About Picture Books

I love picture books! “What’s a picture book?” you ask. A picture book is any book with pictures that can be read to a child (or adult) in one sitting. It’s that simple.

“I remember those!” you say, with a twinkle of nostalgia in your eyes. Are you remembering being cuddled in your parent’s lap? Maybe you faintly hear, “Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.” Or perhaps you’re sitting on the floor of the library beside those low shelves stuffed with colorful thin books. Tumbled around you are Eric Carl’s collaged animals, the lessons of Frog and Toad’s burgeoning friendship, Harold’s creativity with his purple crayon, and Sal about to enjoy a juicy Maine blueberry. You close your eyes and hear the roar of Mike Mulligan’s resilient steam shovel in the cellar of that new town hall.

Younger folks might remember a heartbreaking first line in Fly Away Home: “My dad and I live in an airport.” You may recall the intriguing first line, “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.” Perhaps you hear a familiar voice echoing “Koala Lou, I do love you.” Being older, I loudly hear, “Caps! Caps for Sale!  Fifty cents a cap!”

Though you may have forgotten this, you are a fan of picture books. Remember the anticipation when seeing vibrant cover art such as those wild things cleverly wrought by Maurice Sendak or the bright yellow of the Curious George books. Maybe you recall the dread as you turned the next page to see what the boy would take next from the giving tree that loved him so. Fearing for his life, you knew peace-loving Ferdinand didn’t belong in that bullfighters' ring. Picture books elicit strong emotions that linger sometimes for the rest of our lives. I propose we attach even more meaning to those memories by adding rich, theological ideas as well.

Picture books are one of our greatest treasures for living, for loving, and for learning. They link us to memories in which we were safe and encouraged in a world of our imagination. The reading of such books offers quiet comfort and reminders of a time when the written word with a few carefully planned illustrations was enough to keep even the youngest of us attentive. Like time travel machines, picture books can transport us to exotic places or unusual situations, sometimes fearsome, often enriching. These non-threatening tools chisel into us memories and lessons that are influential throughout our lives. Because their power is so potent, I propose that they should be used more in educational ministry and therapy, for children, for teens, and even for adults. My blog will demonstrate how and welcome you back to the transformational treasures of picture books.