These are notes from a talk that Cheryl Klein gave to a group of illustrators a couple of weeks ago. Even though these notes are for illustrators, there are some things that might be interesting to writers, especially PB writers. These are notes, and not direct quotes, just what I could scribble down while she was talking.
Cheryl also has a ton of information on her website http://www.cherylklein.com
Picture Books (PBs) – editors want a narrative line with a climax and conclusion (not just one damn thing after another)
Good PB art always reads left to right, with the punctuation mark on the right
the PB text is more dry, the emotions can be conveyed with the
illustrations instead of the text (because you have to have emotion in
Check out Once Upon A Banana by David Small (even though it’s a S&S PB) it’s really fun and very well constructed.
looking at an illustration, ask, "what’s the first thing my eye goes
to?" That’s the narrative focus and the rest of the picture should
You can put familiar stories or nursery rhymes in
your portfolio to show how you would illustrate it, make it new, and
also how you would narrate it (do you add new things, like someone
pushing Humpty Dumpty?)
Stress the emotion in your illustration.
They like to see the range of atmospheres and emotions that you like to
do and can do. (look at David LaRochelle’s new book The End to see details, emotions, book design, and text).
The plot discussions on her website are applicable to PBs as well.
Emotions should change in a sequence of images, not just the action or movement.
She goes through her art files regularly.
All submissions information is on her website and she opens all her mail.
tear sheet/promo sheet in the front of the portfolio is a good idea
because it tells you what you need to know about the artist right away.
You can end with a different tear sheet too, to reinforce what you have
Likes to see the whole dummy, not just text. Can send a
few samples if you want to illustrate it but are ok if they consider
other illustrators – also put that in your CL.
Loves the way an illustrator can draw you in with the illustration that introduces the characters and story ideas.
Send samples to both art directors and editors.
Likes postcards. Sample packs are good too, but postcards are better.
Likes books with more action and conflict.
is an example of a description book (with no real plot/story). These
types of books work, but the illustrations have to carry the book. A
description book works better for young children, and it’s nice to see
more in the illustrations that aren’t just an echo of the text.
Loves characters, relationships, conflicts, and possibilities.