Why start a blog about children’s picture books?

As a former bookseller (off and on for 12 years) and sometime illustrator, I have amassed a large collection of illustrated books and half-finished book projects. It is my passion, or the one that edges me ever closer to bankruptcy.

Most people don’t want to discuss picture books beyond the level of their entertainment or educational value. (What am I saying? Most people don’t want to discuss picture books period.) For them, the illustration comes second. As long as the book is pleasing to the eye and sufficiently conveys the gist of the story, it is a success. There are many ‘successes’ on the bookshelf at your local bookstore. These are not the sort of book I collect. These are not the books I will be writing about.

I love beautifully illustrated picture books. It’s wonderful if the story is well told, and if it happens to be entertaining, educational and pleasing to the eye of a child, great, but this is not my concern or my focus. I don’t care if the illustrations are too complicated, obtuse, or perhaps inappropriate for a kid. (And if they are inappropriate for a kid, they’re probably worth a second look.) I really don’t care if the book is written by an underemployed and drearily didactic celebrity or Governor General’s Award-winning author.

What I truly care about is whether the illustrations make me ‘suck wind’, as my former colleague in the book biz used to say. I want my knees to buckle, I want my heart to grow two sizes, I want to be filled with appreciation and awe… and awes’ constant companion, excruciating and debilitating jealousy. I want that moment in a bookstore, when I pick up a book for the first time, I am so gobsmacked by the illustrations, I can only say, in a sincere but slightly fretful voice, “I wonder how much my cat would sell for on ebay?”

Picture books are expensive.

And so…I am writing this blog for people who collect and admire children’s picture books, not because they are the necessary accoutrements of successful child-rearing (which they are), but because we know, the most beautiful, virtuoso art being produced these days is for the picture book.