Still thinking about Rick Walton and thought I’d share some more of his wisdom. When I was taking a beginning picture book workshop from him some years ago, he pointed out some of the problems with the “bad” picture books:
- They should not be didactic or display a laundry list of “rules” about your subject.
- They should be from a child’s POV, not from the grandmother’s, or be head‑hopping among various members of, for instance, a family including adults.
- If you have a “message” give it throughout the story — be subtle!
- Show, don’t tell, what’s going on in your story.
- Boring repetition is an interest killer ‑ use repetition for a specific purpose.
- Characters need to be “real” within the story ‑‑‑ no “cardboard” characters allowed.
- You get more bang for your buck if you include some level of emotion within your story.
- Long sentences are boring ‑‑‑ young children have a finite attention span.
- The MC (a CHILD) should solve the “problem” of the story, not the adults.
- Turn on your X‑Ray vision and bore a straight light throughout the story without digressions.
Come to think of it, these aren’t half‑bad ideas for writing for OTHER ages too!
Your prompt is to grab a bunch of picture books from home or at a library and put them to the test. Which ones followed the suggestions above, which one didn’t? Which would you love to read over and over to a child?
YES! I DID IT! And my favorite (and I’ve read it to ADULT students over and over, and even to some “kids”. AND I still laugh and enjoy it every time. It’s Why the Banana Split, by (you know!) Rick Walton.
- We see through words AND illustrations what’s happening, story‑wise.
- Nothing boring or nonsensically repetitious about it.
- No long, boring sentences.
- A little mystery as to what’s going on.
- The emotional content (and the clever, hilarious reactions of the characters) are spot on.
Hey, this was fun, looking over my old notes and admiring Rick’s wisdom once again. Maybe, for tomorrow, I’ll tell you what else he had to say about the GOOD picture books!
(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )