1000 Picture Books – Part 3: Genre

In part 1 we learned about the picture book makers. Take a look here.

In part 2 we learned about the characters. Take a look here.

For those of you who can’t be bothered with parts 1 & 2 (and who can blame you – we’re all very busy), here is the short version of what’s going on here. I read 1000 picture books. I took lots of notes. I gathered all the results. Now, I’m sharing them with the world.

This post is a look at genre and theme and topic. They are all a bit overlappy, but I organized them as best I could. This was a difficult statistic to track. It’s easy to determine if a book is an alphabet book or a biography, but determining if a book is about family, or imagination, or solving problems is a bit more subjective, especially when many books cover multiple themes. You’ll see what I mean once we get into it.

And were off…


464 – Humorous or Quirky

243 – Serious

140 – Concept

53 – Biography

49 – Sweet

47 – Lyrical

42 – Bedtime

29 – Fractured fairy tale

9 – Bilingual (all Spanish)

8 – Holiday

8 – Poetry

7 – Religious

7 – Fable


Please, don’t ask me what I mean by humorous, serious, and sweet. It’s just a really sloppy way of me saying they didn’t fit in the other categories and that’s how I felt when I read them. Ambiguous? Definitely!



114 – Being yourself/Self discovery

82 – Friendship

72 – Manners/Kindness

64 – Overcoming obstacles

62 – Discovery/Trying new things

55 – Nature

49 – Emotions/Feelings

34 – The Arts

32 – Adventure

30 – History/Government/Civil rights

26  – Reading/Books

24 – Family

21 – Coping with loss

20 – Imagination

19 – Pets

18 – Science

14 – Birthdays

13 – New siblings

12 – First day of school

11 – Growing up

9 – Bullying

7 – Love

7 – Survival

6 – Transportation/Travel

5 – Fitness/Hygiene

5 – Moving



862 – Fiction

106 – Nonfiction

24 – A pleasant mix of both

8 – Inexplicably not recorded – hmmm?

Now, another look at word counts in relation to F/NF books

Fiction over 1000 words – 49; Fiction under 1000 words – 784

Nonfiction over 1000 words – 49; Nonfiction under 1000 words – 58

Those with a pleasant mix over 1000 words – 5; Those under 1000 words – 19


A closer look at concept books:

39 – Nature

17 – Counting

16 – Alphabet

10 – Science

7 – History

6 – Shapes, Emotions

5 – Colors, Family, Reading

4 – Opposites, Manners

3 – Creating, Development, Jobs

2 – Travel, Self care, Language, Sizes, Arts

1 – Days of the week


And what are the three most popular fairy tales to twist?

5 – Little Red Riding Hood

3 – Goldilocks

2 – Hansel and Gretel


I had two disappointments with my data collection. I wish I had recorded meta/interactive books. I love meta books, and I know I came across quite a few. Also I wish I had kept better track of multi-cultural or diverse books. I did take notes on character ethnicity, but that isn’t exactly the same thing. Next time.

Again, please ask lots of questions? After all, I didn’t do all of this work for my own pleasure. Wait a minute, that’s exactly why I did it. But I still love to share.

Now move on to Part 4: Point of View and Settings

10 thoughts on “1000 Picture Books – Part 3: Genre

    1. Thanks, Lauri. I am surprised by the response to this project, so now, I’m thinking of ways to continue, improve, expand, augment. So many possibilities.

  1. This series has proven extremely enlightening, David. It has, also, inspired me to read more PBs and to find some specific parameters to investigate. Thank you so very much for sharing your hard work… I’m sure it has proved helpful in your writing, as well.

    1. Thank you, Cindy. I’m sure this has been helpful in ways I will never know. In the end, hopefully, better writing. The results you are seeing were not my original plan. I just wanted to read and take some notes – It took on a life of its own after I got going. If I had planned ahead I would have had some different parameters.

  2. Thanks for sharing David. I am finding this blog series very interesting. Helps identify what is overdone in picture book market. Do you think it has helped you with your own writing? I think I might feel overwhelmed and that everything has been done before.

    1. I think everything has been done, or some variation. At first it was frustrating, but then my brain switched over. I felt freer. I discovered that I could write anything I wanted, as long as I made it my own. Instead of just finding a clever ideas, I’m developing a strong individual voice and improving my writing skills to try and stand out.

  3. I’ve taken upon myself to study a picture book a week from an author/Illustrator perspective. It’s proven quite insightful too. It’s now been 6 months and I feel like I have learned so much already. I love those kinds of excercises and yours is very insightful on so many levels. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It is incredibly helpful. Sounds like you are really taking your time with each book. I’m slowing down this year, taking less notes, and really soaking in the details.

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