My favorite part of this definition is the "drama of the turning page," which, as a result of their format and low word count, seems genuinely unique to picture books. On the contrary, we format illustrated books and graphic novels to build tension throughout single or multiple scenes, chapters, and books.
There are some restrictive elements to Barbara's definition, most significantly the "interdependence of pictures and words." Wikipedia makes a similar argument about the role of text in picture books, but it goes a little farther in an attempt to distinguish picture books from graphic novels.
"A picture book combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, most often aimed at young children. With the narrative told primarily through text, they are distinct from comics, which do so primarily through sequential images."
I agree with Wikipedia's definition of comics, "a narrative…told primarily through sequential images." Of course, sequential images are essential to comic books, but they are merely a stylistic or pacing choice in picture books.
Nevertheless, some may argue that picturebooks are driven primarily by illustrations, not the text.
According to one blog, Caldecott defines picturebooks like this,
"A 'picture book for children' as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised."
Take a look at both Wikipedia and "Caldecott's" definitions side by side. You will notice that they are opposite because each has a different goal: distinguishing picture books from graphic novels or illustrated books. It places picture books somewhere in the middle between two extremes. This kind of definition dismisses examples that we might otherwise call picture books.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade, is a non-narrative picture book, usually called a concept picture book.
Tuesday by David Wiesner is a wordless picture book with illustrations as sequential as a comic.
The Book Without Pictures by B.J. Novak contains only words, as the title suggests. However, it is worth noting that it still provides the "visual experience" described in "Caldecott's" definition through the use of font, text size, and color.
I am not looking for a precise definition for picturebooks because I don't need to. Instead, I am thankful for the rich, complicated, and often blurred lines between picture books, illustrated books, and comics.
However, I believe Barbara Bader's definition hits the nail on the head in one line:
Picture books are "an art form [that] hinges on the drama of the turning page."
This post was proofread by Grammarly
Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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