- ALA Annual Conference 2022

The Art of Children’s Books #ALAAC22

Saturday morning at #alaac22 with pastries and three distinguished illustrators? Hands down, YES! This session was a wonderful blend of literacy, artistry, and storytelling. Daniel Bernstrom, Dan Yaccarino, and Ricardo “Liniers” Siri shared their own stories of creating picture books. 

Yaccarino, whose books include the beloved Doug Unplugged series and his poignant picture book I am a Story, said that there’s a difference in creating books where he is both author and illustrator vs. when he illustrates another author’s work. “My brain actually thinks differently,” he said. When discussing his process, he said his mind thinks in pictures, and “everything that images can’t tell- that’s what I put in the text.”

Siri, who just published a new book Wildflowers, likened the interaction of text and illustration to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They are just fine on their own, but together, they really dance. He elaborated on the dangers of didactism in books. “Kids need to feel something about the book, so they finish and want another one!”

Bernstrom (creator of One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree and more) stated, “It takes longer for me to write a picture book than a novel. Picture books are like poems – words are chosen for a specific reason.” 

At the end of the session, I asked the question, “How do you suggest approaching picture books and graphic novels for resistant parents? Those that want their older children to ‘grow out of picture books’ or ‘read real books.’”

They all laughed. Because they know the sentiment well. 

Yaccarino said, “Just because the book has voice bubbles doesn’t mean it’s not literature. It’s the same story, same content- it’s just reformatted. To parents, convey the importance of visual and verbal literacy, and that we are living in a visual culture.”

Siri echoed with a push for getting rid of the prejudice towards these formats. “At the end of the day, it’s all story! In nonfiction text, they just give you the pearl, you don’t have to search. With fiction— words and pictures- you have to search for that pearl to find it.”

Bernstrom jumped in, “Don’t tell me that illustrations aren’t art. Picture books teach art appreciation. Illustrations are high art. Picture books are poetry. There’s no outgrowing spending time in those formats.”

At the end, all three reminisced about pouring over picture books as kids.

“As a child, the happiest I felt was alone with a book. I always return to that, remembering how safe that space made me feel,” said Siri. 

We all remember that feeling, right? It’s why we became children’s librarians. 

(Photo courtesy of guest blogger)


Katie Clausen (she/her) is the Early Literacy Services Manager at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL. Her specialties include discovery-based play, picture book analysis, and storytime best practices. During ALA, she will be munching on Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish, and is thrilled to attend The Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. If she could read any book again for the first time, it would be The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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