GRANDMOTHER book and HIGHLIGHTS magazineToday is Picture Book Wednesday and since I’m teaching a class tonight on writing for children, it made me think about the differences in children’s books.

Writers who are new to the world of writing for children usually think of picture books when they hear “children’s book.” But if you’ve been around for awhile, you know that books for kids go far beyond the picture book.

That said, what makes a picture book a picture book? Is it just the pictures? Or are there other elements that make it unique from other stories written for children?

For my classes, I created a handout that describes the differences between a picture book and a short story for a magazine. Two main differences are:

  • Illustrations help tell the story. In a picture book, the illustrations are key to understanding what’s going on in the story and often provide fun or surprising elements not directly stated in the text. They often provide a punch line or key story element. In magazine stories, the illustrations usually highlight or emphasize a scene that is depicted in the story.
  • Multiple-read factor. Good picture books provide something fun or enticing that encourages the listener to shout, “Read it again!” This could be a twist or surprise ending, a poignant universal theme, or elements of humor or interactivity that engage the listener on different levels.

I include other differences in my handout, but this is a good start. What other differences can you identify?