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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: AnnH on June 15, 2014, 05:15 PM

Title: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: AnnH on June 15, 2014, 05:15 PM
" ... A picture book with a thousand words costs no more to produce than one with one hundred. So why don’t we relax the word count and let some longer, richer storytelling come through? We might find that children will keep reading picture books to an older age if we do."
  http://picturebookden.blogspot.com/2014/06/out-for-count-guest-blog-by-jonathan.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PictureBookDen+%28Picture+Book+Den%29 (http://picturebookden.blogspot.com/2014/06/out-for-count-guest-blog-by-jonathan.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PictureBookDen+%28Picture+Book+Den%29)
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Jan Fields on June 16, 2014, 04:04 AM
I think when picture book sales took the serious hit some time ago (in the US anyway), it left many publishers (though not all) with a hesitation to publish ANY picture books and, therefore, a tendency to choose only the ones in the word counts that were still selling with any hope of profit -- namely the really short books that were being bought by parents and grandparents for really young children. Picture books are expensive to produce so when publishers suddenly saw that investment seem to be crashing, it scared them. And once scared, I think they've been slow to return to forms that don't promise the same $$ returns. Picture books are recovering in the marketplace, so we can hope that will result in longer texts. Some publishers (Peachtree and Charlesbridge, for example) never gave them up.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Anne Marie on June 16, 2014, 04:23 AM
Great answer, Jan.

Also children reading early is a point of pride for educated parents--the ones who buy books.  Anecdotally, I've heard quite a few booksellers complain that parents are pushing kids into chapter books, just because they can.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: KeithM on June 16, 2014, 09:03 AM
Here in Europe I was surprised at first because they have a lot of picture books with lots and lots of text. Basically, they're chapter books done as picture books, exactly for kids who are reading themselves. I'm going to guess that the cost of producing a chapter book compared to a picture book with full color illustrations on every page may have something to do with it, as Jan said.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Artemesia on June 16, 2014, 09:39 AM
I would love it if PB word lengths got longer again. My mss have all been on the longer side, and even cutting down as much as I can (700 words or so) I still got editors saying it was too long. Probably why I found a home doing the early heavily illustrated chapter books (enabling those pushy parents Anne Marie mentioned, lol). I originally envisioned KPC as a PB (I even have a PB length sketch dummy!), but realized there was no way I could write a story like that in 500 words or less so adapted it for CBs. I love PBs though and hope to still write them in the future.

Do you guys think it has to do with what editors think parents want? Do publishers think parents are busy these days and want the option of a 5 minute read? I think there are times when that's true, but as a parent I'd also like the option of a longer storybook.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Betsy on June 16, 2014, 01:45 PM
In homes where both parents work, Mom and Dad are both really tired at bedtime and want a book they can read quickly to the toddlers. At least that's what one editor told me.

Also, I used to be a K/1st grade teacher in a working class neighborhood where there were a number of kids with limited English. A book with one line of text on each page held their interest, whereas a whole paragraph was a bit much. I got so I only read books with limited text or left out most of the text if the book was longer. It just didn't work if the book was too wordy.

(The only longer books that held their interest consistently were the Curious George books.)

Also television for kids (including the commercials) is filled with non-stop action these days. I've even noticed a change in my attention span. We just live in a speeded up world.


I would LOVE for it to change back, though.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on June 16, 2014, 07:59 PM
I'm thinking that you're on to something with both parents working and the impact it has on reading time. If my children liked a book, found the humor or action extremely entertaining, they would want me to read it again and sometimes again-again. I would never deny them that.  :grouphug2: It happened quite often . . . The thought of reading a 1,000 + word picture book two or three times in a row, well, agreeing to that may have taken a bit more persuasion. 

Back when my oldest was young, those button books with the pre-recorded sounds and tunes were quite popular . . . mostly with the retailers. When you read them and pushed the button at the designated time, the pre-recorded sounds could take up to 10 seconds or so. When there were two or three of them in one sentence, it created AAACK moments. I'm so glad those went by the wayside.

