Make Room for the Illustrator

This month I want to talk about the relationship between the text and illustrations in picture books. There is a distinction between a picture book and an illustrated story book. The pictures in the former should add to the story. In the later they just show something from the story.

Think about a book like Jan Brett’s THE MITTEN where lots of things are happening in the pictures that are not in the text, but without them you wouldn’t understand the story. 

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Generally, picture books are shorter.  So, an author thinks about this as they write. They don’t waste words on descriptions unless it’s necessary to the story. An author needs to “leave room” in the story for the illustrator.

yoga-poses-1The entire text of THE DAY I RAN AWAY is written in dialogue. Grace recounts her day as her dad tucks her in. The bedtime scenes on the left side of the spread and the daytime on the right.

This posed a bit of an illustrative challenge. While the things that happened during her day were varied, the bedtime scenes would be somewhat repetitive.

Enter the creative editor, Shari Dash Greenspan. She suggested that Grace do bedtime yoga. I must admit that I was skeptical at first, but I loved the ways  Isabella Ongaro depicted Grace, Dad and Charlie dog winding with the simple poses. It added to the story.

 

TDRAwithgrace2In my text the little girl is not named and there are no dialogue tags.  Shari suggested I choose a name and that would be shown in the illustrations. The reader who looks carefully at the pictures will find her name.

I loved this idea and was thankful for it later as I began to talk about my book at schools or bookstores. Much easier to talk about Grace, than the little girl or the main character.

As you study picture books look at how the pictures add to a story. Are things missing if you just look at the pictures or if you just read the words?

 

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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