In June, I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference for the second year in a row. Once again, it was a fabulous opportunity to mingle with fellow writers and illustrators, network with editors and art directors, and get inspired to work on my stories and illustrations.
At the conference, I was fortunate to take the illustrator intensive with Patti Ann Harris, Executive Art Director at Scholastic. She works with novelty books, picture books, and board books for the preschool market. The main focus of the intensive circled around board books, so our homework for the workshop was to illustrate a spread from one of the given board book texts (which came from actual published board books).
I chose the text given from Richard Scarry's "I Am a Bunny" and illustrated the following spreads (we only had to do one - I felt ambitious and motivated to do more).
(For more insight into my batik technique, see my last blog post here.)
Besides seeing some fabulous work from all the other illustrators and how they interpreted the texts, we learned a lot about board books by looking at examples that Patti Ann has worked on or that Scholastic has published.
Board books are geared toward the very young, mostly for ages 0-3. They are usually printed on heavy board or sometimes fabric so that they can withstand young children tossing them around or even eating them! This is the age when children are being exposed to the concept of print and reading, as well as basic concepts such as counting, colors, numbers, animals, among other topics. They learn the proper directionality of reading, how to relate the pictures to the text, inflection and fluency by hearing others read to them, and so on. Children at this age can not only develop an interest in reading but they can learn more about the world around them as well as how to use their imagination.
Every day from the time our son came home from the hospital, I read some book out loud to him. Then one day, around 15 months old, he pointed across the room and said "Brown bear, brown bear." He was pointing to"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" After learning to navigate that book, he would say some of the words on the pages of his "Hop on Pop" board book, then came "I Can Teach My Dog a 100 Words", and "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", among other concept board books teaching letters, numbers, colors, etc. His interest and skills just kept building year after year and now at seven years old he reads well beyond his age level.
One of my favorite board book author/illustrators is Leslie Patricelli. She is super talented and knows what topics work best with this age group. Her ability to use short, simple text and simple, colorful illustrations is like no one out there today, in my opinion. Here are a few of her books:
Board books are such an important part of publishing. I believe the younger children read, the less literacy problems they'll face in the future - and the sooner they can develop a life-long love for reading. I'm hoping my new illustration style and some new story ideas can break into the board book world someday. I would love my books to be responsible for some child out in the world learning how to read - and learning to love to read!