I had noticed anything up to 750 was pretty good for holding their attention. But they faded out with the longer PBs.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: olmue on June 16, 2014, 08:52 PM
I dunno. I read a lot of novels to my kids, and they don't have a hard time sitting still for that. But when it comes to picture books, they get restless when they're too long (and so do I). I think the issue is this: the adult reads the words, and the kid reads along by reading the pictures. In excessively wordy books, the picture runs out long before the words do, and that leaves the kid waiting and waiting for the next page turn. The most interesting pbs are the ones where the text and illustrations work together (as opposed to the pictures merely mirroring the text, or vice versa)--and that is hard to pull off when your whole page is a solid wall of text.

As a parent, I'd much rather read a pb that's short, snappy, and well placed that a kid can "read" along with. Especially when I know I'll have to read it over and over and over again. The one exception I can think of is nonfiction, provided the information is new and interesting and fresh. Chapter books (like Kung Pow Chicken) are a whole different animal, as are novels.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Artemesia on June 16, 2014, 09:12 PM
Oh that totally makes sense about running out of pictures before words! I never really thought of it that way!

(And thanks for the plug, lol  :thanks )
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kell on June 17, 2014, 05:47 AM
As a parent, I do get weary reading aloud long picture books, but I also  wish longer fiction picture books were published for young independent readers. My soon-to-be first grader would definitely like them -- she reads chapter books but I think they are a little long for her. There aren't that many advanced early readers, and those that exist tend to be media tie-ins or licensed characters, but less funny and exciting than either picture books or chapter books.

Arty, I hope you do get to write your PBs but Kung Pow Chicken really hits all the right notes... We need more books like that too!
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Marcia on June 17, 2014, 06:16 AM
These great comments all make perfect sense, but how I wish the market would turn back to higher word counts. Why can't there be two levels of picture books: short fun ones for story time and more extensive ones for older readers who also happen to enjoy beautiful art? My favorite picture books are usually the longer ones and unfortunately, those are the kind I like to write, as well. I can't even imagine what a loss it would be to chop half the words out of Miss Rumphius, or Library Lion, or Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Franzilla on June 17, 2014, 08:10 AM
I think it's all about the quality of the writing/illustration and pacing. Some longer PBs will see my kids restless, others will hold them spellbound. Sometimes a longer PB simply hasn't been edited as viciously and that's why the kids get restless, I think. The text includes too-long descriptions or dialogue tags that aren't necessary, for example. I find myself avoiding those books but it's not just because they're long, it's because the story simply isn't told or illustrated well.


Personally, I'd like to see more pictures in adult fiction books! I love reading a chapter or section, then taking a breather to look at an illustration, to ponder on how the illustrator has interpreted a scene or to give me a taster of what's to come.


Interesting topic!
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: AnnH on June 17, 2014, 08:26 AM
These great comments all make perfect sense, but how I wish the market would turn back to higher word counts. Why can't there be two levels of picture books: short fun ones for story time and more extensive ones for older readers who also happen to enjoy beautiful art? ....

 ^^
 This.
 
Perhaps the lower-word-count books could still be picture books and the higher-word-count books could be picture-story books, and categorized as such in libraries and book stores.
  :bookclub
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Artemesia on June 17, 2014, 09:34 AM
Oh totally.  :yup

I think it would help to be famous enough for publishers to let you do whatever you want. (Then maybe the rest of us could slip in unnoticed) :lol4

(And aww, thanks Kell.  :hug  )
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: mrh on June 17, 2014, 01:28 PM

 Perhaps the lower-word-count books could still be picture books and the higher-word-count books could be picture-story books, and categorized as such in libraries and book stores.
  :bookclub


We used to have picture storybooks. One of my favorites is Many Moons by James Thurber. That line "surfeit of strawberry tarts" gets me every time. That part of the market has faded. I think it's for all the reasons already given: Parents reading aloud want short books, long text "outlasts" the pictures, parents and teachers are anxious to get kids out of PBs and on to chapter books earlier, plus picture storybooks often ran 48 pp. instead of 32. (Maybe because more words do need more art?) So, expense is a biggie, and why spend the bucks to produce them if they think parents and teachers will skip over them? My guess is they're just too big a market risk.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: SarahW on June 19, 2014, 11:01 PM
So there was a time when they did longer picture books?

I remember one of my favorites as a kid was Peter And The Wolf.

