Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling

This is not a book that fills just one gap, it fills countless gaps. In fewer than 200 pages, it conveys a wealth of information about more or less all aspects of picturebooks, and while at times one would like more on a specific topic, it does point to lines of further enquiry. Laid out in a seven sections, its organisation is clear and concise. It ranges from a brief history of the picturebook to picturebooks as works of art to picturebooks and children to practical advice about getting a picturebook published, and once published how it is marketed and reviewed – it suggests that many reviewers are unsure and bland when it comes to writing about picturebooks. Too true, unfortunately.

A great strength of this volume is the way in which the techniques of picturebook making are explained and the physicality of how the form (picturebooks are not a genre) operates. How changes in printing techniques have aided the development of picturebook creation are explained clearly, as are the design elements involved in making a good picturebook. Forexample, the importance of the relationship between the visual shape and layout of the words and the pictures is emphasised.

Examples of the topics discussed are shown and case studies of the work of various picturebook artists consolidate arguments. That the work of many of these artists does not come from the Anglo-American world is refreshing and illustrates the fact that picturebooks published outside English assume a readership that does not consist mainly of beginner readers. For that reason, it is a pity that the title says ‘Children’s Picturebooks’, not just ‘Picturebooks’. Many of the books considered are for all ages and some, as the authors point out, are not at all for very young children.

This stylish, savvy and very readable volume shows as well as tells, just as a good picturebook should. It has to be recommended highly for anyone studying picturebooks, whether with a view to making them, publishing them, critically examining them, introducing them to children, or just loving them.

*This review is an extract from Inis 37. Click here to read more*