The Art of the Picture Book

Island Readers & Writers spent a wonderful two days at the end of August at the Henry D. Moore Public Library in Steuben, hosting “The Art of the Picture Book,” a multi-component program around picture books in collaboration with the Ella Lewis School and Step by Step Childcare.

“Whole Book Approach” Workshop

IRW welcomed 12 educators, childcare professionals and public librarians from Washington and Hancock counties for a three-hour professional development workshop led by Courtney Waring, director of education at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (The Carle). Courtney traveled from Amherst, Mass., to spend the weekend with us and we were so very fortunate to have her with us.

The Carle advocates the “Whole Book Approach” style of reading (designed by author Megan Dowd Lambert) with children rather than to them. After IRW staff participated in an online training session with Courtney on this subject earlier this year, we knew we wanted to share this approach with educators and all those who read with children here in Downeast Maine.

During the workshop, participants learned about different ways illustrators tell stories through their pictures and how images help advance a story. They learned to always peek under the book jacket for fun surprises, to take note of the end papers at the beginning and end of the story, how text design captures the mood of a story and how illustrators use the gutter — or middle of the book — to depict story elements on either page.

Even these seasoned picture book readers learned something new about the art form and how to engage children with picture books during story time, from asking open-ended questions about the story, to having them point things out on the page to asking them to guess what might happen next.

“Whole Book Approach” Story Time

Following the workshop, IRW along with staff and volunteers from the Henry D. Moore Library hosted a community lasagna supper and story time with Courtney. Children participated in story time while members of the community watched how Courtney demonstrated the Whole Book Approach style of reading with the books “Z is for Moose” by Kelly Bingham, “Flora and the Flamingo” by Molly Idle and “The Watermelon Seed”  by Greg Pizzoli, titles she selected that feature standout examples of elements from the Whole Book Approach.

Chris Van Dusen and “The Circus Ship”

The next morning, 50 members of the community joined IRW and the Moore Library for a fun morning with beloved Maine author/ illustrator Chris Van Dusen.

Chris discussed his many, many picture books and then indulged us with a reading of “The Circus Ship” — although, Chris says, he has the story memorized word-for-word, so he no longer actually has to read the words. The dozen kids in the audience delighted in picking out the circus animals that are hidden within two pages of the book. Later, Chris drew two crazy creatures featuring different elements of animals that the kids had suggested!


Chris’ illustrations are on display at the library, so go check them out!

At the end of the program, each family received an autographed copy of “The Circus Ship” to take home and add to their collections.

It was a very special weekend and we are so grateful to our hosts at the Moore Library, special guest presenter Courtney Waring, community partners from the Ella Lewis School and Step by Step and to the Belvedere Fund of Maine Community Foundation for the grant funding that made this community program possible.

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