It is a common misconception that picture books — filled with many illustrations and few words — are meant only for the very young. They teach basic concepts and include introductory experiences, ideas and themes. Also, they are often still found in the children’s area of libraries and bookstores. However, as time has passed, the medium known as the picture book has developed into something that all ages can enjoy and benefit from reading.
Picture books in the last 50 years have attracted some of the most skilled and accomplished artists. Chris Van Allsburg, who started as a sculpture artist, is now most well-known for his picture books, including "The Polar Express," "Jumanji" and "Zathura." Jon Klassen began working in film animation, but has made his name through the creation of picture books including "I Want My Hat Back," "This is Not My Hat," and "We Found a Hat." Both of these artists had several books on bestseller lists and won the coveted Caldecott Medal for distinguished picture book art. These are just two examples of notable picture book artists, and yet they demonstrate the true range of visual expression found in this medium. The illustrations in many picture books tell a story all their own that invites the brain to make connections between the words and images, which are not always in agreement. This literary format has become one of the easiest places to view great artwork in a variety of artistic styles.
In addition to the illustrations, the language in picture books teaches subjects that are often far more complex and sophisticated than the alphabet, shapes and colors. "Come with Me" by Holly M. McGhee is a recent picture book that tackles the difficult subject of fear and hatred in today’s society. "Where Will I Live?" by Rosemary A. McCarney gives us the perspective of refugees struggling to find a place in this world. These topics are not just for children, but they are told concisely and clearly in about 30 pages. Picture books often have the most emotional impact in the fewest words, and are easy to fit into the limited free time most individuals have available. They tell a short, moving message, and the brevity and impact of these messages has made them useful in educating people of all ages on important topics ranging from historical events to current humanitarian needs.
Picture books have been and still are a wonderful means for bringing people together. Whether it is a daughter listening to her father read "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown before bedtime or a teacher sharing "Oh, the Places You’ll Go" by Dr. Seuss with her high school graduating class, picture books bring people together to recapture fond memories of childhood, help us see different or even difficult perspectives, and make us laugh. Picture books are not something that people graduate from when they are no longer children; picture books are something everyone can enjoy for a lifetime.