Monday, November 28, 2011

An Interview with Diane Muldrow, Part I

Week of November 27: Picture Books Are Golden
Monday, November 28: An Interview with Diane Muldrow, Part I

This is the first installment of a three-part interview with Golden Books/Random House Editorial Director, Diane Muldrow.

Rob Sanders: Diane, thank you for visiting with us on Picture This! Let’s start by talking about Golden Books. What makes a picture book a Golden Book? What makes a picture book fit into your list?

Diane Muldrow: A Little Golden Book is a read-aloud with classic preschool content. It should have a special storytelling style that’s good for reading aloud. It can even be a little quirky, in a way that appeals to preschoolers. A Golden trade hardcover is more difficult to define: it needs to be a great read-aloud too, but can feel more modern, or tackle subjects that are older than the preschool content found in Little Golden Books. Bob Staake's award-winning book THE RED LEMON is a great example of a newer Golden trade book. My book WE PLANTED A TREE (also illustrated by Bob Staake) is a good example, too. 

Rob: The age-range for the picture book audience seems to have shifted lower. What age-range do you consider to be the audience for the picture books you publish? How much do you consider age-range when choosing a manuscript to publish?

Diane: I aim the Little Golden Books at 2-5 year-olds. Trade picture books that I do can go older—to age 7 or so, but those books aren't usually for the 2 year-olds. Age range is an automatic concern for editors when reading something: who’s the audience and will this book really reach them? 

Rob:  What ingredients combine to make a well-written picture book?

Diane: Style and lively language. A picture book is usually a read-aloud, so it has to be written in a way that will have a sort of musicality when read aloud. A picture book needs to have an emotional resonance, too. Or be really funny. It should—artfully—lead us to feel something, teach us something, or show us something in a new way . . .  it should add something to the reader's outlook. A well-written picture book has to have an element that makes a child want to pick it up again and again and again. 

Rob:  Event-driven or character-driven, which do you prefer and why?

Diane: I have no preferences. Every picture book is unique and I don’t think so scientifically about them. After all this is art we’re talking about, not cookies vs. crackers. But a manuscript has to have something—maybe it’s a strong and appealing character, maybe it’s a timeless message brought to life in a wonderful or fresh way . . . the main thing is that, as I said above, it has to make us feel something, it has to make us think about something after we put the book away. 

Rob: What have you acquired recently that you love and why?

Diane: Well, I love your book COWBOY CHRISTMAS! That book has sweetness and humor, a classic feel, and a neat twist at the end that makes you think and wonder. And it’s really fun to read aloud. 

Rob: Oh, what a perfect place to end our first day! Working on COWBOY CHRISTMAS with you has been a blast. To those reading this post, we’ve seen final sketches and are now waiting on final art.

Tomorrow Diane will share more specifics about crafting delightful picture books.


Ilima Loomis said...

Great interview, Rob!

Joanna said...

Great introduction! Very much looking forward to the next two days with Diane. Clearly I need to look out for Cowboy Christmas next year.

Thanks, Rob!

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks! Great info coming from Diane on Tuesday and Wednesday!

tammi sauer said...

Yeehaw! Great post. :)

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

Very interesting peek into books that have a long life on many shelves! I still have many of my original Golden Books from the 1970's.

Congratulations Rob on Cowboy Christmas!

Rob Sanders said...

Yes, Cathy, Little Golden Books are little treasures--and new ones are released each season., And then there are Golden Books/Random House picture books which are stellar!