Picture Books and Me

It’s such a thrill to be blogging alongside my talented friend Dee White on the Kids’ Capers Book blog. Via its myriad blogs, Boomerang Books provide an invaluable source of information and commentary on all manner of books (though I must admit – Kids’ Capers has been my personal favourite) … so you can imagine how exciting it is for me to take part and to share my deep love of children’s books with you.

I have been writing stories since I was a child, and my infatuation with children’s books – picture books in particular – was certainly steeped and boiled in a childhood of literary wonder. It wasn’t until my teens, however, that I began seriously collecting picture books. I think, way back then, it was the old ‘glory box’ thing … collecting books for my future children alongside the tacky housewares I simply couldn’t live without (and have long since disappeared, hallelujah, although I think a 70s melon baller may have survived the cull).

When I became a mother, my groaning picture book tally reached the hundreds. Fuelled by the various stages of my children’s development, the collection was weighted heavily by all manner of genre and style – sparkly-feely board books, Disney fairy princess tomes, look-and-find, ABC, colour, number, cool facts, early reader, Ladybird, chapter, picture, verse, and yes yes – there were even the dreaded licensed character books and paraphernalia, stuffed deeply into the shelves alongside my very own vintage Blytons and Scarrys.

It was a heady and addled mix, each book standing alone in its acquisitions history … I could pretty much delineate where each and every book came from and how it made it into our house, from the McDonald’s happy meal freebies to the rare and vintage Coles Funny Picture Books sourced online … I knew each and every book intimately. I was crazed with it, obsessed by it – until one day, soon after I began Kids Book Review and my book tally careened into the thousands, I knew it was time to cull. To let go. To move on.

I probably slashed the collection by half, if not more. It wasn’t easy. There were books I detested but clung to for the memories – Riley falling asleep at night clinging to a Superman: The Movie paperback that exceeded his years by five, Ella carting a discount fairy sparkles groanfest from room to room before sitting down with her plastic teapot to serve it tea. There were books that had skipped the kids’ age bracket by seemingly decades. There were those that were just too average. There were those that were good but provided me little emotional attachment and those that were incredible but for some reason, still didn’t ring my literary bell.

So I let them go. I released them into the world where others could make the heady emotional attachment books do so well.

I feel so blessed to be working in a field where an almost incalculable amount of books – from baby board books to adult non-fiction – pass my way. As is the way with subjectivity, some stay awhile, some visit briefly, some nestle into a corner of my heart whereupon they will forever reside … and although I have fallen head over heels in love with books of every genre, it’s the picture book that continues to hook my heart.

Maybe it’s the evocative way the pictures complement the text. Maybe it’s the way such succinct text incites the imagination. Maybe it’s the cleverness and humour and surprises great picture books provide us. Or maybe – just maybe – it’s that intimate connection to a childhood long past and never reclaimable … that link to the innocence and wonder of being very young – a time when books simply overwhelm us and shape the very people we become.

Whatever the genre, I will never release my children’s book addiction … it’s as much a part of me as breathing – and picture books have the added advantage of being able to tell a story without a single word. After all, doesn’t a picture paint a thousand of them?


Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.