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What are the best picture books...

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Trench Bunny Caretaker
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I never imagine I'd write a picture book, but it seems the bug has bitten me.  :ladybug:

I've been reading as much how-to info as I can, both here on the BBs and elsewhere on the Internet.

I also went to the library and took out a whole armful of picture books, plus I've reread whatever books we have left in the house (unfortunately, I did a major cleanout of the kids old books when we moved last summer  :turnblue ).

But I'm wondering, if you experienced writers could recommend a list of picture books that would really help a beginner learn the basics? For example, books that demonstrating plot, character, pacing/page turns, and probably a bunch of other stuff I don't know?

Thanks muchly!

Rue
#1 - April 27, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Here are some my chicklets and I have enjoyed:

 SOMETHING FROM NOTHING by Phoebe Gilman
 CLICK, CLACK, MOO by Doreen Cronin illus. by Betsy Lewin
 CHESTER  by Melanie Watt
 SCAREDY SQUIRREL  by Melanie Watt
 GRUMPY BIRD  by Jeremy Tankard
 DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS by Mo Willems
 FANCY NANCY  by Jane O’connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
#2 - April 27, 2012, 10:32 AM
www.heleneboudreau.com

Author of the REAL MERMAIDS tween series, RED DUNE ADVENTURES chapter book series, I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN (2013) and more.

CaroleB

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Hey Rue,
Perhaps you've already read this, but I think it's worth mentioning. There's a post called, How does a writer leave room for the illustrator to do his or her work? on this thread that is really good.
Have fun and good luck!
Carole
#3 - April 27, 2012, 10:38 AM

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Thanks, guys!

I'll look for those at the library, Hélène!

Carole, I've been following that thread too. Will read it again.

Thanks!

Rue
#4 - April 27, 2012, 10:49 AM
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CaroleB

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Hey Rue,
Best books are sort of subjective, I mean there's classics and best seller stuff and personal favorites, but I'm thinking it would be awesome to get a list of BBers pbs and take a look at those. As helpful as folks are here, maybe you could pick their brains (with permission) about how they wrote theirs? Of course, I'm speaking off the top of my head and maybe that's not cool. Worth asking about though, eh?
Is there such a list on these boards?
Carole
#5 - April 27, 2012, 11:26 AM

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Yeah, I wasn't asking for which books people liked best, but which books they felt were good for newbies to study that would do a good job showing writing basics. Stuff like plot, characterization, pacing/page turns.

I know there are lists out there for adult books, even some MG and YA books. I've seen them in blogs and on message boards.

I just thought there might be some similar recommendations for PBs. There are just so many out there it's hard to know where to start. And some just aren't that great examples to study, IMHO.

Thanks again!

Rue
#6 - April 27, 2012, 11:34 AM
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Our faves:
Cowboy and Octopus
Shark vs. Train
Even Monsters Need Haircuts
Extra Yarn
I Want My Hat Back (love this so much!)
all the pigeon books by Mo Willems
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight
and Squids Will Be Squids - but it's more a collection of fables than a PB. Still, it's in the category of "if you love it so much why don't  you marry it..." because I totally would!
#7 - April 27, 2012, 12:03 PM
Robin

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Thanks, Robin.

Some of those are my favourites too. Wish I hadn't given them away...  :turnblue

Rue
#8 - April 27, 2012, 12:18 PM
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There's a terrific blog by picture book writer Rob Sanders called Picture This! that has a treasure trove of information. One of his recent posts was a list of the picture books that The Horn Book just rated either a 1 or a 2 (its top ratings--which, btw, included our own Verla's Hornbooks and Inkwells :) that might be worth looking at:

http://robsanderswrites.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-makes-for-success-in-eyes-of-horn.html

Hope that helps!
#9 - April 27, 2012, 12:42 PM
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 01:17 PM by LeslieG »

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Oh, thanks, Leslie! I'll check that out! :)

Rue
#10 - April 27, 2012, 12:55 PM
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Rue, try getting hold of Ann Whitford Paul's book Writing Picture Books. It's pure genius in my opinion. And also try typing out any picture books you like, noting how many words are on each spread. I did that with all my favourite PBs at the beginning and it made me realise how few words it takes to make a really good book, also how important pacing is and, of course, leaving lots for the illustrator to do.