Mine tend to run around 276 words at most.:/
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Robertvs on June 19, 2014, 11:06 PM
It might also be that if kids can read at that level then they might want to just skip longer picture books and read heavily illustrated chapter books?

From my experience as a kid, the longest picture books I had were probably BERENSTAIN BEARS and the only reason I would read them was because I like the characters. If it was some other story with different characters, I wouldn't have been interested and might have been put off by the length.

I would probably have thought to myself, "I'm a big kid. I don't want to read a baby book. I want to read a real book that my parents read"

Thus, my next stage of my reading wasn't longer picture books, but actually GREAT ILLUSTRATED CLASSICS. I liked the stories and I had the pictures to keep me interested. In fact, even as an adult, having read the unadapted unabridged classics, I find myself wanting to re-read to see how they adapted it.

Maybe I always had an liking to classics? Maybe it's the only things my parents would buy me? Whatever the reason, even if I have read a long picture book, I don't recall any from my childhood.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kell on June 20, 2014, 06:33 AM
The best Berenstain Bears books, in my opinion, are the original rhymers!

But I wish for more illustrations in general (more work for my illustrator friends!). My nine-year-old reads 400 page middle-grade novels when they interest her, but they interest her more when they are illustrated. More pictures in MG please!

Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: lkstanek on June 20, 2014, 09:30 AM
My bet is simply that publishers saw the shorter-text PBs selling better (maybe not because they were short, but because some short ones caught on and got a lot of buzz) so they started leaning toward those short texts. Perhaps preschool teachers find that the short ones work better for their younger set (in addition to working for the older set), and that might help push the shorter texts as well. In general I think that publishers have to worry about sales first and foremost, so I think that's likely what has driven this change. Maybe someday the tide will change. Maybe not!
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on June 23, 2014, 12:29 PM
I have never met a child who didn't like Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. Both of my kids, at age 3, sat for the whole book. The whole book took about 45 minutes to go through. We outlawed it at bedtime for this reason. It's 48 pages and the pictures kept up with the words. Of course, we also had to find Gold Bug on every page.

My nine year old also reads middle grade, but he'll pick up a graphic novel or picture book too. Some of the graphics might qualify as longer picture books. It depends on the themes.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: elizabeth-mcbride on June 29, 2014, 08:39 PM
Thank goodness for Peachtree and Charlesbridge! Language is supposed to be heard and given enough attention to support the story and reveal it to the discovering reader. For the language to be be interesting and rich, it needs some room.  We are using the picture books as a regular part of teaching reading comprehension and writing in the upper grades. They are perfect for the amount of time we have, and the ideas can be complex and stimulating. We study the structure of the text, the language, the plot, setting, characters, POV, narration, use of dialogue, etc. We have very little that is new that we can use because the publishers are not aware of the educational need and use! It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Only the shorter ones will sell, because that is all that is being produced.  And that will be taken to mean that the market will only support picture books for the early ages. Eventually they will be right and we will not have the longer, beautiful experiments in language and pictures.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Arona on June 30, 2014, 05:49 AM
What Elizabeth said!   :fireworks
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: SarahW on June 30, 2014, 12:05 PM
What is considered long? 636 to like 737 is about average here.:/ (Unless I pulled like an all nighter, 20 nights in a row. Never going to do that again.)

I remember the Berenstein Bears books, I also remember that one storybook with like some Bunny-bear boy or something that went camping with him. Don't remember how long they were though.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Marcia on July 01, 2014, 05:37 AM
The books I mentioned are considered long. Miss Rumphius is the shortest at 1243 words. Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride is 1809 words. Many classics are close to 2000, such as A Birthday for Frances -1912 words.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: SarahW on July 01, 2014, 10:24 AM
Would someone averaging 1,000 word be considered borderline? That's usually what I average on a good day, or if I'm taking three days to write a longer short story.

The one I'm checking out now, is about 1,450 words. Though it was written in 2002.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming adverse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: iyerani on July 06, 2014, 06:21 PM
These great comments all make perfect sense, but how I wish the market would turn back to higher word counts. Why can't there be two levels of picture books: short fun ones for story time and more extensive ones for older readers who also happen to enjoy beautiful art? My favorite picture books are usually the longer ones and unfortunately, those are the kind I like to write, as well. I can't even imagine what a loss it would be to chop half the words out of Miss Rumphius, or Library Lion, or Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride.

