Author: Ann Whitford Paul
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (June 2, 2009)
Writing picture books takes a unique set of skills. After all, you only have thirty-two pages to bring your story to life for readers ages two to eight, and the adults in their lives. Your text must be tightly focused yet leave room for illustrations to tell part of the story. And, of course, picture books should be a joy to read aloud. Award winning author Ann Whitford Paul helps you develop the skills you need by walking you through techniques and exercises specifically for picture book writers.
Notice that the book isn’t called How to Write Picture Books. Instead it’s Writing Picture Books. A small but significant difference. Instead of just giving you advice, Ann Whitford Paul gives advice and pushes you to use this advice on a specific manuscript. Basically, by Chapter 2 she wants you to come up with an idea. This may not be the idea that becomes your first book but it is the idea that will help you test all her advice. Following each chapter is a page of suggestions to help you better understand the prior chapter—don’t skip them!
Reading this book is like taking a class on writing picture books with an experienced writer and teacher for a bargain basement price. Wait, did I say like? It is a class on writing picture books with an experienced writer and teacher for a bargain basement price! Although she has many children’s books to her name, Paul generously dives into the beginning of her career to show new writers what they shouldn’t do—using her own writing and career as examples. I was tempted to skip the chapter on poetry but in the book Paul warns readers not to miss it. She was right. Even when you aren’t writing poetry you can use poetry knowledge to make a children’s book more appealing.
As the mother of three I have a few children’s picture books knocking around in my head. I chose one to use as my manuscript to test out Paul’s advice while reading the book. Not only did she manage to reignite the enthusiasm I had for this idea but she also helped me see certain aspects of the story in a different light and reconstruct it. All children’s writers, whether newbie or successfully published, have something to gain from Writing Picture Books. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is packed with “aha” moments from start to finish.