Concept picture books: I had to broaden my idea of “concept”

Concept picture books.  It isn’t a new phrase but I have to admit that only recently have I developed a full understanding of what this category of books contains.

For those of you not familiar with the term, a concept picture book explores an abstract idea or process.  Alphabet books are concept books.  Counting books are concept books.  Books about verbs are … concept books.  But it is really much broader than that.

To help illustrate this point, I will explain what a concept book is not.  A concept book is not a narrative.  A biography, such as Gary Golio’s Jimi: Sounds like a Rainbow is not a concept book instead it has a chronological structure and the story is told through a narrative approach.  Narrative.  Chronological.  Not concept.

It is easier to explain what a concept book is NOT because a concept book can use several different structures all of which are being taught in the schools.  Thank you to Melissa Stewart who explained this in her guest post on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, Cynsations.  As explained by Stewart, these structures are:

Description:  Boats Float! by George Ella Lyon and Benn Lyon is a fun, super simple description of boats.

Sequence:  My favorite sequence picture book is Rotten Pumpkin by David Schwartz.  After Halloween, a jack-0-lantern is put on the compost heap and this book follows it through the stages of decomposition.  Fascinating!

Compare & Contrast:  This is a structure that fascinates me.  For an example check out Frog or Toad?  How Do You Know?  By Melissa Stewart.

Question & Answer: Does a Fiddler Crab Fiddle?  by Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig starts with a question up front and follows this pattern throughout the book, feeding the reader fun facts about fiddle crabs.

Cause & Effect: Changing environments or people pushed into new situations can make good cause and effect books.  See Spy by Marissa Moss.

Problem & Solution:  Environmental problems and solutions or health issues would easily fit this category.  See Germs Make Me Sick by Melvin Berger.

If a publisher is looking for concept books, study their list and look beyond the ABCs and 123s to give yourself a better chance to make a sale!


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