Longer PB are called sophisticated PBs. They have become rarer in recent years.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Artemesia on July 07, 2014, 10:31 AM
So I had a couple editors reject a dummy my agent sent out saying it was too sophisticated. So do you mean they were talking more about length?? I had no idea that's what that meant. I thought they meant language difficulty/story (it was a hardboiled noir). And it was about 750 words. I did have one editor say it was too long for their tastes, and two who suggested I write it as a chapter book. (I may do that now that I've published chapter books)
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on July 07, 2014, 09:06 PM
We have a noir picture book on our shelves (self published, and/but good - I know both author and illustrator. It's called Hal, the Hamptons Hound. ) I remember getting one with an insect as the detective from the library; it wasn't self pubbed. That was too long ago for me to remember the title.

I've heard these longer picture books called picture story books.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Artemesia on July 08, 2014, 07:35 AM
Debbie, was it Ace Lacewing? I haven't read it yet, but I came across it when I was doing mine. I think Charlesbridge published it.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: AnnH on July 08, 2014, 08:20 AM
Are The Little Engine That Could and Blueberries for Sal considered picture books these days?
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kara S on July 08, 2014, 04:55 PM
I agree 100% with Marcia. REALLY want those longer picture books to make a comeback. As a reading specialist, it seems that not many parents know that picture books are actually harder for kids to read than chapter books (which tend to have controlled vocab). There are amazing picture books that I'd only give to 4th or 5th grade or up. They have wonderful vocab and varied sentence structure, and are complex.


I guess I keep hoping that with the Common Core Standards, publishers finally catch on to the need for text complexity (see Appendix A of CCSS on their website and standard 10 for almost every grade - they all refer to the huge concept of text complexity). Complex texts are something students (and teachers) can sink their teeth into - big concepts to ponder and discuss as per the speaking and listening standards as well as comprehension standards with writing techniques worth studying.


Those are the kinds of picture books CCSS asks us to use in the classroom K-12, and I am hoping that as text books are rewritten and published for CCSS, publishers will also catch on to the text complexity issue and begin to publish more complex, longer PBs.


And I have always loved them (as well as used them in teaching). This is the kind of PB I dream of being able to write, and I love to read. Masterful ones are amazing. Marcia has named a few and there are many, many others.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Arona on July 09, 2014, 05:53 PM
In regard to Kara's hopeful and future correlation between CCC and publishers, I had an author critique a longer PB (only 700ish words). Author said it was clever and original, that it spoke to the CCC (for science and language arts), CCC is what agents talk about these days, and librarians and teachers would love it. (There's a librarian in it, too.) HOWEVER, she also said that the science in it would be a bit too abstract for agents/pubs liking.

I cued the founding director of a math and science program for young children; he said some kids would get it, and those who didn't would still get something out of the "journey" that the librarian and MC take together. (And his kids would probably like it.)

So...agents and pubs want books that speak to CCC but with no more than 500 words and with language that does not stretch the mind OR imagination?

I agree with a lot of posts on here, but Kara's post points out the contradiction of the current trend in publishing.

(Headline: Librarians, teachers and writers lobby the Big Six.)
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: SarahW on July 09, 2014, 06:40 PM
So around 345 to 500 words is considered about normal?

I took a look at an except today of one book. A lot of pages only had line one line of text.

It's weird how picture books change from Peter And The Wolf.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: KatherineR on July 10, 2014, 08:15 AM
I'm finding this thread really fascinating. For many years I've been writing the long and complex pb. A couple of times two different pbs got to the acquisition phase but were too obscure for the market. The best agent advice given to me was to "simplify" and I struggle to do it. Happily ebooks have arrived. My Minnie's Green Book clocks in at a little over 1240 words and the second Minnie story checks in at 862 words. I think those stories will be useful and enjoyable because they will have the audio and prompting components that will help the child follow the words. (Also a tired Mom or Dad will not have to read it to them - a complaint I have heard that I believe has fed into the shorter word count market requirement.)
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: KeithM on July 10, 2014, 08:21 AM
Neil Gaiman's The Wolves In the Walls Ill. by Dave McKean is a kind of counterexample. It's a picture book with a lot of text per page, at least that's how I remember it, I don't have it in front of me. Looking it up I see it's got 56 pages not 32, Indiebound doesn't give an age but Amazon lists it as kindergarten and up but ages 8-12! It was published a year after Coraline so it may qualify as what Artemesia says, 'famous enough' : ) but well before Graveyard Book.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Mara on July 10, 2014, 08:32 AM
Arona, I would say it's generally true that publishers are looking for short picture books for preschoolers, but also longer picture books (history, science, etc.) for elementary. Science and historical nonfiction PBs often come in well over 1000 words.

