Illustrations in Children’s Books

This is the fourth in a series of posts on how to choose children’s books.  If you want to read from the beginning, Click here for the first article in the series, “How to Choose Children’s Books”Last time, in “Choosing Children’s Books with Age Appropriate Themes”, I talked about how to choose children’s books with appealing themes.

In this post I will discuss how illustrations in children’s books make books appealing to children, and I will try to give some guidance on what to look for with respect to illustrations in children’s books.  However, I should say up front that there is a lot of room for difference of opinion over what makes for attractive illustrations in children’s books, so take my guidance as applying only “for the most part”; there will be many exceptions to it, due to a certain amount of subjectivity inherent in any aesthetic judgments.

Illustrations in Children’s Books: Very Important!

My central point: The illustrations of a children’s book are perhaps the largest part of what makes the book attractive to kids, especially for children younger than eight years old. Continue reading

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Choosing Children’s Books with Age Appropriate Themes

This is the third in a series of posts on how to choose children’s books.  The series starts here with “How to Choose Children’s Books” if you want to read from the beginning.  Last time, in “Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal”, I argued for the crucial importance of choosing children’s books with subjective appeal, i.e., books that a child will like, and not books that are merely good for a child in some way.

Themes in Children’s Books

In this post I will begin discussing the considerations that make up the subjective appeal of children’s books.  Specifically, I will discuss the role of a book’s themes in rendering it appealing to a child, and I will try to give some specific guidance on what to look for in the themes of children’s books.  In particular, I will try to give some guidance on choosing age appropriate children’s books.

What do I mean by the “themes” of a children’s book?  By “themes” I mean the specific content of the book, or what the children’s book is about.  For example, in a science book about snakes, the theme might simply be snakes.  Or, in a book like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the themes might include coping with loss, or finding one’s purpose in the world (click here for our review, “Juvenile Fiction: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick”).  In a children’s book like Martin’s Big Words, the themes might include justice, equality, and love (click here for our review “Children’s Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Martin’s Big Words).

The key to choosing a book with themes that will make the book appealing to a child is Continue reading

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Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

This post is the second in a series outlining selection criteria for children’s books.  The series starts here with “How to Choose Children’s Books,” if you want to read from the beginning.  Last time, in laying out the road map for this series, I introduced the notion of a book’s subjective appeal, i.e., the considerations that might make a book appealing to a child.  In this post I will begin discussing subjective appeal in more depth, and in particular I will argue for the importance of considering subjective appeal among the selection criteria for children’s books.

Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

So, here is the central—and what I take to be very important—point: choosing a kids’ book with subjective appeal is not optional.  Rather, it is a crucial, non-negotiable part of the selection.  Now, this might go without saying for most of us: of course we aim to choose children’s books that kids will like!  However, this is not obvious to everyone.  I have in mind here a certain kind of parent or caretaker that Continue reading

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How to Choose Children’s Books

It goes without saying that a child’s engagement with good books is important and valuable to her development.  Not only can reading good kids’ books expand a child’s cognitive abilities, but it can also spur a child’s emotional, moral, and spiritual development.  However, a quick visit to one of the big online or brick-and-mortar book retailers is enough to make you realize there are zillions of children’s books.  Some of these books are good, but many are not.  So, if you are looking to buy children’s books, you are left with a question: “How do I choose good children’s books?”

In this post I begin a multi-part series that I hope can go some way toward answering the question of how to choose children’s books in a general way, such that after reading the series (or part of it) you will be more equipped to choose kids’ books, even if you don’t have access to reviews or recommendations.  I have chosen to write on this topic in a series of posts since I hope to treat the topic in some depth.  So, consider this post an introduction.

How to Choose Children’s Books: A Roadmap

The roadmap for this series is as follows.  In the first part of the series I will discuss the factors that make up what I call the subjective appeal of a children’s book.  In other words, Continue reading

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