Inspiration: What Goes Into a Picture Book

I have to admit it.  I love getting to see videos about how different authors and illustrators work.  This video with Yuyi Morales, the creator of Dreamers, is a great companion piece for yesterday’s post on writing nonfiction today.

Dreamers is based, in part, on Morales own experiences as an immigrant and mother of an infant.  It also draws on her childhood, drawing beside her mother as the woman worked at the kitchen table.  Watch the video in its entirety and you’ll hear how, as the illustrator, she worked in migratory animals, images that resemble Mexican folk art and more.

The reason that I think this is such a good companion piece for yesterday’s post is that at first picture books often look relatively simple.  They are for young children who are pre-readers.  The texts are short.

But this apparent simplicity is deceptive.  If you’ve ever tried to write a picture book, you begin to see in this interview just how much goes into it.  And I don’t mean simply how much work goes into it but how much material as well. Morales could have written a piece about sitting next to her mother at the kitchen table or a piece about coming here with her son.  She could have added a monarch to numerous illustrations.  The illustrations could be based on folk art.

Instead of doing any one of these things, Morales draws on them all.  Where she could have created a simple, straight-forward story, she wove together a piece that is layered and complex.

This complexity will help keep readers coming back, a must if something is going to be published as a hard cover picture book.  Check out what Morales has to say and then look over your own picture book.  Do you need to find a way to spice it up?  How could you add another layer?



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