What’s Your PB’s Gimmick?

We often think of the word ‘gimmick’ as having a negative connotation. But good gimmicks are found in a lot of picture books!

Gimmick – an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.

The picture book gimmick is the twist, the mash-up, and the familiar story told in a new, unique way. Not all picture books have a gimmick, but when they do, I’m often impressed with the clever spin the author put on the story. I also find picture books with a gimmick get a lot of attention.

Yesterday I brought home the book, The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas, written by Anne Muecke and illustrated by Nathan Hale. You don’t need anything more than the title to know this picture book’s gimmick. The author strategically chose to take a familiar, holiday picture book story and replace the usual cast of characters with dinosaurs. A clever gimmick that gained the attention of an editor. Now dino-loving kids on Christmas Eve have a new story to love.

Have some fun discovering the gimmicks in your favorite picture books, and try writing a gimmicky manuscript of your own.


A Great Picture Book is Like a Jelly Doughnut, or a Burrito, or a Chicken Pot Pie

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

A doughnut without jelly is just doughnut.  Sure, a it’s sweet, but you pretty much know what you’re getting at first glance.  Like the jelly filled doughnut, a great picture book is full of surprises!  It serves up suspense at the turn of a page. It presents quirky characters in unique settings, and ends it all in an unexpected way.  The best picture books keep the reader guessing.burrito

And what’s a burrito without meat, beans, salsa and cheese?  Well, it’s a tortilla, and a tortilla is pretty flat.  A great picture book has layers.  It’s more than a character getting what he or she (or it) wants.  It’s about the journey, the emotional highs and lows, the lessons learned, the concepts made clearer.

chicken pot pieAnd nobody wants a chicken pot pie without chicken and veggies.  That’s just an empty crust. Readers and listeners alike need something to stick their fork into, something to chew on.  A great picture book gets us thinking about more than ourselves in our immediate surroundings.  It opens a window to a bigger picture.  It allows the youngest of readers to try on someone else’s shoes, to see things from an unfamiliar perspective, and to gain a greeter understanding of the world and themselves.

Fill yourself with some great reads today!