Pick up a picture book!

By: Alice Ahearn

 

I am 23 and I love picture books!

Of course it’s possible that, as an intern at a children’s publisher, I may be slightly biased. But I don’t think I’m the only one. Just look at the surge in colouring books for adults, riding the tide of sheepish admissions by countless parents that they secretly raid their children’s pencilcases after bedtime. To me it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that these same parents might also love the simple yet beautiful pictures in their children’s story books just as much as the children themselves.

There are so many reasons why this might be. Children’s stories can incorporate an incredible amount of humour into their illustrations – just look at the bee riding a bicycle in the background of The Snowman and the Sun, or the diagrams and compass used to try to teach Baby to fly in A Bird Like Himself. Age-old stories like The Boy Who Cried Wolf can be given new perspectives – literally – by unusual illustrations. But it isn’t just wolves and sheep that benefit from being looked at from a new angle.

The Little Black Fish has got a lot of fans among adults as well as children

Adults who only ever see whole countries and cultures through their portrayal in the news may never even realise that they aren’t seeing the whole picture. Simply by sharing books like Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird or Bijan and Manije with their children, parents could just find themselves learning about cultures they never even knew existed. How? From the illustrations that show the colours and patterns, the peoples and customs, the normal to and fro of everyday life – the kind of backdrop that viewers of the mainstream media narrative never see.

All told, I think that makes the humble picture book pretty powerful. If adults can appreciate, admire and learn from exciting illustrations too, then it’s restrictive and wasteful to limit the audience to children. What will your child’s next bedtime read do for you?

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