French children’s book author and editor Grégoire Solotareff shares his tips for creating books for very young readers.
Via Publishing Perspectives
In the tradition of Maurice Sendak or Leo Lionni (both of whom are published in translation by l’école des loisirs), Solotareff’s 200+ books for children, which he has been writing and illustrating for 30 years, continue to dwell in a magical and quirky universe.
One shouldn’t create books just to make them. You need to be passionate about it. At first you are shy and afraid of rejection. You’re not always confident. But you do need to be convinced about your work, you need to like it and want to do it. This is the first quality you need when you present a book to a publisher and say “This is what I do and what do you think?”
You need to present a finished project. A few images and a vague idea are not enough. In order to give yourself a chance, you should ask yourself this question:
Am I made for this? Is it just an idea among others, or is it a real desire?
The book you make should be a book that does not yet exist. Your idea must be original. A book is made of pages that turn and you need to give children the desire to turn the pages and discover what is next.
Once your idea has been formulated then you need to deconstruct it. Young children’s books need images and the text comes in to help the images, but the images are what are most important. The texts need to be simple — not necessarily with simple vocabulary, but it needs to lead the child into the narration. Ideas can come from every day life. Then there’s a spark that makes you want to invent the story. All ideas are possible but you should always keep in mind who your readers are: children. At the same time, a good children’s book should be attractive to everyone. You can speak about most everything to children: it can be what you’d like to speak to your own children about. You need to make sure that the idea interests children. The book can’t just be a pretext for nice illustrations.