Why Picture Books Are Important by Peter H. Reynolds

by Dianne on November 10, 2012

Why Picture Books Are Important by Peter H. Reynolds
We adults love to complicate things. Just look at most books for grownups. Most weigh a pound or two and are packed with hundreds of pages slowly making their way through thousands of words to make their point. Very often, the essence of the book is extracted and printed on the back of the book and the book flaps. The big idea is quickly plucked and savored.

The beauty of a picture book is that it quite quickly delivers its essence within a few minutes. Sometime with a few words sprinkled below big images -and sometimes wordlessly. Big ideas delivered simply and efficiently. Picture books do a lot of heavy lifting. They can tackle universal truths that adults wrestle with and try to explain, chapter upon chapter, and can reduce it all into two dozen pages or so. These big ideas are made more memorable to visual thinkers.

The other wonderful “secret power” of picture books is it is adults who buy them and read them first. While they fully intend on sharing them with their students, children, grandchildren, they must first absorb the story and its message. I often say that great children’s books are “wisdom dipped in words and art.” These bite-size bits of wisdom heal the reader, inspire the reader, and invite the reader to action. The reader is often an adult who in need of all three: healing, inspiration, and the reminder to make a difference.

Peter Reynolds

About Peter H. Reynolds
Peter H. Reynolds, founder of The Dot Club, is an author and illustrator of many books about creativity, including The Dot, Ish, Sky Color, The North Star, (Candlewick Press) and his upcoming collaboration with Susan Verde on The Museum (Abrams). He has also collaborated with Judy Blume on the covers to the Fudge series, Amy Krouse Rosenthal on Plant A Kiss, Someday with Alison McGhee, and with Megan McDonald on the best-selling, Judy Moody series. With his twin brother, Paul, he founded FableVision Studios – a transmedia development studio specializing in positive stories to move the world to a better place. They also own a family bookshop called The Blue Bunny in their hometown of Dedham, MA. Peter has two children, Sarah and Henry Rocket. He is married to designer, Diana Gaikazova, whose gallery is across the street from the bookshop.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Anne Miller November 10, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi Peter – how true your statement that “the reader is often an adult who is in need of… healing, inspiration, and the reminder to make a difference.” Your books and art have given all that and more. Even the name of your book shop sounds inspirational! Thanks for contributing to the importance of Picture Books.


Vivian Kirkfield November 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

“Big ideas are delivered simply and efficiently”…we all need to remember that as we try to write a picture book that will be read over and over again! Thank you so much, Peter. At the beginning of November, I signed up for PiBoIdMo (my first time), and I’ve enjoyed the wonderfully inspirational guest posts as much as I’ve enjoyed coming up with a picture book idea each day. I hadn’t realized that here, on Dianne’s Picture Book Month site, there would also be a daily post of encouragement and instruction. So now I will have to go back to make sure I haven’t missed any of them. 🙂
“Picture books do a lot of heavy lifting”…I love this, Peter…I will add this golden nugget to my treasure chest of picture book prompts.


Julie Hedlund November 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

“wisdom dipped in words and art.” – speaking of simplicity, that is one of the most beautiful descriptions of picture books I’ve ever seen.


brook gideon November 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I agree with what Julie said, almost tear-inducingly beautiful! What a wonderful post!


Eileen Barnett November 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm


Picture books tend to be the first books very young children are introduced to. Hopefully with the help of the adult (parent, grandparent….) it will begin their love of reading and take them into new worlds.



Janice November 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm


Wow… I love and appreciate your explanations and descriptions of why picture books are important!

I’ve always LOVED kids books! And I loved reading them to my kids…and will love reading to my grandkids!

For as much as I like to read fiction, the stories consume me! I get wrapped up (sucked in?!), as if the story and characters are part of my life…THUS occupying a LOT of my time.

You validate my appreciation for picture books, and those who commented emphasized your words and how I feel:
“…the reader is often an adult who is in need of… healing, inspiration, and the reminder to make a difference.”
“Big ideas are delivered simply and efficiently”
“Picture books do a lot of heavy lifting”
“…wisdom dipped in words and art.”

Reading, fiction or otherwise, is good for all of us. But I thank you for emphasizing that reading children’s books, picture books, is valuable time well spent!


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