Shocking discoveries about picture books

This week I’ve been weeding the picture books in my library which date from the 1960s forward.  Luckily, I had some readings to help guide the process:  Kay E. Vandergrift’s webpage Notes for the Analysis of a Picture Book and John Sciezka’s article Design Matters.  So although I’ve been weeding the 250 picture books that we have in our secondary school library for age, wear, relevance and subject matter, I hadn’t really paid much attention to design. Sciezka’s article on design is so good that I immediately sent it to all the art teachers I know.

I particularly found Vandergrift’s suggestions for analysis to be helpful.  She suggests reading the story without looking at the pictures, and then looking at the pictures without reading the story.  That may sound simple, but few of the picture books in my collection made the cut because they didn’t have both a great story and great design.  I even discovered that *shocker* there were non-fiction books mixed in with the fiction.

Mostly I questioned why I had other picture books mixed into my otherwise secondary collection and at what point did I want to separate them out.  Why is Shaun Tan’s book The Arrival in with the graphic novels when it is clearly a picture book? Why are the picture books of myths in the folklore section rather than with the picture books?

One major thing I did decide is that the awful juvenile stickers on the picture books have got to go.  There is nothing juvenile about reading a great picture book.  Why would any sane teen pick up a book with so much stigma just in its label?  As Sciezka says:  “Design is an essential part of any…” library.