On Sunday, I was able to attend a symposium at a local bookstore, Politics and Prose, entitled Picture Book Panel: Through the Ages for All Ages.
For some reason, it was not as highly publicized as it might have been, which is surprising because THIS LINEUP:
Leonard Marcus (moderator)
Neal Porter (editor, Roaring Book Press)
Laura Vaccaro Seeger
These are some well-respected names in children’s literature! The panel discussion centered around the impact of digital books/apps on traditional picture book publishing, challenges in writing for children, and reaching out to under-represented/low-income communities.
I have 3 pages of scribbled notes, but some interesting food for thought:
The picture book is not dead, but alive and well. This was met with a whole lot of whistling and enthusiasm. Neal Porter confirmed that he is still actively seeking out high-quality, engaging, stories for traditional publishing and plans to do so for many years to come.
While digital publishing may supplement, it will not replace the picture book industry. All on the panel agreed that digital publishing is a good thing. Electronic readers have dropped so low in price that they are now affordable for many families. Between school and home, children will be exposed to e-readers and will be using them in a way that the last generation never dreamed of. But all also agreed that there is something unique and special about the traditional book that cannot be replicated electronically. The physical scale and size of the illustrations, the act of turning the page, the anticipation of what comes when the page is flipped is not the same on a hand held device, even if said advice adds the “page turn” sound. In terms of children’s literature, there’s an emotional disconnect when the physical books is not present. Since most parents still seem to desire the traditional lap-sitting, book-holding experience, there will still be a market for traditional children’s picture books.
So what about the digital shift? Will children’s books be left out? Both Porter and Barnett stressed that it will be important for children to have access to high quality digital books. However, they suggested that this may appear as a new, yet-to-be unnamed category of children’s books that are designed specifically for e-readers (different than the apps, which have the interactive component). What these books will look like, how publishers will choose to handle them, who will write them, all remains unseen. But it’s an interesting idea to ponder.
What about “dark” picture books? What is their place in the children’s book industry? This was Christopher Myers’ platform. As somebody who has traveled widely and both visited and read the works of many other cultures, he commented on how tame children’s literature is in the United States. He pointed out that many children do not live happy, whimsical lives, and are thus unable to relate to happy, whimsical characters. While there’s a place (and age-appropriateness) for certain topics, picture books, especially for older readers, could be a valuable tool in supporting readers through difficult life situations, or in educating readers about problems other countries face such as starvation, war, immigration, or child soldiers. These dark books, examples of experimental fiction, can be tough sells, though. Porter echoed this sentiment in reflecting that when he travels to Bologna for the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair, he finds that Americans are sometimes scoffed for their conservativeness in children’s literature. On the other hand, other countries are perhaps too liberal in some of their contents, and so, with everything there is a balance.
How do we reach out to the under-represented/low income communities- Meg Medina, whose books focus on the latino community, stressed how little quality literature there is for this population. She has found that not only are they not currently in school libraries, but that schools are often hesitant to bring in latino writers for author presentations, thinking that it doesn’t apply to their population. She shared a story of where she had put together a panel of 4 latino authors and/or illustrators who volunteered to skype FREE with schools. She contacted several schools, several times, and received no response. Why is this?
MUCH time was spent discussing the cost of picture books. For many families, $16.95 is completely unaffordable, and publishers no longer publish paperbacks unless the hard-bound copies are wildly popular. So how do we get today’s books into the hands of families who cannot afford them? Libraries are a valuable tool, but the child still has to return the book at some point. Could books be printed for cheaper and still be as visually appealing? Golden Books, which were cheaply made and sold for $.25 when books were going for $1.25, but would that marketing plan work today? Would authors be willing to take a cut in royalties in order to possibly have books reach a wider distribution? Or would it not really matter and we would not see a rise in book sales, even if the price were lower? No real answers here, but alot of musing.
As somebody who has been “working with” children’s literature for a long time, and is now starting a new career path where these questions and answers could directly affect me, this 90 minute symposium gave me alot to think about (see: 3 pages of notes), but encouraging as well.
What do you think? Any thoughts to share?
Oh, and on a lighter note… this happened and I completely geeked out. I like this man even more after hearing his passion for children and books on Sunday:
While my son is at the age where reading is a 30 second activity, my daughter is four and at the point where she’s starting to develop series favorites.
