Writing Picture Books: Make Your Ending Personal

Front cover for 'Home' by Carson Ellis – published by Candlewick Press
Carson Ellis found the perfect ending for his story when he brought it all home.

Recently I read an interview with Carson Ellis on Picturebook Makers.   She was talking about her new picture book Home.  Because she is an illustrator, she sketched out her ideas for the majority of the book before she had an editor.  She tells about how most of the sketches made it into the book with little change.

The one spread that gave her trouble was the final page.  How to tie this book about homes in their many forms all together?  It worked when she showed the readers the studio where she created the book.  It worked when she made it personal.

When we talk about picture book writing and how to end the book, we often talk about an AHA moment.  The idea is that you need to find a way to end the book that will make the reader say aha.

This is a concept I’ve always had some difficulty grasping.  What if my aha moment is different from your aha moment?

When I read this interview, it hit me.  Ellis is talking aha moment — the moment that sticks with the reader because she has made the book personal.

How can you make the ending of your book personal for your reader?  Part of it will depend on what you are writing.  At the moment, I am working on a nonfiction picture book on prayer.  Throughout the book, I give examples of how people pray all over the world.  Right now, the ending emphasizes this diversity.  Now I’m left wondering if it would work better if I brought it home.  How do I pray?

You can also make a nonfiction ending personal by issuing a call to action – here is what you can do. . . Or you can challenge your reader to be the next pioneer in the field.

With fiction, create a spread that ties into an emotion that will call out to your reader.  This can be home or family and security.  Again, it will depend on your story.

If you are working on a picture book, give your ending some thought.  Do you currently bring the ending home?