end of the book, and often are the climax itself.

Two of my favorites are from Green Eggs and Ham and Hubknuckles (one of my favorite ghost stories, period, and a rich name, too):

You have to learn the significance of this scene. So you have to read this book.

Before closing this series, I want to mention a picture book I recently discovered even though I don’t believe it uses any of the tricks I’ve discussed here. It’s called When I Am Old With You, and though technically nothing sad happens in the course of the book, it’s one of the most bittersweet picture book stories I’ve come across. In fact, if you're like me, you'll feel some of that bittersweetness from the title alone. I heartily recommend it.

In closing, and in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday today, I’ll end with what may be my single favorite picture book page to read aloud. For me, it begs to be read fast, until the last sentence, which I feel should be delivered with a dramatic pause after "tip."

(All book text and images shown in this series are copyright their respective creators.)

1 comment:

Shari Schwarz said...

What a great series of pb articles! Thanks for all the great examples.

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