I'd argue some books are only doable by author/illustrators. The Pigeon books by Mo Willems for example. Without the illustrations, the text isn't funny - so if you're a writer looking for how to write a picture book, I'm not sure that would help you. Another example is Olivia by Ian Falconer (the first book). I typed out the text and much of it is quite boring without the illustrations! For eg,

On rainy days, Olivia likes to go to the museum.
She heads straight for her favorite picture.
Olivia looks at it for a long time. What could she be thinking?

But with the illustrations it's hilarious!

Of course you can add illustration notes but that's frowned upon unless it is absolutely essential (ie the story makes no sense without it), because then you're not giving the illustrator the freedom to interpret your words.

As for picture books that are good to learn from, I'd say choose the books you enjoy and are leaning towards in terms of writing - humorous, lyrical, rhyming, whatever. And just read as many as you can get your hands on.

My all-time favourite picture books are:
Big Bear Hug by Nicolas Oldland
Beware of the Frog by William Bee
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Quiet! by Paul Bright
Giraffes can't Dance by Giles Andrae
Smelly Peter the Great Pea Eater by Steve Smallman
Stella by Marie Louise Gay
Any book by Carolyn and Mark Buehner, but especially Fanny's Dream.

Hope that helps!
#11 - April 27, 2012, 02:30 PM

I know you didn't ask for books on craft, but I really suggest you read "Writing Picture Books" by Ann Whitford Paul.

And I'll add "Knuffle Bunny" by Mo Willems to the mix.

But for the most part, if you aren't also an illustrator, it may be best not to focus on books written by author/illustrators.

Love many of the books already mentioned!

Good luck and have fun!
#12 - April 27, 2012, 05:20 PM
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Thanks, guys! I'll for sure check out Writing Picture Books!

And sadly, no, not an illustrator. I can draw well enough, but I'm not that good.

Rue
#13 - April 27, 2012, 05:57 PM
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I somehow missed Franzilla mentioning the same book in the post above mine. That's what happens when you try to multitask! Or when I do, anyway. :D Guess that's two recommendations for "Writing Picture Books."
#14 - April 27, 2012, 06:19 PM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
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Jodell Sadler

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Best Picture Books... but there are so many not listed as well. Here are some I've reviewed for my picture book writing craft book. There are just so many brilliant picture books out there, but this is a list I'd start with. :) Forgive the length of this post.

