Unfortunate Trends: Waning Interest in Children’s Picture Books
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Last week Janet did some trend spotting in her blog posts. It’s always fun to look toward the future with anticipation, figuring out how to adapt ourselves to the coming trends. I’m a person who resists change. Yes, I generally look toward the future with optimism but I always allow myself time to mourn what used to be. Happily, everything has a way of circling around again so we usually don’t need to mourn long.
But for now I’m going to talk about some of the unfortunate trends I see. Hopefully, these trends are temporary but they are disturbing nonetheless. Last month the New York Times ran an article about the decline of the picture book. The author found that parents are jumping over picture books to hurry their children into chapter books. How sad.
As an agent I don’t often represent picture books but I’m a dedicated fan of the art form. I’d hate to even admit to how many feet of bookshelf space in my house is dedicated to these slim volumes. I consider them story and art. I originally bought picture books to read to my children but it didn’t take long for me to stop using children as a ruse to buy the books. I buy them because I love them.
For me the books are a bound art form that combines both art and words– a feast for the eyes and the heart. Everyone who knows me knows that there is no gift I love better than a fine picture book. I’ve previously mentioned some of the writer/illustrators I collect but if you want to see some of the best, check out contemporary authors Patricia Polacco, Jan Brett, Susan Jeffers, Michael Hague, Trina Schart Hyman, Barbara McClintock, my own client Andy McGuire, and many others. In the “antiquarian” category I love Johnny Gruelle’s early Volland Press Raggedy Ann books, Rumer Godden, Tasha Tudor, Maud Humphrey, Kate Greenaway, H. Willabeek LeMair, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, The Babar books and so many more there’s not room to list them. There’s barely enough room to shelve them all. One of my all time favorites is All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. These are works of art.
Illustration is one of my favorite art forms. In fact, I’m enjoying my purchase of two new original illustrations by Andy McGuire that appeared in his book, Rainy Day Games.
But, of course, the real consumer of picture books is the child. There are so many reasons parents can’t abandon picture books with their little ones. Books are critical in the development of the child. A few of the reasons:
- The very act of reading a picture book to a child brings the adult and child together in something other than play– a quest, an experience.
- Picture books not only introduce the child to words but to both story and art.
- Picture books give the young child the tactile pleasure of turning pages. He is in control of the experience as opposed to media like television which is passively delivered to him.
- Picture books allow the child to discover more over time. They reveal themselves slowly. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved Jan Brett’s illustrations. If the child studies the illustrated frames around the pages she can uncover the secrets unfolding in the story.
Deciderius Erasmus wrote, “When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.” That’s how important I feel picture books are for children. Strike that. That’s how important picture books are for all of us.
We need to reverse this unfortunate trend. Let’s lavish picture books on the people we love this Christmas.
Your turn. Tell us why picture books are important. What picture books are not to be missed by us? How have you incorporated them into your own personal library? To celebrate the importance of the picture book I will randomly choose six of you who comment today to receive Andy McGuire’s beautiful Rainy Day Games as a gift.