In my library I have many (many) picture books.
In my earlier days, picture books used to be a mixed bag of feelings and purpose. I loved the wonderful picture books for the early years… Corderoy, The Puppy Book, Make Way for Ducklings, The Big Red Barn, Obadiah, Curious George, Smudge… good stories, good pictures, good for sitting-on-mama’s-lap-reading.
By definition a picture book is “a book consisting mainly of pictures, especially one for children who have not yet learned to read,” or “typically for children with lots of pictures and not many words.”
Ok, so far so good.
Then at sales and library give-aways I started to acquire more picture books. Picture books that really weren’t of interest to children younger than 6. Civil rights, solar system, Washington crossing the Delaware. I really didn’t know what to do with them. When would my kids use them for lessons? Would we use them for lessons? The topics were for older students, the text was substantially written but shorter than a ‘real’ book, but the oversized pages were full pictures.
I was also acquiring books that were large sized, with more picture than text, that were advertised for young school age children. Books like d’Aulaire’s Pocohontas and Lief the Lucky. Those books were technically picture books, and yet suitable for lessons. Where should I put them on the shelf? Do I just group them all in one place called the Large-size-shelf? I’d never be able to find them when I needed them. I’d never remember I had them! Should they go in history, as lesson books or with the picture books?
I put them on the history shelves.
And then, there were books like Minn. It looks like a picture book.. I’d say there’s more picture than text. But after making the mistake of assuming a book with more pictures than text is for young children… I realized that just because it is a large book, just because its entire page is filled with color, doesn’t mean it is suitable for a young child. There is imagery in Minn, for example, that can, I learned, frustrate some children. So where does this book go? It isn’t put on a shelf with picture books.
I put it on the geography shelf.
So with all these large sized picture books going on my history, geography, and science shelves, that messed up my shelves. The height of the shelves had to be adjusted to accommodate the typically larger size of picture books. For a long time I muttered under my breath as I re-assembled shelves which had been set to hold the typical 5ish by 7ish size.
There is the definition of Living Book – a book that gives ideas, paints a picture, feeds imagination, tells a story. Well a Living Book is a Living Book.
Then my oldest, who had suffered through the long years it took for me to learn CM and not had as many years to cover historical topics in Living fashion as I would have liked- it just took me so long to figure things out….she said one day, “Mom, I don’t know about John F. Kennedy.” Yikes!!!! At this point in high school she was out of time to read a Landmark or something more substantial. So I looked at the history shelf. I picked out some books. They were thin, full of pictures, and little text. I gave them to her and off she went. I gave her picture books. To my happiness, she didn’t say they were ‘baby’. On the plus side, being of artistic mind, she always has loved pictures in books. For hours she’d look at the pictures (and not read.) So this introduction to JFK was good. It gave her some ideas about him. Was it exhaustive? No. Was it perfect? No. But such is life…she did however get a proper introduction to a great man. Did they become friends? Probably not, but it was a beginning, a start.
So after these events, I decided to embrace picture books. I’ve moved them over in the category of my mind as a very viable way to present any topic to any age. No more debating about their usefulness or if they should be shelved in some segregated section. Picture books on flowers are on the shelf next to Earle’s book The Rose Family, which is next to Sharman’s Anatomy of a Rose: Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers. Step Up’s Meet Thomas Jefferson is next to the 800 page The Real Thomas Jefferson The True Story of America’s Philosopher of Freedom, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography is next to d’Aulaire’s Benjamin Franklin. A Living Book is a Living Book no matter its form. All books on the shelves in any size and form are free game for anyone, any age. Now I shelve picture books in the appropriate category to which they belong and adjust my shelves accordingly.
A Living Book is a Living Book.