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What defines a literary picture booK?

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Barbara Eveleth

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So the discussion is going regarding literary YA and it is so interesting that I thought I'd extend it to pbs. What do you all think makes a pb literary? I am going to throw out examples of some I consider literary: Snowy Day, Polar Express, anything Barbara Cooney, anything Linda Smith, anything Maurice Sendak...anything Verla Kay. I'll be back to add on...I'd love to get this discussion going...TIA
#1 - February 05, 2007, 10:55 AM

Sarah Miller

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Off the top of my head, I'd like to add anything Jacqueline Woodson. I'll get back with specifics later....
#2 - February 05, 2007, 12:03 PM

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Colorful characters drawn with lyrical language. A layered plot thick with setting and mood. A puzzle of a problem. See PB's by Jane Yolen, Jennifer Armstrong, Eve Bunting, and Elizabeth Spurr to name a few.

Andria
#3 - February 05, 2007, 12:36 PM
www.andriawarmflashrosenbaum.com
Twitter: @andriawrose
Trains Don't Sleep, HMH 2017
Big Sister, Little Monster, Scholastic Press, 2017

Owl Moon (Jane Yolen) comes to mind immediately.  Though I can't quite articulate why....


buglady
#4 - February 05, 2007, 01:42 PM

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I always define literary as about the "why/how" you write something.  In my head, anything written because it's driven by language/craft is literary.  Anything driven by function/purpose, for commercial reasons (market based) or to order is (by my questionable definition) not literary.  So a pb that teaches a moral lesson or instructs, written FOR that purpose, is not.

Of course, some commercial work turns out literary, and some literary work is highly commercial.  But for me, as a writer, that's how I divide my work up. If I write it the way I would poetry, it's literary. If I write it as I would a freelance piece, it's not.

My picks for literary pbs:  When the Sky is like lace, Eloise, Rain Makes Applesauce.

xoL

#5 - February 05, 2007, 01:54 PM

Zen Shorts
#6 - February 05, 2007, 03:25 PM
Hush Little Dragon (Abrams)
I Had A Favorite Dress (Abrams)
The Class (Beach Lane)
and others
http://www.boniashburn.com

richmond8

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I'm going to propose Stinky Cheeseman.  It's lighthearted, but it makes many literary references.
#7 - February 05, 2007, 07:52 PM

shebec

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I love the Stinky Cheeseman!

I tend to think that anything that is not highly commercial and puts the emphasis on being well-written and well-crafted is literary, like ohmylorelei mentioned.

I also think I always confuse classic with literary because they so often go together, so at the risk of being wrong, I would propose that Steven Kellogg's books are literary. My two favorites are The Mysterious Tadpole and The Christmas Witch.
#8 - February 05, 2007, 08:28 PM
« Last Edit: February 05, 2007, 08:33 PM by Becca Q »

Aud

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I feel like I always chime in about this picture book in blue board discussions, but my favorite literary-ish PB is ROXABOXEN.
#9 - February 06, 2007, 06:29 AM

richmond8

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 Love Roxaboxen.  I'd like to read it again.  I remember it more closely mirrored what childhood used to be like than almost anything I've ever read.
#10 - February 06, 2007, 04:55 PM

Gregor

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I would define my own book I Hear the Wind as a literary picture book.  The text is more like free form verse, using language to create a mental picture in your mind.

"I hear the wind as it moans and sighs, it rises and falls like an ocean wave, whispering to me low and lonely."

The story doesn't have to be complex, just as long as the words you use are beautiful.
#11 - February 06, 2007, 06:13 PM

I like to think of literary more as Cheryl Klein describes it-- that the story examines deeper meanings in life, seeks to unearth universal truths.

It seems to me that is a more standard interpretation of "literary."

I can appreciate it, but I don't write it  :D  My stuff is purely about fun.
Boni
#12 - February 06, 2007, 08:01 PM
Hush Little Dragon (Abrams)
I Had A Favorite Dress (Abrams)
The Class (Beach Lane)
and others
http://www.boniashburn.com

shebec

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Ooh, good definition, BoniA. Or I guess I should say Cheryl Klein. I would add that the truly great, literary works examine deeper meanings without ignoring the story at hand. What I mean is, it shouldn't be didactic. The story needs to stand alone as well.
#13 - February 06, 2007, 08:20 PM

Jaina

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Gotta love these books that walk the line between literary and commercial.  Like The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Spiritual Enlightenment.  That one really got to me down deep, you know?  But it was fun, too.
#14 - February 07, 2007, 04:28 AM

Barbara Eveleth

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LOL!

I like Olivia Sports Zen Shorts.

Click Clack Owl Moo.




#15 - February 07, 2007, 04:37 AM
« Last Edit: February 07, 2007, 05:03 AM by AE »

Jaina

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Curious George Goes To All The Places To Love?
#16 - February 07, 2007, 04:45 AM

Barbara Eveleth

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Toot and Puddle Go Where The Wild Things Are.

The Stinky Cheeseman Says "I Stink."

#17 - February 07, 2007, 04:52 AM

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I like to think of literary more as Cheryl Klein describes it-- that the story examines deeper meanings in life, seeks to unearth universal truths.



I don't disagree with this Boni, but I think there's a lot of commercial work that does this too. Chicken Soup, self-help books.  All kinds of sloppy writing work to explore meaning and truth in ways that don't interest me.  And lots of literary books get at universal truths in silly fun ways that you'd never point to as "deep meaning".  I think that there's a mix in literary work, of something BIGGER (even if its a funny/silly thing) something about the essence of human experience, and does so in an artful, careful way.  Paying attention to how words work.
#18 - February 07, 2007, 06:16 AM

Read to your kids
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Jane Yolen's "Owl moon' is a wonderful example of literary.  it has a virtual quality to it, that pulls you into the story.  You feel the cold and experience the wonder of the plot first hand.  That's literary.
#19 - February 08, 2007, 08:53 AM

shebec

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How words work...hmm...that sounds right. I got a worksheet from a picture book author on how to analyze picture books. He had all these questions, and one part was on the use of words. Questions about fresh use of verbs and invoking all the senses and showing instead of telling. I would sometimes wrack my brain reading the PBs over and over because I couldn't find a fresh verb, or an example of taste, and it took me several before I realized that not every book is going to have all those things. Some don't have any! I guess that's the distinction, then. If they don't have any, if they haven't used language well, they aren't literary. Which, as some of you have pointed out, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
#20 - February 08, 2007, 09:35 AM

TnTexas

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I've always thought of a literary picture book as being one that provides more than a bare-bones story - one that's a rich story which can be read and easily understood without pictures.
#21 - February 23, 2007, 06:08 AM

Barbara Eveleth

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But TN and I mean this kindly, why would it be a picture book if the pictures were not necessary? Kids read pictures.

Thanks everyone for your feedback. Sometimes I think it is a grey area. I mean there certainly are purely commercial pbs yet it seems that lately there is more of a crossover and I don't necessarily think that that is a bad thing.
#22 - February 23, 2007, 06:59 AM

TnTexas

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But TN and I mean this kindly, why would it be a picture book if the pictures were not necessary? Kids read pictures.

Thanks everyone for your feedback. Sometimes I think it is a grey area. I mean there certainly are purely commercial pbs yet it seems that lately there is more of a crossover and I don't necessarily think that that is a bad thing.

I've read plenty of picture books - pictures and text on every page - that can be read and understood without even looking at the pictures. The story stands totally on its own. The pictures add a dimension to the story that's fun and beautiful and sometimes breathtaking, but they're not necessary to understanding the story.
#23 - February 23, 2007, 07:21 AM

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When I think of "literary," I think of an elevated, multi-layered use of LANGUAGE.
In that sense, "a literary picture book" is a bit of an oxymoron. But if you consider an illustared poem, published in PB format, you'll get something which can be labled a literary picture book. I have a new edition of Winken, Blinken and Nod that fits the label, and Owl Moon is a poetic mood piece that qualifies as well.

I doubt we need to be concerened with such definitions. They are the realm of  writing teachers, marketers, or reviewers. Of course, you may be all of the above! But most writers should focus on telling wonderful stories.
#24 - February 23, 2007, 10:10 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

www.mirkabreen.com
http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

Laurie

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I love Paul Fleischman's WESLANDIA. Where does that fall?

Laurie
#25 - February 23, 2007, 10:15 AM

lurban

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For me, this is a marketing distinction more than anything else, and it has to do with the sort of kid appeal a book might have, how the book is positioned, etc.

If you limit it to language usage, then where would you put a book like David Weisner's Three Little Pigs?
#26 - February 23, 2007, 10:44 AM

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