#2 is boring.
#3 is multi-layered and unique and will certainly be enjoyed by little ones, but I missed having one main character.
#4 is a fun idea, but there’s no arc. It’s the type of manuscript that, in years past, would have been called “too slight.”
#5 is on the fence. It’s fun and it’s about dinosaurs, so little ones will certainly enjoy. However, the main character has no name (I really like book characters with names.) and for little ones, it’s challenging to know which of the several characters is speaking.
#6 is wobbling violently on the fence. It’s visually stunning and presents a complex issue in a simple way, but the resolution seemed too easy to me.
What I missed in all but one of these books was a strong main character. (Yes, I’m biased. Afterall, I have an e-course on character-driven picture books.)
Books that aren’t character-driven rise to the top of Amazon’s ranks and become NY Times Best Sellers, but they aren’t necessarily books I want children to fall asleep with night after night.
Which book survived my steely stare? Which is the last book standing?
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold. It’s timeless as well as original. I love the simple story-telling beginning. “One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family.” First to see the dog is Mr. Hope, then Mrs. Hope, Adeline, Maurice, and finally Small. With each character we get a little view of who they are, but it’s Small who is our hero, as she goes outside to meet the dog who has become larger and larger with each family member’s stare. With a song and a playful obstacle course, Small entices the black dog to follow her. As he follows, he grows smaller and smaller…and becomes Small’s friend.
There’s a nice narrative arc, which I’m a fan of. The black dog, which is a metaphor for fear, gets bigger as each family member sees him; it takes Small to face fear and bring the dog down to size.
I always enjoy layers in picture books. Even if the reader doesn’t know what the layers are, they still add depth. In this case, the layers let us admire Small all the more.
I believe above all, above information, above fun, above silliness, above sweetness, touching readers’ hearts is the most important thing a picture book can do. Black Dog did that for me. It was a 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book Honor Winner and Levi was winner of the 2013 Kate Greenaway medal.
I suspect if you’d read these 7 books, many of you would have chosen a different favorite. So, I invite you to share a picture book that touches your heartstrings. Is it because of a special character?
Thanks in advance for sharing.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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