Zen and the Art of Buying Picture Books
for Older Children and Teens for the School Library:
1. Familiarize yourself with respected authors and artists.
2. Think about all of the classes offered at your school
and the curriculum needs.
3. Keep an eye out on the web and in trade journals
for what's new in picture books.
4. Win the lottery.
5. Buy all the books.
Okay...Let's say you didn't do #4. Here's the more realistic version:
4. Sign up to be in Ollie's Army. You have to neither keep nor bear arms.
5. Wait for your coupon in the mail.
6. See which stores are near you.
7. Put on pants.
8. Bring your Smart Phone, if you have one.
You can use this to access book reviews
as well as your school's current collection.
9. Make good choices using your school's selection guidelines.
If you are like me, you are too cheap for a Smart Phone. So...
8. Scan the shelves to get a feel for the way Ollie's arranges its picture books.
9. Do a quick pass of all the shelves to pull the books you recognize
from good reviews you've come across by chance.
Pull all of the authors that you know as awesome while you are at it.
10. Make a pile in your shopping basket.
11. Make another pass and pull books that look intriguing.
Examine each book before placing it in your basket.
Check the font for accessibility and the quality of the art as it supports the text.
Is the book one that would support the curriculum?
This is why you are wearing pants. You may need to sit on the floor
in order to see the bottom shelf of books. Yep.
You may want to bring a friend,
if you will need help getting back up.
Sunya Osborn lists these look-fors in her article,
- Mature themes
- More complex illustrations than those that would be easily appreciated or understood by younger readers
- More text or difficult text than would be appropriate for the short attention spans of younger readers
- Subtle meanings beyond the understanding of younger readers
- Two levels of meaning - one for younger readers and one for older readers
- Fiction or non-fiction
12. Evaluate the quality of the writing.
13. Imagine the readers who may check this book out of the library.
14. Place books in your cart that fit your selection criteria.
15. Look through your first pile of likely "sure bets."
Return any "lemons" to the shelves.
16. Now, think about your budget, look at the prices and make final cuts
before getting in the check-out line.
17. Give the cashier the coupon before purchasing. Save your receipt.
18. You may want to set some books aside before processing,
if you are still uncertain of the content of some titles.
It's easy to return items to Ollie's.
Why Ollies? Here's the sad truth about picture books. By the time you read a well-researched article about them, sometimes the titles are out of print! Sometimes the price of the picture books will eat away at your budget in big gulps. Are picture books worth every penny? Yes. But we are being realistic here. Shopping at Ollie's requires the same Zen approach as Magnetic Poetry.
You have to just be open to what is there.
Also, the Ollie's in my town often plays soul music over the store's sound system.
This helps when I have to get on up...and get down.
Every now and then you will see a CRAZY deal on a book that you know is amazing. A few years ago, John's Secret Dreams was on Amazon for $3.99. I did what every sane person would do. I bought about 15 copies and hoarded them for a while before sharing them with friends. When I opened my order, three of the copies were signed by the author.
This is more of an exception than a rule.
If there are specific titles that you want to use in class, checking the online catalogs of local public libraries is a good way to try out a title before
investing in hunting down a copy.
"Selling" the idea of picture books to middle and high school students and teachers may take a little effort, but it's worth it. There is so much to be gained from the richness of story that comes from the visual arts.