Monday, October 11, 2010

Last book standing

On 10/7/10, The New York Times ran an article about the decline of the picture book. The writer attributed this, in part, to parents pressuring their kids to read "big kid books" before they are, in fact, big kids.

Sorry I'm late to adding my voice to the kidlit backlash (not that I have anything more profound to say than the preceding wave of articulate responses), but these past few weekdays, I was busy speaking to hundreds of elementary students and their teachers...about picture books. (Among other things.)

Though I wanted an alternate allegory, the militant one does fit here: There is an army already mobilized to fight this war. We may not have the numbers of lawyers, bus drivers, or pastry chefs, but gaze at the children's section of a good library and I'd say we've got enough enlisted wordsmiths.

With every bookstore or school or library visit, authors are bolstering the picture book to an eager audience. And teachers generally need no persuading on the value of picture books.

In the press, something is routinely dying or dead: Innocence. Irony. Film musicals. Yet most manage to return before long.

And, of course, of late, much ink has been dedicated to the imminent death of ink. Now
we are told that not only print text is dead, but print images as well. At the risk of sounding naive, perhaps the press should call for the death of hastily-written death proclamations.

For some time now, I've said if not the opposite than certainly an opposing notion: Picture books will be the last book standing. As digital options continue to overpower print ones, I do believe the type of book that will last the longest (as a printed book) will be the picture book (and, to a lesser degree, the photographic coffee table book, though they are rarely bestsellers). To be clear, though I do feel conflicted about it, I am all for progress and evolution...because I know storytelling will be a part of it no matter what.

So without being ignorant of the changing culture, I'd say this is enough said about this, for now anyway. Authors know our time is better spent creating books...and continually reminding people why we do that.

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