Why can’t we break the rules when we write picture books?
Why do we have to follow the rules?
And more importantly, who made the rules?
Do picture book characters have to show growth? What about classics like Goodnight Moon? It breaks all the rules. If Goodnight Moon came across my desk for a critique, I would have many suggestions on how to change it. I wouldn’t imagine it would be the huge success that it has been. Perhaps it was the era it was written in? It has no strict pattern it follows. It doesn’t even make sense sometimes. I mean, goodnight nobody? And where did the clocks and socks come from? They weren’t introduced to us in the first portion of the book. Is that fair to the reader? Should we talk about the illustrations? I know many illustrators that could knock the socks off these paintings. And is it just me,or is the old lady whispering hush kind of creepy? It seems the author just wrote down random thoughts that came into her head. Do a lot of people wonder what the appeal is? And where I ask, is the character growth in all this?
It would sound like I am a critic of this book, but I actually am not. I adore this book, because my children adored it. I would go around the room with my oldest child, and we would say goodnight to all the things in his room. He loved this! And this was before I had ever discovered the book. So I think this is something that little babes can relate to. It is relevant to their world. So I guess my question really is this. Why could this author break the rules, and I can’t? It just doesn’t seem fair. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to work with an editor that had the time to give you input into your work? Nowadays, editors are swamped. What a lovely era this was!
In Imogene’s Antlers, Imogene does not solve her own problem. She doesn’t actually seem to have a problem. Everyone around her seems to think she has a problem, but that is actually their problem, not hers. Imogene does not grow (except for her antlers). Does anyone else have an opinion on this?
My vote: If it’s a character-driven story, then yes, the character has to show growth. The trouble is, this is one of those rules that can be broken, if somebody does it right. Jill Esbaum If the main character's beliefs and actions are clearly in the right and good AND the plot and setting are clearly in the wrong, then the character must remain tried-and-true in order to work on changing the book's world for the better. The character's job is to SAVE the story and those in it, not improve himself or herself. It only works if the character is extremely likable (and the situation dire) from the beginning. He or she may have flaws, but the reader must cheer for them starting on page 1. Example EXTRA YARN and THE CHIMPANZEES OF HAPPY TOWN. Lisa Morlock When speaking with Mac Barnett about his book Extra Yarn and if his main character showed growth, he said, "No, no she doesn't." He then went on to say that picture books are a genre, not a form. In other words, you do not have to follow prescribed formula. Mac Barnett That being said, are most picture books better when the MC does show growth? Yes!