Why Picture Books Are Important by Carter Higgins

by Dianne on November 21, 2015

All the Wonders

Why Picture Books Are Important by Carter Higgins
A picture book is more than thirty-two pages, a bunch of nice-smelling paper, a sewn spine, and a dust jacket that gets wrinkled and ripped. It’s more than its author, its illustrator, and the publishing team that helped shape it from some 12-point Helvetica or messy thumbnails in an artist’s sketchbook.

It started there, but it ends as this story or that story or whatever story matters the most, whenever it needs to matter. And it might not be the one on the pages that speaks the loudest, but the one that’s beyond them.

Between and beyond, in and out, there and way out there. That’s why picture books are important. They aren’t trapped in time and they don’t end when you slide it back on the shelf.

The one you read in your mama’s lap means home and safe and family. When you read that one as the mama yourself it’s the same: home and safe and family. It’s both looking back and looking forward, a thread that stitches up generations.

You remember, and you poof the wishes on the little ones to come.

Because you were once little.

And you read a picture book.

One that made you know in your gut how bread and jam would taste, day after day after day. You’d stomp and you’d laugh but then you’d be okay with trying something new too. There’s one you read and you wondered if your appendix would be okay, but even if it wasn’t would you get flowers and toys and a scar? What is an appendix anyway? You didn’t know, and you wondered. And there’s the one you read that made you look for the snorting bulls who were busy smelling the flowers. You’d look for them and you’d understand and you’d get busy smelling too.

These moments made you taste and feel and smell, and they still make you taste and feel and smell and remember. That’s why picture books are beyond the pages, way beyond.

You are big now, but you still taste and feel and smell.

You are big now, and you remember.

Carter Higgins headshot

About Carter Higgins
Carter Higgins is a librarian at an independent school in Los Angeles. She is the author of A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2016) and two forthcoming picture books from Chronicle Books, Everything You Need For a Treehouse and This is Not a Valentine (2017). She is an Emmy-winning visual effects and motion graphics artist whose career has covered all the nooks and crannies of visual storytelling. She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book, and is a team member of All the Wonders, a home for readers to experience the stories they love in wondrous ways.

Literacy Activity
Nov 21 ~ Homes/Houses

“Picture books not only tell a story of a culture or historical time, they also provide a visual into the world through illustrations.” (from the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Book Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

What makes a home? Ask students write list five words to define “home.” Then illustrate their list with a drawing of their own home. Then, share these creations using Skype or mail, with a Classrooms in an area unlike where the students come from. This can be a different city, region, or country. How does the idea of home change depending on where you live? How does the idea of home stay the same?

Suggested reading:
Home by Carson Ellis
Homes in Many Cultures by Heather Adamson
Two Homes by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Home by Alex T. Smith
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

:Donna November 29, 2015 at 11:41 am

It’s so true, Carter. We never grow out of them and remember them forever 😀


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