Mac Barnett spoke to an over-flowing room of conference attendees on taking very practical lessons from very good picture books. Mac read several picture books and then went through why they worked and what we can learn from them.
He made it very clear that picture books are a form and not a genre. They are a visual way of telling a story.
Part of his job as a writer (and our jobs as storytellers) is to read. To be aware of current stories, while also learning from classics and those books we grew up with as children.
Here's a snippet of one of the lessons learned from a very good PB:
THE THREE ROBBERS by Tommy Ungerer
Building in PAGE TURNS (one of the most important things). It's the way you get movement, suspense, move time, reverse, set up expectation, can totally reverse course of story, everything can change, can set up a joke in text (follow with illustration as punch line).
Other PB books we discussed:
IT'S USEFUL TO HAVE A DUCK by Isol (Groundwood Books)
HENRY'S AWFUL MISTAKE by Robert Quackenbush
THE BRAVEST KNIGHT by Mercer Mayer
Questions to ask yourself as you read, write and create:
Always be thinking- How these books get made and how do they get used?
What's the relationship between text and image? (This is the most important thing about picture books and why they work).
Always have to be thinking about the form.