Why Picture Books Are Important by Chris Raschka
Well, if we’re going to ask why picture books are important, we might as well ask why talking or telling stories is important. The answer is because without talking or telling stories life would be duller. Same goes for picture books; life would be duller without them. Even the mystics who have withdrawn from the world have told stories, or stories have been told about them. Of course, they didn’t talk much, and they certainly didn’t paint pictures.
Or maybe they did. The monks in the Himalayas are famous for their sand paintings, after all. Is the question, why pictures? Human life is nearly unimaginable without pictures. Actually, that might make for a good nihilistic kind of science fiction novel. All pictures are outlawed in the year 2055. Even Chinese characters are forbidden as being too pictorial. It would never work though, would it? Soon enough you or I would start putting together letters in clever ways to make funny portraits of our overlords. (I’m sorry, I’ll get back to this essay in a second—I’ve just got to jot some of these ideas down for my next YA novel.)
More disturbing would be if we humans just gave up on pictures out of laziness. An illustrator friend of mine, who is German, has lived in New York for twenty years because the magazine editors in Germany have stopped using illustration, choosing instead photography. But that’s still a kind of picture, isn’t it?
No, picture books are here and they’re important. I have yet to meet a three year old person who didn’t know what to do with a crayon. You make pictures with it. And twenty-five years later you make pictures with it and you put them in a book.
About Chris Raschka
“I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork,” Chris Raschka says. “I don’t want you to stop while you’re reading one of my books and say, ‘Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!’” I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, ‘This is a good book.’” This formula for success has led to two Caldecott Medals, an honor, and many other accolades. Raschka lives in New York with his wife, son, and a variety of pets. When not working on books, he likes to walk around the city, go to the opera, practice yoga, and surf, a pastime that once cost him a tooth.