7 things to look for when buying a Children’s Picture Book
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7 things to look for when buying a Children’s Picture Book

7 things to look for when buying a Children’s Picture Book


So many beautiful children’s books, so little time. As a children’s book author and illustrator, I am asked for recommendations for my favourite books, and what I look for in a children’s book. After mentioning my own books, I will go on to spout a list of titles until the questioner’s eyes start to glaze over.

What makes a children’s book good is simple. Wonderful stories and evocative illustrations married together and bound into little bundles of joy.

But I did analyse a little further, and the following is a list of the 7 things to look for in a children’s book:

1. An interesting story

Even better, get books with subjects that your kids are wild about and build into them a love of books and reading that will set them up for life. Some of my favourite stories are “Free Lunch” or “Mr Lunch takes a Plane Ride” by J. Otto Seibold. 

2. Outstanding illustrations

Full disclosure here, I am an illustrator and will buy a book purely for the illustrations. Look for books with lots of colour, evocative scenes, and thoughtfully crafted and well-drawn characters. As well as loving the illustrative style of J. Otto Seibold, another one of my favourites is Shaun Tan. The illustrations in his book “Rules of Summer” are astonishing.

3. Accessible vocabulary that is varied

Get a book that is age-appropriate and uses language your child can understand. But remember, words are fun! And you do want the occasional word that will stretch vocabularies and keep them growing. Anything by Dr Seuss is the perfect example here! 

4. Predictable language patterns

Great children’s books have a rhythm and flow that aids read through. This effect is heightened when the book has rhyme or poetry. Again, it helps make language fun. If you have ever read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr with a child, you know what I mean.

5. Engagement

Scholastic Publishing makes the point that a great children’s book should encourage a child to “point, touch, and talk about the pictures. And books that sound like they’d be fun to read out loud”. In other words, engagement – a world that anyone would like to stay and play in. I remember the hours spent when I was a child in the Richard Scarry books. “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A. A. Milne with the beautiful illustrations by E. H. Shepard is another engaging series of books, with characters who will become friends for life.

6. A simple message

Every good story has a theme and children’s books are no different. “The Monster at the End of This Book” by Jon Stone is a splendid example of a simple message that engages children and makes them want to keep turning pages.

7. Joy

Most importantly, a children’s book should be filled with joy! When you pick up a book and flick through it do you find yourself smiling? The best children’s books inspire, encourage and fill kids with a sense of wonder and most importantly – a desire to read more.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash