Choosing Picture Books

When buying a picture book as a gift, I tend to choose tried-and-true favorites such as Make Way for Ducklings or Madeleine. I know that new “classics” are being published, but how do we gift-givers – friends, aunts, grandparents, colleagues –  find out about new picture books that are popular, and how do we assess how good they are? As with all book choices, it’s highly individualized. We bring our backgrounds, experiences and loves to our choices. Here are some of the things that influence my choice of picture books:

  • Does the theme make me remember something from my own childhood
  • Is it whimsical?
  • How long is the book? (many parents don’t want too many words)
  • Does the book address something that is unique to the child for whom I am purchasing the book (a love of trains, being a big sister, etc.)
  • When I read the book, does it flow in a lyrical way?
  • Does the book make me feel something?
  • Does the book transport me somewhere?
  • Do I love the illustrations?
  • Has the book won an award? (Caldecott for illustrations or Newbery for “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”?)
  • Who is the author and the illustrator?

Going to a bricks and mortar store can be helpful, as they tend to have knowledgeable staff who can point you in a particular direction. A children’s librarian is also a good resource, and I also like to ask parents of young children which books their children enjoy and why.

In today’s world where e-books are becoming more and more popular, I still love the feel of turning the pages of a picture book with a young child in my lap. I will continue to give picture books as gifts as I try to update my repertoire and balance the old with the new.

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