Allard, Harry. (2007). Miss Nelson is Missing. Sandpiper Publishing
Archambault, John. (2004). Boom Chicka Rock. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing
Bachelet, Gilles. (2006). My Cat, The Silliest Cat In The World. New York, NY: Harry. N. Abrahms.
Bachelet, Gilles. (2007). When the Silliest Cat Was Small. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrahms.   
Barroux. (2010). EXTRAordinary Pets. Maplewood, NJ: Blue Apple Books.
Barton, Chris. (2010). Shark Vs. Train. New York, NY: Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Beaty, Andrea. (2006). When Giants Come to Play. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrahms.
Beaty, Andrea.  (2009). Firefighter Ted. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster/Margaret McElderry.
Beaumont, Karen. (2005). I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! Boston, MA: Harcourt Children’s Books
Beaumont, Karen. (2011). No Sleep for Sheep! Boston, MA: Harcourt Children’s Books 
Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline
Black, Michael Ian. (2009). Chicken Cheeks. New York, NY:  Simon & Schuster for Young Readers.
Briggs, Raymond. (2002). The Snowman. New York, NY: Penguin.
Brown, Peter. (2009). The Curious Garden. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Brown, Peter. (2010). Children Make Terrific Pets. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Browne, Anthony. Me and You
Bunting, Eve. Hurry, Hurry
Bunting, Eve.  Night Tree
Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel
Carle, Eric. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Carle, Eric. The Very Quiet Cricket
Chaconas, Dori. One Little Mouse
Chaconas, Dori.   Don’t Slam The Door!
Chall, Marsha Wilson. Bonaparte
Chall, Marsha Wilson.  Up North at the Cabin
Chall, Marsha Wilson.  One Pup’s Up
Clements, Andrew. DOGKU. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
Cordell, Matthew. Trouble Gum (Feiwel and Friends)
Crawford, Laura. American Revolution from A to Z (Pelican)
Crimi, Carolyn. Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates (Candlewick)
Crimi, Carolyn. Get Busy, Beaver!
Cyrus, Kurt. (2011). The Voyage of Turtle Rex. New York: NY: Harcourt Children’s Books.
Day, Larry. illustrator, Bye-Bye, Baby! (Walker Books for Children)
Ebbeler, Jeff. illustrator, One is a Feast for a Mouse (Holiday House)
Elliot, David. Finn Throws A Fit
Elliot, David. And Here’s To You!
Fleming, Candace.  Tippy, Tippy, Tippy, Hide!
Fleming, Candace.  Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!   
Fleming, Candace.  Clever Jack Takes The Cake
Fox, Mem. Koala Lou
Fox, Mem.  Hello Baby
Fox, Mem.  Harriet, You Drive Me Wild
Frazee, Marla. The Boss Baby
Gag, Wanda. Millions of Cats
Graves, Keith. Chicken Big
Graves, Keith.  Frank Was A Monster Who Wanted To Dance
Gravett, Emily. Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear
Gravett, Emily. Monkey and Me
Gravett, Emily.  The Odd Egg
Grey, Mini. The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be
Griffin, Molly Beth. Loon Baby
Henkes, Kevin. Kitten’s First Full Moon
Henkes, Kevin. Chrysanthemum
Henkes, Kevin.  My Garden
Hershenhorn, Esther. S is for Story: A Writer’s Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press)
Hughes, Shirley. Don't Want to Go!
Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel
Isadore, Rachel. Bring on the Beat
Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?
Kaplan, Bruce Eric. Monsters Eat Whiny Children
Katz, Alan. The Flim-Flam Fairies
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day
Kraus, Robert. Leo the Late Bloomer
Kraus, Robert.  Whose Mouse Are You?
Krouse Rosenthal, Amy. Little Pea
Krouse Rosenthal, Amy.  the OK book   
Krouse Rosenthal, Amy.  Duck! Rabbit!
LaRochelle, David. The End
LaRochelle, David. The Best Pet of All
Leaf, Munro. The Story of Ferdinand
Lee, Suzy. SHADOW
Lester, Julius. John Henry
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Snowflake Bentley
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Banjo Granny
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. The Chiru of High Tibet
Martin, Jr., Bill and John Archambault. Chica Chica Boom Boom
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way For Ducklings
McCourt, Lisa. I Love You Stinky Face
McGhee, Alison. Someday
Nelson, Marilyn. Snook Alone
O’Malley, Kevin. Animal Crackers Fly the Coop
Proimos, James. Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace
Polacco, Patricia. Emma Kate
Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Raschka, Chris. Mysterious Thelonius
Raschka, Chris.  Charlie Parker Plays Be Bop
Raschka, Chris.  Yo! Yes?
Ray, H. A. Curious George
Reynolds, Aaron. Chicks and Salsa
Reynolds, Aaron.  Superhero School (Bloomsbury)
Rodriguez, Béatrice. The Chicken Thief
Rompella, Natalle. Edgar, Allan, and Poe and the Tell-Tale Beets (Lobster Press)
Root, Phyllis. Flip, Flap, Fly
Root, Phyllis.  Looking For A Moose
Root, Phyllis.  Oliver Finds His Way
Root, Phyllis.  CREAK! Went the Bed
Rohmann, Eric. (2002). My Friend Rabbit.  Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press.
Sauer, Tammi. Chicken Dance – Add to Rhythm section
Sauer, Tammi. Mr. Duck Means Business
Sauer, Tammi.   Mostly Monsterly
Scieszka, Jon. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. First the Egg
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. What if?
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro.  The Boy
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are
Shannon, David. No, David!
Shannon, David.  Oh, David!
Simmons, Jane. Come Along, Daisy
Singer, Marilyn. Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
Slade, Suzanne. What’s New at the Zoo (Sylvan Dell)
Smallcomb, Pam. I’m Not
Smallcomb, Pam.  Earth to Clunk
Smith, Lane. John, Paul, Ben & George (Hyperion)
Smith, Lane. (2010). It’s A Book! New York, NY: Roaring Book Press.
Smith, Stu. My School’s a Zoo
Spinelli, Eileen. Three Pebbles and a Song
Spinelli, Eileen.  Six Hogs on a Scooter
Spinelli, Eileen.  Sophie’s Masterpiece
Spinelli, Eileen.  Silly Tilly
Spinelli, Eileen.   Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat’s Tale
Stead, Philip C.  A Sick Day for Amos McGhee
Steig, William. Doctor De Soto
Swanson, Susan Marie. The House in the Night 
Taback, Simms. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat 
Underwood, Deborah. The Quiet Book
Underwood, Deborah. The Loud Book
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Polar Express
Voist, Judith. Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Ward, Jennifer. The Busy Tree (Marshall Cavendish)
Ward, Jennifer.  Let’s Go Outside! (Random House/Trumpeter)
Wiesner, David. Art & Max
Wiesner, David.  Tuesday
Wiesner, David.  Flotsam
Wheeler, Lisa. One Dark Night
Wheeler, Lisa.  Jazz Baby
Willems, Mo. Leonardo the Terrible Monster
Willems, Mo.  Knuffle Bunny
Willems, Mo.  We Are In A Book!
Willems, Mo.  Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Williams, Vera. A Chair For My Mother
Winter, Jonah. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
Young, Ed. Seven Blind Mice
Zion, Gene. Harry the Dirty Dog
#15 - June 23, 2012, 10:13 AM

