Good morning everyone! Today I’m delighted to share with you a guest post from Guy Parker-Rees author of Dylan The Doctor, where he discusses his Top 5 Things About Writing Picture Books- enjoy!
1. First of all: picture books are magical!
Can you remember your favourite picture book as a child? Doesn’t it have a magical glow around it? Here are two of my favourites that have survived and live on my bookshelf.
‘I am a Mouse’ ( written by Ole Risom and illustrated by John P. Miller) a very simple story about a mouse visiting his friends and it always reminds me that the world can be an essentially friendly place.
There is one page where he visits his friend, ‘the shy newt’ and even now as I walk to my studio through the park I stop at the newt pond to say hello. And it always feels magical when I see one.
Picture books connect you to the small child inside you who was experiencing the world for the very first time when he or she read it. Those books stay with you as helpful friends throughout your life.
2. Picture books are a very pure form of storytelling.
You’ve got about 12 to 15 double page spreads and 700 words with which to have an adventure. It’s more like poetry than other forms of storytelling. Every word has to count.
It’s very satisfying when you get a picture book story right and
it’s very hard to say precisely why one picture book works and another doesn’t.
That’s not to say a lot of hard work goes into getting the structure right. I am blessed with a brilliant editor, Alison green from Alison Green Books who helps me tighten up the story’s structure. You just recognise it when you see it, like a joke.
3. Words and Picture work together.
A lot of the magic happens when you get the interplay between the text and the image just right- they amplify and play off each other.
4. Picture Books create a unique shared space between adult and child as they read a story together.
I always think of that circle created by the adult’s extended arms and the open book.
It’s a safe place for the child to explore the world with the adult.
In the Dylan stories there is a character called Dotty Bug who is there to encourage this joining in element. When she asks ‘Have you ever been to hospital’, it might be a time to share worries that a small child might have. I like to think that, as well as being a fun adventure, there is also a place to share difficult feelings.
5. Picture Books are stories to read aloud.
This is the best bit about them, it’s a chance to have fun together and create your own mini play so joining in is an essential part of the show. Go on! Put on the funny voices, add to the drama in your own way, you know you want to. I love reading my stories to groups of children at bookshops, libraries, schools or nurseries.
In Dylan the Doctor I get all the children to shout out ‘Nee Naw’ ambulance sound at the tops of their voices. It’s very cathartic but maybe not best just before bedtime.