Keeping Current: Read Newly Released Books

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Take a Reading Day

Standard advice: read what you want to write.
If you want to write a novel, then read mysteries or thrillers or teen or easy readers or whatever genre you want to write.

Last week, I took a reading day and had great fun. I often advise people to read 100 picture books (published within the last 5 years) in preparation for writing picture books. One way I accomplish this is to visit my local bookstore and read new books from their Picture Book Wall. However, this only gets the books that this large chain bookstore chooses to put on said wall. So, last week, I had a library day. I only read ten books, but it was interesting.

Picture Book Illustrations:

I liked 8 out of the ten illustrations. The two I disliked were watercolor that had turned muddy. They had nice details, good characterization, but the muddy watercolors made it a dark, uninviting book.http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonno259/352111220/

Picture Book Texts I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like four of the texts. A couple of these were from author/illustrators and the illustrations carried the book; of these, the poetry had ineffective rhyme just there to rhyme and the meaning was lost; another had text that would have been rejected if from an author as “too slight.” (It’s that maddening double-standard applied to texts from picture book authors and picture book author/illustrators.)

One text had a typo on the second page – it was a popular author, good company, someone just slipped up. Another had text WAY too long, lots of purple prose and lapses in the storyline. One nonfiction surprised me because the author’s note explained that she had created some of the dialogue; from another publisher, I might not have noticed, but I was shocked to see this from this author/publisher.

Picture Book Texts I Liked

Simple, yet effective was one of my notes on a text. Some texts were generally good, but some of the double-page spreads were less effective because of long-winded text on a particular page. The best texts were funny, age appropriate, simple-yet-effective.

These were just books that were in my library that day, set upright to entice readers. No attempt to be random or scientific, just “found” books. Here’s a different breakdown.

  • 1 rhymed text
  • 3 historical fiction
  • 2 broken or twisted fairy tale
  • 3 celebrations of art from author/illustrator
  • 1 contemporary/multicultural set in Asia

Lessons from a Reading Day

What did I learn? I was reminded what I love and what I dislike about picture books. I still like short, but effective texts. I like bright, clear illustrations. I still like reading and writing picture book texts.
Plan for the week: Write a new picture book.

If you go to the library or bookstore for a reading day, give us a report!

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1 Comment
  • Lisa Sonora Beam
    February 23, 2010

    This is a great suggestion — plus, I couldn’t help but feel good about being given permission to READ.

    One of my favorite ways to recharge my create-on-demand brain is to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a stack of books.