Awesome list, Jodell! Thanks. Lots and lots of my own faves here.

By the way, isn't "Miss Nelson is Missing" an older book? I thought it was from the '70s.
#16 - June 23, 2012, 10:49 AM
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That is an amazing list!

I love Miss Nelson is Missing. I remember reading it as a child and was thrilled to hear that my second grader's class was reading it early in the school year. There's just something about those classic, timeless books.

Also The Giving Tree. To this day I can't read it without crying.
#17 - June 23, 2012, 10:55 AM

I Love Miss Nelson too! And my daughter recently read it in her first grade class.
#18 - June 23, 2012, 11:19 AM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
http://www.dianamurray.com

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Hi Rue-

I second everything said here. Find the books you love. Try actually typing out the text of books you think work really well. While I definitely agree about reading the classics, I would also add that it's important to really study recently-published books. That will give you a sense of what is selling today. Sad as it seems, there are a lot of classics everyone loves that  might not have been published in today's market.

Good luck with your picture book venture!

Carrie
#19 - June 23, 2012, 11:23 AM
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Lots of great advice here. You can also follow NYC librarian Betsy Bird's Blog at
http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production
She frequently polls for favorite PBs.
jean
#20 - June 23, 2012, 12:05 PM
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Wow, looks like I've got some more reading to do! :books:

Thanks, again!

Rue
#21 - June 23, 2012, 01:32 PM
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One of my favorites is THAT RABBIT BELONGS TO EMILY BROWN. I could spend forever analyzing its merits, but I like the following about it:

- Emily and Stanley go on imaginative adventures
- There's repetition/slow but steady building of the problem
- Some cumulative text but it's not a cumulative tale
- The child teaches the adult something in the end

Yeah, I love when the child proves to be smarter than the adult, especially if that adult is royalty!
#22 - July 07, 2012, 07:12 PM
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There are also some books to use as example of types of story structure, like:

THE DOG WHO BELONGED TO NO ONE (parallel tale)
BOY + BOT (mirror tale)
GUESS WHAT I FOUND IN DRAGON WOOD and CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS (reversal tales)
IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? (concept tale)
#23 - July 07, 2012, 07:16 PM
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I second 'I Want My Hat Back'.
There's also The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
#24 - July 07, 2012, 08:06 PM

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I love Joy Cowley's book on writing, Writing from the Heart.  She's been my hero for years because her easy readers use so few words and are so much fun. (Mrs. Wishy Washy, Nickety Nackety Noo Noo Noo, etc.) I love Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books, because they express so much emotion between the two friends in so few words. The Little Bear books are almost as old as me, but they have great little plots with not a wasted word.
#25 - July 07, 2012, 08:16 PM

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I'd argue some books are only doable by author/illustrators.

This is such a good point. There's nothing wrong with looking at books by author/illustrators, but to me they're really a different subgenre and are of limited help to new picture book writers trying to figure out how it's done and what will sell.
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