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.
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?
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?