At a recent workshop, an agent said that one of her authors decided to read 1,000 picture books this year, all of which were written in the past five years. While I’d love to jump on that bandwagon, I’m a big believer in setting achievable goals. I’m glad that that author can make time to read 1,000 picture books, but I think 500 is more my speed. And, if I manage to surpass that goal, then I will feel extra proud (and I’ll get myself a massage or a chocolate sundae to celebrate). As someone who writes picture books, I think it’s really important to take time to read and re-read the ones that really make us laugh, keep us in suspense, or evoke emotions and specific memories. I want to pick each one apart and figure out how the author and illustrator elicit those responses with such carefully crafted sentences and visuals.
I’ve always found the library to be such an inspiring, invigorating place, and now I have a reason to visit even more frequently. My new routine is to walk to my local library and pick out a bunch of picture books that have been written in the last five years (though sometimes I get curious about one that’s slightly older). I carefully read and analyze each one. Sometimes kids or adults look at me weird, but once I start jotting down notes, the adults seem to get that I’m studying these underestimated masterpieces. The kids, however, scrunch up their faces and continue to watch me until a book, a booger, or a shiny object distracts them.
So far I’ve read 60 picture books published in the last five years, and I’ve read an additional 14 that were published between 2007 and 2011. Perhaps I’ll achieve my goal faster than I think. But I know there will be weeks where I have to pick between library time and writing time. I also know that I’m spending more and more time diving into each picture book. I can’t even imagine being an author-illustrator who can analyze from both sides.
In my next blog post, I plan to share some of the kernels of wisdom that I’ve gleaned from a handful of recently read favorites.
Happy reading and writing to you all!