In the “What Picture Books Tell Us About Writing” post, I mentioned how it seems like people are often categorized as writers or illustrators, at least for children’s picture books. Later I realized there is probably at least one other group, those that use oral language. Storytellers, poets and songwriters would fit in this group.

I once went to a wonderful presentation by the children’s book author, Jim Arnosky. Mr. Arnosky is both a writer and an illustrator of many nonfiction books about animals and the natural world. He sang a few songs during the presentation, and then shared that the words to his books often came to him in the form of songs and/or rhymes. I remember being fascinated at the time, because although I tell bedtime stories every night and have sung hundreds of made up silly songs, I don’t think any of them have been book material. What a wonderful ability to have.

Have you ever turned a song into a book?

Books by Jim Arnosky
All About Turkeys (All About) by Jim Arnosky

Drawing from Nature by Jim Arnosky

What Picture Books Tell Us About Writing

Have you ever taken a class or read an article about writing children’s picture books? One of the first things you learn is that the writer should only send the words, in the form of a manuscript, to the publisher. If the editor who reads the words likes them and can sell them, he or she will pick an illustrator to create the amazing art that also tells the story. With a few notable exceptions (like Eric Carle), there are writers and there are illustrators in the world of picture books.

Have you ever taken that fact a step further, to its logical conclusion? What about the children who read picture books? Aren’t some of them writers and some of them illustrators? Sure, each should learn a little bit about the other’s craft. Everyone should take art and everyone should study writing. What I am wondering, however, is whether the artists/illustrators should be forced always to express their stories in words, especially in our increasing visual world of computers and graphic novels?

Tell me what you think and whether you are a writer, an illustrator or one of the lucky few who can do both.