I was asked to judge a picture book contest. I’m a picture book author of 29 books and also a mom of past picture-book fans. Picture books are books with both words and art, usually 28 to 64 pages, and usually for young children. The gift book people have figured out how to put out mini-coffee table books with more adult themes, such as All My Friends Are Dead, a book about a witty and self-aware dinosaur.
As the colorful books started arriving in the mail — one at a time, or a box of six, and this past weekend, large boxes of twenty or so — I realized I had over 120 books to read. But they were short, so it was okay.
Saturday the temperature soared to 100 degrees, and it was an off-day for live music, so I settled in with my 100+ books. The average number of words is about 500, so it only burned a few hours. Halfway through the pile, I took a cat nap. The themes were getting repetitive.
2018 seems to be the year of the dinosaur, the princess, a couple of hedgehogs, two Ninjas, a few insects, and lots of animal stories, where a raccoon is a stand-in for a little boy and a mouse is often a girl. A couple of the books were about being a better person, and two were about the guy who sewed the rainbow flag for the LGBTQ community — Gilbert ???. One was when a leprechaun met up with the Gingerbread Man.
I know, right?
Many books rhymed, and many rhymed badly. Oddly, the rhyming board book for toddlers about LA was inspired. But for toddlers? Do they really know where they live? Isn’t LA an abstract idea for a diaper-wearing, sippy-cup drinking two year old? We can’t trust them with paper, but we can talk about the art, culture and movie business of a bustling city? The child is more apt to gnaw the corners than turn the cardboard pages. Oh wait, it’s really for the parents, disguised as a child’s book.
Then there are the easy readers. Necessary? Yes. Inspired? Not so much. The biographies are impressive, but one clocked in at 128 pages. It hardly qualifies as a picture book. A skilled writer can boil it down to sixty-four, or at least eighty pages.
Book pages are still printed on both sides and then folded into fourths. Books are still produced overseas, where it is cheaper. It’s amazing that the publishers keep putting books out there. Millennials, for one, don’t seem to want to own anything they can’t throw into the back of their Priuses.
I will put these 100+ books into the back of my Prius V (the big one) and drive them to a worthy library when I am done. The average picture book costs $15.99. That’s almost $2000.00 worth of books I will be giving away after the other two judges and I pick our winners.
If you know of a children’s library open to lots of princesses, dinosaurs, wild animals and ninjas, leave a comment with a mailing address. Let’s see, if I send it media mail, that will only be about $80.00 to ship.
Maybe the easy readers can go to the three little girls across the street.
And the one book filled with adverbs to my new-to-writing friend who uses way too many adverbs.
And the one about coding to the nine year old daughter of my worker lady, and . . .
This will be fun!
I’d really like to give them to the immigrant kids locked up at the border, but I don’t think anyone would ever let that happen.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
Although it is an honor to be asked to judge, if you say yes, you have to actually judge. And now it’s the holiday week for the 4th of July, so there’s that. I have enough bubble wrap and boxes to move a kid to college in the fall (not really, but I do have a lot).