Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lessons/Morals in Picture Books

Each author needs to decide whether or not to include a lesson or a moral theme in their books for children.  The expert opinions on this are divided.  I have studied instructional material for authors that insist that a picture book's purpose is to entertain and hook kids on reading.  One cited Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as a book about fun and adventure.  Other experts argue that kids need moral education and picture books are a great place to get it.  One university even went so far as to publish that picture books "have been and remain, in part, about moral education." 

I do not think that picture books need to focus on a lesson or moral theme, but I do think that the most successful picture books will have subtle meanings that teach important lessons.  They can be ignored or emphasized by adults reading the story, but they do exist.

My favorite picture books have such lessons.  Where the Wild Things Are can teach about obedience, consequences, and family life.  Pigsty by Mark Teague is hilarious and it includes great lessons about family life and cleanliness.  The book we looked at last week, The Donkey's Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri, can teach about confidence and individual uniqueness.  Even books like Life Size Dinosaurs by David Bergen can have inferred lessons such as making judgments based on appearances. 

It is, of course, important to research any publisher to which you intend to submit a picture book manuscript.  Find out if the books they publish include moral lessons or not.  Only submit to publishers that match your writing style.  My submissions will include morals.


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