The Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com) defines quirky as “unconventional, surprising, odd.”
Merriam Webster defines quirky as “having an abrupt twist or curve” and “having a peculiar trait.”
That’s all good, but when it comes to picture books, what do we mean when we say “quirky?”
According to a post on Goodreads, quirky picture books are defined as “children’s picture books that are unusual, odd or just plain silly.” And although I somewhat agree with that definition, I am a little perplexed by the books people voted for inclusion in this list. I personally would not include Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss in this list, although I guess they are a little odd. And I wouldn’t necessarily say that Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is quirky…but it certainly rates high in silly.
I did post this very question on Twitter for agents and editors, yet I did not receive any answers. However, lots of writers commented that it was a good question. So I am going to go out on a limb and define what I think quirky means when it comes to picture books.
Brace yourselves…this is purely opinion.
To me, “quirky” means turning the existing world on its head. I think of the works of Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey. Taking the world we live in and recognize and then twisting it.
Perhaps my favorite “quirky” author is Oliver Jeffers. Books such as This Moose Belongs to Me, The Way Back Home, and Stuck introduce readers to characters who are grounded in a child’s real world and then add a dash or two of bizarre, silly whimsy. I mean, if we don’t start with a reality that we already know quite well, how can we know something is peculiar, right?
Now I might be totally wrong here, or I could be missing some traits of “quirky picture books” that you believe should be included.
I am in no way trying to say that I am the authority here. I just want to start a conversation.
What do you think? How would you define “quirky picture books” and why do you think so many agents and editors want them? Maybe, if lucky, some agents and editors might weigh in.
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