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Children’s authors and illustrators sign proclamation demanding better picture books

A group of U.S. children’s authors and illustrators have found an eye-catching way to demand better quality picture books from their peers.

A manifesto, signed by 21 members of the kids’ publishing industry, appeared as a full-page ad in the November issue of Horn Book Magazine and on the website The coalition is spearheaded by Mac Barnett, a San Francisco author who sits on the board of 826LA, the non-profit writing and tutoring centre founded by Dave Eggers. Vancouver-born artist Carson Ellis handlettered and illustrated the document. Other authors and illustrators who have signed the letter include Laurie Keller, Lemony Snicket, and Jon Scieszka.

The manifesto begins with a proclamation: “We are tired of hearing the picture book is in trouble, and tired of pretending it is not.” The group calls for titles that are “fresh, honest, piquant, and beautiful,” and asks authors to “cease writing the same book again and again.”

Barnett says he wrote the document on a former professor’s advice. He told Publishers Weekly:

“The target audience for ‘A Picture Book Manifesto’ is quite sweeping.… It is really an exhortation to everyone – writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, art directors, booksellers, librarians, and parents – that we could all be doing better. The only people who are doing fine are the kids themselves. I really believe the rest of us should be doing better.”

  • Nicholas Boshart

    What’s with manifestos? I’m assuming this is a publicity grab to illustrate how high-quality their picture books are. It’s like any other book genre, you get rip-offs and bad books and a handful of really great titles. I suppose the sentiment is nice, but a little over-done. 

  • Allister

    A little arrogant of them, isn’t it?

  • Justsaying

    By “better” picture books the pledgees of course mean books created and written by themselves and their friends. It reminds me that many years ago as a callow editorial assistant for Random House in New York I tried to sell my boss on a Lane Smith project. No one had heard of him at the time. Suffice to day that in turning it down flat the phrases she used to describe his work did not include “beautiful,” “honest,” “piquant,” or “fresh.” Nevertheless, he seems to have done okay for himself. What these folks seem to forget is the simplest fact about publishing: ultimately it is the consumer who decides what he/she wants and likes–not a cabal of self-appointed and self-righteous mandarins of good taste and the beautiful. A nice rule of thumb to follow: in general nothing original or fresh or beautiful can be produced by committee.

  • marion

    You should check out my children’s picture book.Th illustrations  done by Wendy Seimans are awesome and are based on  my family members…check it out,” Baba’s Babushaka:A Magical |Ukrainian Christmas” best selling award winning book author Marion Mutala

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