As both a reader and a writer of kids’ books, I marvel at the evolution of the genre. Kiddie Lit, as it was called in my college days, has come a long way. The edgy books have gotten edgier, and some of the funny books have gotten funnier. Today’s YA readers find themselves immersed in dystopian societies and vampire love, and picture book readers are exposed to characters and situations that would not be touched in the past. As I look for quality picture books with beautiful language and visually appealing illustrations, I find myself picking up armfuls and getting caught up in the message of each book.
Do I think that all picture books must teach something? Of course not, but I do find myself gravitating towards those that subtly impart a lesson without hitting the reader over the head.
Here is a VERY short list of some of my favorite picture books that do just that.
1. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Who doesn’t laugh through this book and cheer on Princess Elizabeth when she realizes that shallow Prince Ronald is not nearly good enough for her?
2. Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Cookies as a metaphor for life. Simple, direct, and a must read. I was given this book as a gift, and I go back and read it often.
3. Mama Where Are You From? By Marie Bradby. This book takes the reader to a bygone era in the rural south as a mother beautifully describes to her daughter where she grew up.
4. Something Beautiful by Shannon Dennis Wyeth. This lovely book follows a little girl as she tries to find something beautiful in a not so beautiful world. It inspires both children and adults alike to look for the beauty in things even when it’s not obvious to the world.
Of course this is the tip of a wonderful, always changing iceberg. There are hundreds of books in this category. As a reader of both Kiddie Lit and adult literature, I enjoy flawed characters that change, writing that pulls me in, and learning a little by the end. As a writer, I aspire to do that in my books, and I will keep looking to books like these for inspiration.