Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Puppy Urine and Picture Books

On Monday, I had the opportunity to sit down with some extra smart 4th and 5th graders at the Margaret Neary School in Southborough. I learned something very important. They don't read picture books. Yes, I already knew this, but I still needed to hear it. And boy did I ever hear it. I heard it about 10 times over. Their questions to me went something like this...

"Have you ever done a chapter book?"
10 minutes later....
"Do you think you could do a chapter book next?"
15 minutes later...
"What is your favorite chapter book?"
10 minutes later....
"Sooooooooo do you illustrate chapter books?"

ok ok I get it. When I was a kid, we loved picture books. Now, they are reading Moby Dick before they are out of diapers. Still, I wouldn't go down without a fight so I tried to explain that The Raucous Royals was a picture book for older kids.  But I just got that look. You know the look...like you are trying to convince them that red jello counts as a desert when clearly it is just a suspicious gelatin mass that should only be eaten by people missing teeth.

Luckily, they still enjoyed The Raucous Royals because of the puppy urine. (There is a page that explains how puppy urine was used to beautify women) I got quite a few questions about the puppy urine. Let that be a lesson to any picture book authors. Puppy urine is educational. Picture books are not.

6 comments:

Emma said...

Lol!

I don't think I would have touched a book with illustrations in 4th or 5th grade. Part of being able to read "chapter books" in multiple languages, after all, was the elitism of being able to read books in foreign languages that were too hard to read for my peers in our own language. You have to remember that in-school reading is very competitive. ;)

Today, however, I love picture books! I no longer read to impress.

Jean-Fran├žois de Buren said...

I love the post. My six year old came home with Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth from the Library today. What's next Ulysses?

Amy said...

LOL Kids these days are just too smart. I probably wouldn't have even entertained the thought of reading a picture book in 4th or 5th grade either. There's something about mastering books without pictures that's just liberating at that age. Of course, I love them now and have a few books by certain authors on my Amazon wishlist. ;)

Bearded Lady said...

Emma - I remember sneaking smutty novels under my bed at that age so I can't blame them.

JFdB- Center of the Earth is a bit heavy for a six year old. He will be stealing the Wall Street Journal when you're not looking next.

Amy- That's interesting that you say that because I do think even Chapter Books with too many pictures turn a lot of them off.

Aileen said...

If the topic was interesting enough, I would not have shied away from a picture book while still in elementary school. Has it really changed that much since the 90's?

Bearded Lady said...

Aileen, I agree. An interesting topic and a well-written book will always get read. But there is an initial barrier that has to broken through to get 4th and 5th graders to pick up the book. They are not shopping in the “picture book” section of book stores (or if they are then they won’t let their friends catch them there) Also, with so many book sales now online, some kids insist on only reading chapter books.

And it is VERY competitive. One child said, “I have been reading chapter books since the 3rd grade.” Immediately, another child said, “well, I have been reading chapter books since the second grade.” And then they all chimed in on when they started reading chapter books.

I also should mention that this particular school visit was a well funded private school in an affluent neighborhood. These kids were smart. I have had many school visits in less funded schools where the kids get very intimidated by chapter books and need the pictures to learn.