Like poetry, a picture book has to be written in two ways. It must work when read aloud, and also when read silently to oneself. Every syllable counts. Most important, the well-chosen words need to be simple but never simplistic, clear and strong enough to interest a child and hold her attention. Style alone is not sufficient. When Isaac Bashevis Singer won the Nobel Prize for Literature he announced that there were "five hundred reasons why I . . . write for children." One was that, "they still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity . . . " Another was: "They love interesting stories." Short, interesting stories are the structural steel that supports the illustrations in picture books. Look up "illustrate" in a Webster's Unabridged. The root is illustrare. And among the definitions are "to light up, illuminate, embellish, shed light upon, to throw the light of intelligence upon, to make clear, to elucidate by means of a drawing or pictures." And all that is just what wonderful illustrations do, and have done ever since books were first illuminated in medieval times by talented, cloistered hands.
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