Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that November is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. What you may not know is that it’s also Picture Book Idea Month—PiBoIdMo! Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo for picture book writers who want to get in on all the zany fun novelists have in November trying to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. For PiBoIdMo, the goal is 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.
If you want to write picture books, one of the best things to do is study the great picture book writers and their works. There are two main types of picture book authors: the author/illustrators and authors whose manuscripts are paired with illustrators.
For those of you lucky enough to be gifted with both art and writing, you should definitely check out the works of the following author/illustrators: Maurice Sendack, Mo Williams, Mark Teague, Pat Mora, Steve Jenkins, Patricia Polacco, Jack Ezra Keats, Eric Carle, David Wiesner, and Janel Cannon. They are beloved for a reason.
But for those who can’t draw a stick figure, take heart!
Here are five delightful picture books to enjoy and study, all of which have separate authors and illustrators. As the author, you only need to come up with a manuscript—not even the ideas for the illustrations! (If that sounds strange to you, next week, DIY MFA will be posting an article about writing picture books…check back on Monday the 23rd if you’re interested!)
And even if you don’t want to write picture books, they are an enjoyable reading experience for everyone, so make sure to check these out!
Written by: Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by: Betsy Lewin
If you want to write humorous books—always a popular choice with children—this is a great author to study. Doreen Cronin’s dead-pan, clever text matches perfectly with Betsy Lewin’s illustrations to create a series of books that make kids (and adults) crack up. She uses a single strong setting that grounds her story well, and her use of repetition allows pre-readers to join in during those sections. You may also be familiar with Doreen Cronin’s popular Diary of a Worm series, which are illustrated by Harry Bliss. As an author, your work may be paired with different artists.
Written by: Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond. This is a fun example of a “series of events” story that kids delight in. She’s extended this concept to many other books, such as If You Give a Pig a Pancake and If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. Felicia Bond’s illustrations clearly link all the books at a quick glance. Numeroff is a prolific author, and any of her books are informative to study.
Written by: Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by: Vladimir Radunsky
This book is a celebration and overview of Albert Einstein’s life and discoveries. Children enjoy seeing that such a famous genius was also once a child, just like them, with his own quirks and differences. Perfect for use in history class as an introductory biography or in science as an introduction to Einstein’s work. Also emphasizes the importance of imagination and question-asking in science. Inspiring in so many ways.
Written by: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrated by: Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Diversity matters. Readers of all kinds of backgrounds need to see themselves reflected in books. Multicultural stories with modern, realistic protagonists from cultures less frequently represented in literature are very much desired and important. Jingle Dancer was Cynthia L. Smith’s first published work, and she has since gone on to become a New York Times best-selling YA author of gothic fantasy.
Written by: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by: Clement Hurd Interestingly, the author did not envision the bunnies in those illustrations or the bright colors. Hurd made that call, and his distinctive illustrations helped make the book a hallmark of goodnight stories. If you want to write for very young children, studying Margaret Wise Brown is a smart move.
Bonus Book: Just because you are that awesome.
Written by: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Created by a wife/husband team, it didn’t quite fit in the above list, where the author was totally separate from the illustrator, but it’s too good to not mention. This non-fiction picture book is a celebration and explanation of the 1960 Woolworth’s lunch counter peaceful sit-in by four students. Teachers will find this an attention-grabbing way to introduce students to the civil rights movement. Also raises great discussion for parents and their children about why this event happened, and issues with equality today.
As a huge fan of picture books, I could list fifty books here, but that would be “Fifty on Friday,” and while that sounds pretty catchy, I think that might be a bit much. But I’d love to hear what your favorite picture books are, either from when you were a child, from raising your own children, or books you admire as a writer.
Share in the comments below so we can all add those books to our TBR list! Thanks!
Amy holds a Masters of Library Science along with a certification in school librarianship. She is a former reading and English teacher, mostly for 6th-8th graders. Her debut book, FAIRY KEEPER, is an upper-middle-grade fantasy, now available from Curiosity Quills Press. She currently lives in Germany with her family, though they still call Texas home. Her daughters are 9 and 11 years old. As you might imagine, middle grade books are a hot commodity around their house.