What is a Picture Book? by Angela Ferraris

cat_and_dog_in_libraryPicture books usually are thirty-two pages with exceptions here and there.  The story line is told with words, but the main emphasis is conveyed with the illustrations .  There is a picture on every page and sometimes one large picture spread on two pages.  The words used are those that children are familiar with and in simple vocabulary. This area in the library has traditionally been called the easy area,  but that is often not the case anymore. There is an increasing number of pictures books now  being published for intermediate children. I no longer call that section in the library the easy area  but instead, the everybody area. There are different types of picture books other than the traditional style.

Types of Picture Books

  • Early readers are a little bit smaller than the average picture book and are usually in chapter form with specific vocabulary that primary children are learning to read. I tell my students these books are like training wheels on chapter books, not quite like the traditional picture book or chapter book but the step in between.  Examples I use: Dr. Seuss books like The Cat in the Hat and The Foot Book,  Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, and the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.
  • Concept books are those that teach a broad concept such as the alphabet, counting(Jerry Pallotta books have ABC and counting;  also can be used for intermediate children)shapes, and colors(Tana Hoben books).  I have those four categories labeled on the book spines for my students and teachers to find easier.
  • Narrative nonfiction and narrative biography  are similar to the traditional nonfiction book format but are told like a story.  They sometimes do not possess all of the traditional characteristics of a nonfiction such as table of contents, index, glossary, bolded words, graphs, timelines, and so on but do have some characteristics.  I just ordered the Story Behind the Names series published by Picture Window Books (John Deere’s Powerful Idea: The Perfect Plow, Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower and so on) and will use those as examples.  These type of picture books are usually for intermediate students and are located in the nonfiction areas of the library but could also be in the everybody area.
  • Stories without words are just that. No words are used. There are only illustrations and often with a simple plot. I teach these with primary as well as intermediate by showing the book in silence explaining beforehand to the students that although there are no words on the pages, there are words one’s  mind. Talking out loud would interrupt your neighbor’s story from fully developing. At the conclusion of me sitting there and slowly turning the pages for them, we go through the book again with students retelling the story.  Some of the ones I have used are Chalk by Bill Thomson, Tuesday by David Wiesner, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, and The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney.


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