We all fell in love with them as a child. We still
love to read them over and over again. And perhaps we hope to emulate them.
However, as Picture Book Writers of today, we need to tread
We continue our look at 3 contrasts between
the Picture Books of our childhood and today's market.
You can read
the first installment on Word Count here and the second installment on Conflict Resolution here.
Today we discuss Age Level ~
We live in a very competitive, high-paced world.
With the birth of the Common Core State Standards, we look to create kids who are college and/or workplace ready starting in the 3rd grade.
There is a push to have kids reading earlier and reading less for pleasure and more for analysis and information.
Therefore, where do picture books fit in?
Is the solution to have us all start writing non-fiction books or faction?
First, the age level of picture books has been skewing a little lower, with many targeting the 1st and 2nd grade.
Upon researching some of the classic picture books will find the age level at upper 3rd grade and 4th grade. (for a quick search of word count and age level, check out http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp?c=1)
Also, picture book writers are being forced to leave more and more room for the illustrator, therefore scaling back on language and beefing up the artwork which is a clear indication that books are leaning younger. So, the emphasis with picture books is on the art...not the story.
We are told that the illustrator must tell 50% of the story, but with word count moving closer to 300 the illustrators might own more of the story in the future.
Now, in conclusion I want to talk about exceptions.
Let's take a look at "Each Kindness" by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
Word count = 865
Grade Level = mid 3rd grade (3.4)
Conflict Resolution = none. Its a realistically dark story about missed opportunities.
Pub date= October 2012
So, you might see this book on the shelf and argue that everything I have written this week is incorrect. That there are, in fact, fiction picture books published with over 500 words and that the conflict doesn't always have to be solved by the protagonist and that it can be geared to a older audience.
Here is where some sleuthing should be done.
Who is Jacqueline Woodson? Who is E.B. Lewis?
Short answer, they are both highly aclaimed award winners with long careers so far. Woodson has won the Newberry and Lewis won the Caldecott. Therefore, these are not debut writers and illustrators. Its harder to break into the business with this kind of a piece.
Who published "Each Kindess"?
Nancy Paulsen books, which is a fairly new imprint of Penguin, meaning that Nancy Paulsen is now able to publish the kinds of books she wants, after a very long career in publishing. And its also worth noting that Woodson has been published by this imprint before.
Bottomline, the world of books is in an ever-changing flux.
We must be proactive. We must be readers of the classics, as well as the current lists. All the while we must be saavy when looking at a book. There is more story to be told than what is in its pages.