Blogging Session–Sophisticated Picturebooks

When I decided to blog from the “Sophisticated Picture Book” session the first thing I wondered was what someone would say for an hour about “sophisticated picture books?” Not that I have anything against sophisticated picture books, those that as the program guide says are, “Picture books that have wide appeal with subject matter that is too ‘sophisticated’ for the picture book collection.” Some of my favorite books are sophisticated picture books: When Jessie Came across the Sea, The Wall, and the Stinky Cheese Man.

It turns out that, like everything in our libraries, children’s books are changing. Picture books are being published that appeal to all ages. The presenter, Susan Raskin Abrams, mentioned that at her library many times the sophisticated picture books are put into the fiction section. She reported that different libraries classify these books differently. In doing the research for her presentation that there is little standard procedure for classifying and shelving these books. She advises that picture books be examined using three criteria to determine if it is a sophisticated picture book: content that may be intense, complicated, or disturbing; long text or too many words to a page; story is too long for a picture book. She suggests that these types of books may be put in the fiction section, put in a special section, or placed in a parenting section. They may be shelved in regular section but tagged with special labels. The presenter proposed using these books in displays, doing book discussions with older readers, and educating the public about sophisticated picture books.

And finally, Ms. Abram’s suggested that when assessing the sophisticated picture books in the library collection one should look beyond the pictures and the size and, above all, have an open mind!

Nancy Wilson

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