We read ALOT of non-series books. It still makes up the majority of our selections. But there are certain characters that I KNOW will always be a win.
Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child
We love Lola’s voice. So clever, but so very…young. She always means well, but somehow is constantly finding herself in little fixes. Fortunately, there’s big brother Charlie. Charlie, with his endless patience and practical solutions, who is always there to help his sister out.
Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
Despite my love for Willems, it’s only recently that Preschooler has discovered these books. I think because they are sized like early readers and she just wasn’t interested. Now that mental block seems to have been removed and we’ve been devouring these. We love the friendship themes, can relate to the very simple problems, and giggle endlessly over the creative solutions.
Tallulah by Marilyn Singer
Being a 4yo girl, glitter and tutus are just a part of our lives. Not too long ago, we discovered this trilogy of books starring a young ballerina named Tallulah. We’ve read all three (multiple times), and now I’m really hoping Ms. Singer has plans for more. More than just a ballet book, there’s a subtle message in each about the importance of patience, practice, and living life in the moment.
Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James Dean
But it’s not all princesses and tutus! We’re also Pete the Cat fans! We’ve read the picture books and now, just in time, Pete has begun expanding into early readers, so we’re following him along on that journey, too. Preschooler loves the song/repetition, which makes for fun, interactive reading.
So now do share! What series characters are adored in your house? Because as fun as it is to revisit “friends” over and over, we’re always looking to make new friends!
I could do that again, since I’m always reading something new, but if you’re a regular follower, you’ve already seen some of my raves from the last year. And many of my all-time faves from last year’s list haven’t changed.
So I’m not doing the same thing this year.
I decided instead to show you our everyday “celebration” of children’s books. We’re not really doing anything special this week, but here’s a look at what reading looks like in our house in the day to day.
My kiddos are 1 and 4 and at different stages of, well, everything. Including reading. So let’s take an unedited look at what reading with a toddler looks like, okay? Particularly, a 17 month old boy toddler.
Little brother has to do everything big sister does. If she’s going to sit on the couch, so should he. She was flipping through this animal book (which is really a spoof on parenting for parents, but it was on the shelf and she pulled it off…might be good she can’t read the words yet). He went to the book shelf, selected his own book, and climbed up on the couch to read with her. Cute, right? But don’t let me fool you. This image is snapped on my phone, which happened to be nearby. There’s no time to run upstairs to get the camera, because this calm, serene scene quickly turns into this:
And shortly after that, he was turning flips on the couch.
Who says reading isn’t an olympic sport?
What’s that? You’d like an audio version?
Fortunately for you, I have that also:
There are a few of those sweet mother-son moments, too:
There you have it. Today I’m celebrating reading in its most active of forms: somersaults, roars, grunts, and giggles included.
I feel like I need to tap the virtual microphone to see if anyone is still here…
This has been one of those weeks where I get to Friday and wonder just how that happened. Family visiting from out of town, and teething toddler, and regrouping from a weekend away, and prep for a little Mother’s Day celebration on Saturday, and well, no blogging.
C’est la vie.
So here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been reading this week. We’re obviously on an Elephant & Piggie kick, but we’ve also been doing some rereading of older favorites, like Extra Yarn, and 10 Little Rubber Ducks
I also received this book in the mail on Monday and am just waiting for a few quiet moments (tonight?!) to dive in:
Happy Mother’s Day to me!
And happy weekend to you!
Time is short, and it looks like my youngest took a 20 minute power nap today, so just a real quick check in to say:
Not much reading or writing going on around here this week
Instead, there’s alot of this:
Which tonight I will turn into this:
You know, except with a bunch of 4 year olds. So maybe not exactly like that.
But it’s Kevin Bacon.
And you’re smiling now, right?
Have a wonderful weekend, friends!
Some little girl has a birthday party this Saturday, and family coming into town. So you can guess what I’m doing in my free time this week.
Nevertheless, we brought home a library haul last week that has had me so excited because so many of the titles were ones I had wanted to read for awhile. We’ve been enjoying our bedtime storytime this week, and I wanted to make sure to share these titles with you. Add any of them to your library list. They’re all wonderful.
Though if I have to pick, I think Plant a Kiss was my favorite this week. The illustrations and text in that book just work perfectly together. It’s close, though. It was a good reading week.
(click on any image for more detail, including the It’s Monday! logo above for more book lists)
That’s our week! Happy Monday, friends