Thursday, August 30, 2012

Developing My Criterion

Week of August 26, 2012—A Canon of Picture Books
Thursday, August 30—Developing My Criterion


Have you heard the phrase, “Fake it, ‘til you make it”? That might very well describe my process of developing a criterion for selecting a canon of picture books. I’m trying to figure out things as I go along.


Here’s another phrase you may not have heard: “The process is more important than the product.” As I’ve been researching qualities of the best of the best picture books, as I’ve scoured the books on my shelves and looked a best sellers and award winners, as I’ve \given brain-time to consider what makes a great picture book great, I’ve been learning. This process of learning may be more important than the end product of a list of books. Who knows? Time will tell.

I have developed a first draft of my criterion for stellar picture books. Since this is a first stab at it, I’ll probably need to revise as time goes along. But, for now, below is my criterion for selecting titles to include in my canon of picture books. Consider this a rubric a way by which you judge a book.

Rob’s Criterion for Picture Books to Include In THE CANON

r A unique concept
r A book that is centered on children

r A book children will want to hear or read over and over
r A book an adult won’t mind reading over and over
r Memorable
r Meaningful
r A book that sparks questions, thinking, and conversation
r A book with meaning, but not with a moral
r A book the celebrates the different and unique

r Characters who are lovable, relatable, and memorable
r Characters who are human and flawed

r A book with universal appeal
r A book that introduce kids to new and exciting adventures, experiences, and worlds
r A subject that is unique, or a familiar subject addressed in an unique way

r A book with simplicity, but that is not simple
r A book that limits words to only the best ones
r A book with rhythm, pattern, and repetition
r A book with rich vocabulary

r A story that leaves room for the pictures
r Stellar illustrations that tell the other half of the story
r A collaboration that brings together text and art

Do any picture books have all of these qualities? I don’t know. But if such books do exist, they are probably few and far between. More likely, picture books that rise to the level to be included in my canon or yours, contain many, or at least several, of these qualities.

It’s Your Turn!
r Join the conversation. What other qualities or criterion for selecting outstanding picture books would you add to the list? Add a comment below.


Anonymous said...

A book that I can't resist hugging after I finish reading it.

A book that magically causes me to speak in silly voices or accents even when I am not in the mood to read to my 7 year old at bedtime.

A book that makes me laugh out loud.

Lori Ann

Rosi said...

I think the most difficult of these is a story that leaves room for the pictures. As writers, we have a vision and seem to need to make it apparent to the illustrator lest they get it wrong. That's why I think author/illustrators have a real leg up in this business. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Lauri Meyers said...

A great checklist to review when editing- just have to remember few books achieve perfection on all counts (or I'll never submit anything!)