Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

Picture Books – The Memory Makers

A few months ago, I wrote about a picture book that my dear friend, Sheree Nielsen, and I co-authored. Now tentatively titled, Midnight and Starlight, A Tale of Courage, the book has been scheduled for publication in Fall, 2018 by Amphorae Publishing. Sheree and I are beyond excited, because there’s a new announcement. (Drum roll, please.)

Our illustrator for the picture book will be Janelle Dimmett! The minute Sheree and I saw her work, we fell in love with it. Do yourself a favor. Click on Janelle’s name to visit her website and see what this very talented lady can do. I know Midnight and Starlight will be amazing–and well worth the wait.

This journey started me thinking about picture books. They’ve actually been around for quite a while.

From the first time ancient man painted a bison on the dark and damp walls of a cave, pictures told a story.  And as we evolved, so did storytelling.

Books, especially those written for children, almost always came with illustrations. Orbis Pictus, an early encyclopedia for children, was published in 1658 in Nuremberg.  It’s whopping one-hundred-fifty chapters were divided by intricate woodcut prints. However, it wasn’t until 1744, when John Newbery published A Little Pretty Pocket-book, that pictures were married with words not as a textbook, but as pleasure reading for children.

The nineteenth century saw this concept greatly expanded with the publication of illustrated fairy tale collections, and whimsical drawings appearing in such well-loved books as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But the world of picture books, designed for the youngest children (and pretty much enjoyed by anyone who’s likes art), got its first blockbuster in Beatrix Potter’s book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Original edition. Wish I had one of these in my bookcase. (Wikipedia Commons)

When Ms. Potter’s friends read her scribbles, telling the story of a naughty little rabbit named Peter – and saw her drawings – they suggested she publish it. Ms. Potter obligingly sent the story to several companies, and alas, promptly received several rejection letters.  The process frustrated her so much, she decided to self-publish, intending to distribute the books only to her family and friends.

Shortly thereafter, Warne and Company came to their senses and reconsidered their original rejection. After more than a year of negotiations (Ms. Potter was nobody’s fool), The Tale of Peter Rabbit released officially in 1902.

The book hit it big. To date it’s sold more than forty-five million copies worldwide and created an empire. Not too shabby for a tale Ms. Potter originally penned (just for fun) for the children of her former governess.

When I think about the books of my own childhood, a lot of them include bright and colorful images. I owned a huge collection of Little Golden Books. Believe it or not, my favorite one, The Poky Little Puppy, is considered among the top selling picture books of all time. If memory serves, each Little Golden Book cost my parents a whopping twenty-nine cents.  The books are still in print today, although the price tag has changed – to somewhere around three dollars.

But here’s the best part for me. It’s so thrilling to see books I once loved now in the hands of my one-year-old grandson.

Before his birth, I bought him a copy of another favorite of mine – Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. This is a sweet story with bright and vivid illustrations.  The book, published in 1947, still sells around 800,000 copies per year and has been translated into practically every language.  Talk about an enduring legacy! Can you think of a better book to soothe a little one to sleep?

The perfect bedtime story. (Wikipedia Commons)

I’m proud to report my grandson is more inclined to pick up one of his many books, than any other toy he owns. I sit with him on my lap and he turns the book’s pages, pointing his tiny adorable finger to each image, which I’m then expected to identify for him. No matter how often, it never gets old for either one of us.

As children grow up, reading becomes a solitary pursuit. They don’t need mom or dad (or grandma) to read to them anymore. I’ve learned to grab my moments now, because reading together is one of the best memory makers you can find.

Who knows? It’s incredible to consider, but someday Midnight and Starlight may be on somebody’s list of favorites.  That’s a thought guaranteed to prickle me with goose bumps.

Take yourself back in time. What’s your most beloved picture book? Is there a special reason why?

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  1. Pat–Congratulations to you and Sheree. That is fabulous news. I followed the link, and you have snagged a wonderful artist. Janelle is quite talented.

    My favorite picture book? I loved “What? Another Cat?” when I was a kid. I think it’s out of print by now, but it’s the story of a family with several cats, and they take in a stray cat. Not all the cats are happy about the addition.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks, Sioux! You might be surprised. I’ll bet if you do a search, someone somewhere is selling a copy of “What? Another Cat?” I found one of my favorites (this one wasn’t a picture book), “Beautiful Joe” at a used book store and snapped it up. Ah, memories!

  2. Pat, I am so excited for our venture to come to fruition. I’m also thrilled Janelle is our illustrator! Who knows, we may have a bestseller on our hands! Thanks Sioux for the nice comments.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 9, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      I’m looking forward to it, Sheree!

      Janelle is such a talented illustrator. Her work always makes me smile.

  3. Linda O'Connell

    April 9, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Congratulations to you and Sherry. Good Night Moon is one of my favorite books. Also The Pokey Little Puppy has been read by five generations in our family. It was the first book I bought Liam. He loves books, also. So cute when they use those little hands to turn the pages.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks, Linda! There are so many books that bring me fond memories. It is truly heart-tugging to see our grand-babies loving the same books we cherished.

  4. Congratulations, Pat! I’m so glad you’ve been teamed up with an illustrator that is such a good fit. My favorite picture book was Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, because it was my dad’s favorite to read to me. In fact, every time I brought him a book, no matter what it was, he’d always start with, “On the 15th of May, in the jungle of Nool,” until I’d giggle and say, “Daddy, that’s the wrong book!” There are several other special ones that stick out from reading to my children as well. And I have to say, even at 9 and 12, they still kind of like it when I read to them. We don’t do picture books anymore, but we still do family read-alouds from time to time, especially during vacations.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 10, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Sarah, it’s so cool your boys still enjoy read-alouds. More great ways to make memories.

      Dr. Seuss’s books are remarkable, and certainly have stood the test of time. His teasing rhymes and nonsense words are irresistible!

  5. How exciting. Her art work will definitely enhance any book.

  6. I can’t wait to see this picture book! 🙂 What a talented artist and I know you two ladies are talented writers as well. (And I saw your other wonderful news on FB too.) You are having a great April.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 21, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      Margo, it certainly has been an April to remember, that’s for sure. I’m so excited to see the art for the picture book. Janelle is awesome!

  7. Congratulations to you both, I look forward to reading it! I always enjoyed reading picture books to my children when they were little, and can’t pick a favorite, there were so many.

    • Pat Wahler

      April 21, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      Mary, so did I. Many of the old standards are still around, but there sure are a lot of newer books that are fun to read. Having a baby grandson is reconnecting me to the world of picture books!

  8. Lynn Obermoeller

    April 23, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Congratulations to you and Sheree! Makes me inspired to finish my own children’s book – ha 30 years in the making 🙂 Can’t wait to read yours! Yippee!

    • Pat Wahler

      April 23, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Lynn, you are so sweet. Thank you.

      I hope you do finish your book. With your talent you can illustrate it, too!

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