Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Picture Book Month 2016
Why are picture books important?
As a child I spent hours staring at the pages of my favorite Golden Books, Whitman oversized stories, and Berenstain Bears almanacs. Later I lost myself in the pages of picture story books. These were my first windows on the world.
Picture books are beautiful. They show us beauty in many forms: nature, humanity, or art itself. Ernest Shepherd and Trina Schart Hyman shaped my artistic tastes, but I learned to appreciate Ezra Jack Keats and Marcia Brown, Quentin Blake and Marilyn Hafner.
Picture books inspire creativity. Honestly, I didn't read much. I used my books to make up my own stories. I loved the maps and double page spreads featuring complex scenes. I wanted to know who all those characters were, hiding in the background. Which house did they live in? Which path did they travel to school? Who worked at the bakery and what did it smell like? When I didn't like a plot point, I imagined a new one.
Picture books imitate life. I remember making lists of how to clean up messy rooms, like Goose's in Sweet Pickles. It was much more fun to procrastinate, thinking how I'd NEVER let the ice cream melt on her kitchen counter or throw dirty socks on the floor, all the while I lounged in a pile of school papers and discarded drawings, surrounded by stuffed animals.
Picture books prepare us for what is to come. It didn't matter that I wasn't a bear, or a pig, or a princess, I could imagine my life as if I were, down to the last detail. I still use those skills as a writer and illustrator, but I used them as a student, parent, teacher, and librarian. I was bookish and shy, but dominated the drama scene once I learned to project. I didn't study education, but was able to develop useful curriculum and worksheets. I was terrified by babies, but raised three amazing kids.
Were picture books really responsible for all those successes? Unequivocally, yes. They told me, not who I was, but who I could be if I dared. They still do.