But even just straight fiction doesn't have to be under 500 words. Both of my 2014 picture books run a bit longer--about 780 for THE GRUDGE KEEPER (Peachtree) and 700 for CHIK CHAK SHABBAT (Candlewick).
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Arona on July 10, 2014, 09:50 AM
Katherine, if you don't mind me asking: what did they find too obscure in both books at the acquisition meeting? (I found it odd that not one but two mss made it to that stage yet were ultimately passed on for being too obscure. Must have been borderline if someone couldn't pass on it from the beginning. Hmmm.)

Mara, thanks for some clarification. Seems everything I read indicates 300-500 max (which I mostly equate with pre-school levels), even for PBs for older kids. And agents don't seem to differentiate age ranges in regard to PBs. (Hard to tell a story that's more advanced for older kids in 300 words.)

LOVE Peachtree books. I have a few mss that, once polished, I'd love to sub to them.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Mara on July 10, 2014, 10:02 AM
 :shrug: All I can say is that I've sold a bunch of picture books to different publishers, and they have never been under 650 words. Almost always in the 750-1000 range.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: KatherineR on July 10, 2014, 10:07 AM
Well it was two different books to two different publishers. One was trying to explain mode, mean and median averages in a fun way and the other was about a father daughter relationship when the father was a submariner - kind of too niche I suppose. They both are too complex for a pb and I've been toying with making the second a full blown mg but keep running into confused readers who think that I'm writing an historical novel. Um no, certain aspects of submarine life hasn't really changed that much in 40 years! LOL!
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on July 14, 2014, 06:24 PM
Debbie, was it Ace Lacewing? I haven't read it yet, but I came across it when I was doing mine. I think Charlesbridge published it.

You got it. Fun read.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on July 14, 2014, 06:38 PM
I've heard 750 -800 words is the sweet spot. The under 500 isn't best for every book. The key still is to keep it as short as possible.

I used Peter and the Wolf in about third grade. I don't recall it as having that many words, but it was a book and tape set.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: SarahW on July 14, 2014, 11:48 PM
I guess I'm well within the sweet spot then. I seem to average 350-500 words generally.:/
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Natalie on July 15, 2014, 12:24 AM
I think there are two main reasons why the long picture book (think The Velveteen Rabbit) have faded away.


1. A growing early chapter book market
When I was a kid (in elementary school in the mid-1970s), there were VERY few early reader chapter books; I do remember Frog and Toad, but not much else. Then there were chapter books like Charlotte's Web and Ramona the Pest, and there were picture books. Period. Those long picture books filled a need for readers who were getting ready to make the switch to chapter books, but might not have had the stamina yet for chapter books. I don't ever remember using a bookmark for the long picture books--they were read in one sitting.


2. Use of picture books to teach language arts skills
Fast forward now to my day job as an elementary school teacher/librarian?several people brought up the text complexity that the Common Core Standards require, and I totally agree--I use longer picture books with my 6th grade students (Patricia Polacco, Eve Bunting, etc.). BUT?the reality is that I need complex, rich stories that can be read in about 15 minutes. I use these books for lessons, and I need to have time to read the story, show/model what I want the students to do, then give them ample time to practice that skill. This is different from when I was in elementary school; I don't ever remember my teachers using a picture book as a springboard for a lesson. There was spelling, reading groups, and writing, which was all separate from read-aloud time (my favorite part of the day :)).


Of course there are still readers out there who would sit through long picture books and some who would read them on their own, but from a publisher's standpoint, publishing these books for so few readers would have to be a labor of love, not a sound economic venture.

Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kell on July 15, 2014, 04:55 AM
KatherineR, I had a similar reaction to one of my books as your submariner book! It puzzles me because, using your book as an example, the market isn't just kids with parents who work on submarines. It's kids who are interested in submarines (loads of 'em!) and kids whose parents travel away from home for work or don't live with them all the time (lots more!). That's another aspect of needing stories for young children that show diversity in lives of all kinds.

/topic derail
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: KatherineR on July 15, 2014, 06:53 AM
 :hijacked   Kell, that's a good point. I got so close! I shouldn't entirely give up on it. Maybe I'll pull it out in another year or two and try to revise/market it again.

End highjack.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kara S on July 15, 2014, 07:51 AM
Natalie,


The way we do complex text discussions of picture books (at my school) at the elementary level is to use those small chunks of time, like you mentioned (15 mins of reading, and add in discussion time for about 25-30 mins at a sitting), but not to expect to finish the book in one sitting/day/lesson For 4th and 5th grade, it can take a week to get through a picture book this way - which is fine. Actually, good. So we get through about 15 mins of rich, complex text every day, but have time to discuss it in chunks, and time to let it sink in - and several days to work through thoughts of the text, which can really help students.


Kara
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Natalie on July 15, 2014, 01:26 PM
This sounds like a good idea, Kara. As a librarian, I can't do this since I only see classes once per week or once every other week, but for a classroom teacher, this makes a lot of sense. Using a document camera would be especially effective so that kids can see the text and illustrations as the teacher reads.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Arona on July 15, 2014, 02:45 PM
I've heard the description 'picture book' for so long now that I'd forgotten they were called something else when I was a kid. If they had text and pictures, they were storybooks. In school, they were read by teachers or librarians (and by students with the best reading skills). 

Not to be confused with the picture story books of today. And those who are selling longer PBs (more complex text and character-driven) are (secretly) called picture story books or sophisticated picture books, yet subbed and sold as PBs.  :bewildered:


How do schools fund the PBs that are used for CC? From the library budget? It seems librarians would have to be more particular than ever. And teachers as well, who spend a considerable amount of their own money  on classroom items.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: charlotte-riggle on July 26, 2014, 09:34 PM
Hi. This discussion is fascinating. My first children's book is about 1300 words long. When I first wrote it, over 20 years ago, I was told that 1000 words was the limit, and I managed to carve it down to that length. But even with that, I couldn't find a publisher. They told me that it was too niche. (Today, it's multicultural, or diverse. Then it was just niche.)

Anyway, I got the manuscript out,  and dusted it off, found an illustrator who owns a small publishing house, and we started working together to get the book ready for today's market. And we ended up adding words, and then we added pages.

There's no way of knowing if the book will sell, of course. Maybe there isn't a market for a longer picture book. But so many of my favorites, the ones I loved when I was little, and so many of the books I bought for and read to my children were longer. Here's hoping that we'll start seeing lots of longer picture books with complex language and beautiful, rich illustrations. 
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Mike Karg on July 29, 2014, 03:54 PM
I'm wondering what the impact of Brian Floca's Locomotive (2573 words, 60 pages) will have on the market. Sure, that is the exception, but all those awards and brisk sales can't be ignored.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on August 04, 2014, 07:34 AM
I think Locomotive is considered non-fiction. It is not uncommon for non-fiction picture books to be this long. They are often intended for older readers. Look at David Macaulay's books and many put out by Smithsonian.
Title: Re: Why are publishers becoming averse to longer picture book texts?
Post by: Kara S on August 07, 2014, 03:50 PM
Arona,


Each district and each school within a district has different funding sources. If a school is Title 1, typically, they will allocate some part of their budget for materials, which can include books. If not, there may be other funds that can be allocated for literacy. Some may come out of media budgets, but I don't think that is a dependable, consistent source for funding books that classroom teachers use for text discussions (or book 6 packs for guided reading). A lot of times, teachers or literacy people write grants to get the books funded. For our school, I wrote a grant for a lot of complex picture books that classroom teachers will use, and then also used Title 1 funds - so both. Title 1 budgets typically need to be spent by a certain spring date in the school year, so Feb/March brings a lot of purchases with Title 1 money. Scholastic and B&N love us!   :love5:


Kara