I was alarmed recently to read in the New York Times that picture books are no longer a staple in the U.S. book business.
It is sad to read about the plummeting sales of picture books in some parts of the world. But the real shocker is that some parents think that picture book are ‘dumbing down’ reading for children. In my opinion, picture books can have a lot more to offer, and not just visually, to the reader. Many picture books come alive with beautiful illustration styles and colors and can be an absolute delight.
Take for instance, some of these wonderfully executed picture books:
The Maestro Plays, by Bill Martin and Vladimir Radunsky
Using mischievous fonts that keep changing size and large, colorful illustrations of a clown, The Maestro, this book rings aloud as we read that the Maestro plays “flowingly, glowingly, knowingly, showingly, goingly” as well as “nippingly, drippingly, zippingly, clippingly, pippingly.”
ABC3D, by Marion Bataille
This award-winning book can be enjoyed by children and adults. Its really incredibly simple, it is a pop-up book with alphabets opening up one after the other. What’s really interesting is the way some alphabets turn into others, along with the use of innovative materials involved in the book’s design.
Anything at all by Robert Sabuda
Robert Sabuda is a pop-up genius. His Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz are timeless treats, with each pop-up chapter folding back just as well as it pops up. He has also done a fantastically dynamic book calledPrehistoric Mega Beasts that could serve as a pop-up encyclopedia on extinct creatures such as pterosaurs and woolly mammoths.
The London Jungle Book, by Bhajju Shyam
Created by Indian Gond tribal artist, this book serves as a London travelogue through the eyes of someone visiting it for the first time. Shyam illustrates using traditional Gond style his experiences and observations showing a modern city as you’ve never seen it before—the London Underground becomes a giant earthworm, Big Ben merges with a massive rooster, and English people are shown as bats that come out to play at night. An absolute work of art, this book certainly is.
To Market! To Market!, by Anushka Ravishankar and Emanuele Scanziani
Innovative typography, intricate pictures and catchy nonsense verse make this book a treat as we are taken through an interesting Indian market by a little girl. Author Anushka Ravishankar has been involved with some absolutely dynamic books such as Anything But a Grabooberry and Tiger on a Tree, which no child can resist.
The United States may not be the best market for picture books, but it is a relief to know that this beautiful form is far from dying elsewhere in the world. Tara Books, a publishing house, has year after year been putting out books that stress the visual aspect regardless of what market-watchers may say.
Perhaps children are interested in different things all over the world, and for parents who may think that picture books are ‘too lame’ to have their child read them, perhaps videogames better sources of entertainment for their children. After all, everyone has a right to an opinion. But to me, picture books are timeless.