Read the Author's Bio or Learn More About Them Online
Knowing a thing or two about the author may enhance your experience with the book itself and reveal insights into the story's details, text, and illustrations.
It may help you discover why a creator chose to make one choice over another.
Compare what you are reading to other books. Look for patterns between a series, an author's bibliography, and books published in the same generation. Identify universal concepts and make a note of things that are specific to a culture.
Find ways to identify with the story or the author.
Listen to the Sound of the Picture Book
When you read for the first time, take the book in like a breath of air, enjoy it, and listen for its qualities. Take in the pictures uncritically. How does it make you feel?
Generally, you may want to read once with only the sound in mind before you read critically. However, doing both in one reading is challenging.
On a side note, I often find that a powerful critique partner, who may only get one chance to read, is skilled at splitting their attention between feelings and details.
Pay Attention to Every Word
Picture Books are short, and so every word is essential. The author of the picture book you are reading poured their heart out into every detail, and as you pay close attention, you can catch a glimpse of it beating on the page.
Notice how each word works with one another, find patterns, and identify the tone. Look for imagery that affects your senses, yes, even taste. Identify alliteration. Pay attention to when and how an author uses onomatopoeia.
Practice Reading Out Loud
Picture books are for reading out loud. So when you study a picture book, it may help to read it aloud to yourself.
Learn to read expressively. Expressing text out loud goes hand in hand with comprehension.
Be critical of bumps in the road and note the passages that slide like butter.
When you summarize a picture book, you restate the primary concepts and plots in the simplest way possible. Naturally, therefore, you will have to clarify any misunderstanding you have in the process.
Ask Yourself "How Does It Do It?"
When you have identified something about a picture book that makes it good, ask yourself how it accomplishes it. Don't satisfy yourself with simply identifying a book with good rhyming conventions.
Many writers and writing instructors are content on writing without understanding very much about it, "not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad," as Stephen King wrote in his book I don't think it is a very good strategy to consign art to the mystical and unknowable realm of taste.
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Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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