Shortly after I’d read this article about the demise of the picture book, I experienced it myself with a patron in the library. A mother came in with her child and wondered about finding a book to read together. The child didn’t like picture books but preferred it when the mother read her books out loud – Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, what have you. I asked her if it was the intonation the child liked but she wasn’t sure, but she was definitely very advanced and thus needed advanced titles.
I led the mother to our display of booklets and suggested she look at older Newbery winners. I said that the titles are really designed for children to read themselves, and of course that wasn’t the case here – pausing in case she wanted to tell me that she in fact does read Shakespeare and Vonnegut. (Alas, no.) I said the newer titles might have inappropriate content for a person so young. I suggested Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson and she showed her the cover. “Would you like this book about a bunny rabbit?” The child looked to me like she could take it or leave it. The mom suggested we get a newer book, too, just in case, so I suggested The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. (Felt pretty good that she took both, though. That didn’t happen with the 13-year-old who was looking for a book earlier in the day and nothing I suggested would work.)
Seriously, I can laugh, but I think I probably resembled this young mother fifteen years ago. I pushed my kids out of picture books pretty quickly (partly because they loved those godforsaken Disney movie tie-in books that were so stinking long and boring and the girls could tell if I ever went off script). I guess I should have pointed the patron to picture books that have lots of words, and of course there are plenty. It surprises me how few of the picture books are appropriate for story time.
If I ever land in a school librarian, I definitely want to do more work with picture books. I think there’s a lot of instructive value there. But for now, I need to bone up on titles. I feel really comfortable leading patrons to children’s authors, like Kate DiCamillo, Richard Peck, Linda Sue Park, Carl Hiaasen, Gennifer Choldenko. (I hope she wasn’t reading Hiaasen’s adult works to her progeny!) I don’t read much young adult lit, but I can BS my way through them fair enough. But picture books? That’s where I’m lacking, perhaps because there are so many to remember! How do you all do it? I asked my mentor how she kept track of the picture books she’s read and I could almost hear her chuckle through the interwebs. 🙂 For now, I’m reading all of the books in the NEH list, plus any that land on the Newbery or Caldecott list, and eventually I’d like to read all of the ones on the Children’s Core. Does that sound reasonable, or not worth the bother? (The NEH list was, after all, how I found the wonders of Caps for Sale and Millions of Cats, the true story of cat-on-cat genocide.)
Not as sweet as they might appear.