I’ve been trying to research quiet picture books, how to write them, and how to pitch them. It has been a challenge. Not that there is nothing out there.
The problem is actually that when you try to research anything to do with quiet picture books, you get books with titles like Quiet, The Quiet Boat Ride, and The Quiet Place. That’s pretty funny because when I think of quiet picture books, I think of Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon, Marie Dorleans The Night Walk, or Hayley Barrett’s Babymoon. So what makes it a quiet book?
The focus is on emotion and quiet observation. There may be more than one or two characters but the cast is not vast. It is definitely limited and contained. So what does your quiet picture book need?
Depth and Emotion
Obviously it needs depth and emotion. This doesn’t mean that it needs to be sad or emotional. The Night Walk has a sense of awe. Or it can feel cozy and maybe a little sentimental. I tend to think of quiet stories as the kinds of pieces that would, if they happened in your family, make good bedtime stories. Or good cuddle time stories.
Quiet picture books also need to have a hook. Think about the quiet stories that readers love. The two that always come to mind for me are Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and Dream Snow by Eric Carle. Both are seasonal books about a winter night. Owl Moon is a book about owling and family. Those are the hooks. Dream Snow is a Christmas book. The Night Walk is about family. It also sets the reader up for a discussion about the difference between night and day, sunrise and sunset.
Knowing what the hook is for your quiet story will lead you to who the audience is. In short, who is it that will buy your quiet book? Many quiet books make excellent gift books. You could give Owl Moon to either a bird lover or a new father. I would choose The Night Walk for new parents or nature enthusiasts. Babymoon is another great book for new parents.
Are you seeing a theme here?
But don’t get hung up on the idea that your quiet book has to be for just this audience. A quiet book can be a great bedtime book without being for new parents. I think that’s where Dream Snow fits in.
Depth, emotion and an audience. These three things benefit any picture book manuscript but are essential in the quiet picture book.
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