Since having a little one and the advent of many, many children’s books in my immediate vicinity, I’ve come to really appreciate the medium.
Don’t mistake me, just like any other group of literature, there’s a spectrum of kid’s books from bold, original, and beautiful to tired, lackluster, and lazy.
However, over the last three years I have read many, many books primarily for children (thanks Kent District Library!) and a few specific books many, many, many times. Kid’s books have a lot going for them: typically simple, direct messages, humor, pictures! But my favorite aspect of kid’s picture books is the ways in which many of them waste space.
Right now we are on an Elephant and Piggie kick. White space takes up good portion of each page in Mo Willem’s hit book series. The focus is on simple actions and dialogue, and it works really well.
I also love in a picture book when you turn the page and there is a fully spread without any dialogue–perhaps simply reactions to what has happened on the previous page. There is space to breathe. To watch. To wait. To enjoy. To savor.
When I actually stop to delight in a really good picture book, it feels like I’m actually taking in a piece of art, allowing it to stop me in my tracks and perhaps even let it change me in some way.
Steeped in American culture as I am, I’m often looking for more and more content in less and less space. It’s more efficient. Access to every Disney property at any time? Sign me up! Every song ever released? Sure! (Not trying to simply rail on our culture, especially as a binge Clone Wars while my son tells Alexa to play Baby Shark.)
Kid’s books typically aren’t full of content, but they are deep. They open up new realms of beauty and thought within a few pages. There is life and energy in the blank space.