I like the proactive stance of these artists. We believe. We condemn. We declare.
All strong statements.
In the interest of furthering the dialogue, following are some of my beliefs about picture books.
A picture book is much more than some lines of text, some illustrations.
My childhood is wrapped in memories of picture books. They contain words that I have "learned by heart" and can still recite. I often find myself considering and quoting from them. I no longer own the copies that were in the home of my childhood. But because they are books, actual tangible objects, a copy each is part of my current personal library. They are a part of who I am: my thoughts, my personal memories, my shared experience with others who have read and enjoyed these books.
Of course I read along with my mother as together we dropped Sal's blueberries into the tin pail.
I loved that McCloskey takes me into his confidence to share what is unknown to Sal and Little Bear. I see the hill from his perspective, knowing what he knows, revealed with an image which is stronger than words.
I love love love the facial expressions, especially those of the bears.
The rhymes! How I loved those rhymes. Quickly I memorized them all, delighting in the sound of the words, the cadence.
Then there is fearless Madeline, Miss Clavel who knew that "something was not right" and the friendship and loyalty of twelve little girls.
I never noticed that. It was Ferdinand, sitting under the cork tree. It was his understanding mother, even though she was a cow. It was the Banderilleros with their long sharp pins, the Picadores with their skinny horses. It was the subtle humor that tickled me. It was Leaf and Lawson delighting me, enchanting me.
I don't know.
I just know that it works. Every. Single. Time.
We continually had to stop and examine each page, each image. Naturally flipping back and forth was a necessity.
And their careful examination continued to hold on subsequent rereading.
The humor is infectious.
The ending, in all of its red and green glory, is just perfect.
A picture book is more than a carefully constructed plot line.
A picture book is more than a set of well-executed illustrations.
A picture book is more than an idea.
While a picture book is all of these things, the sum is much greater than the parts. It becomes a shared experience with the author, the illustrator, those who read the book together, and others you meet who have encountered the same book. But most of all it is a way to connect with yourself, your thougths, your experiences in new and interesting ways. A great picture book will become a part of you that will remain with you throughout your life.
Recently my almost fifteen-year-old grandson spent some time in our home. One day I found him sitting next to the bottom bookshelf, perusing the collection of picture books and looking for his favorites. He selected a stack of them and carried them back to his bed. Those books and our shared experience of reading them together are now an integral part of him.
Thank you picture book authors and illustrators.
Your work lives on and on and on...