1000 Picture Books – Part 1: The Who

This year, my goal was to read 1000 picture books.

I’ve heard it said over and over that to improve your writing, you need to read and be familiar with the books currently hitting the market. I figured 1000 would be a good start!

After reading each book for sheer enjoyment, I would go back and look at the nitty-gritty. What made the book tick. The details. The numbers. The statistics. What did I like and what… not so much.

How did I choose the books I read? I will be the first to admit, this is not a scientific survey. Though it is a fairly random sampling, my personal taste surely had an influence on the books I picked. I wanted recent books, so they had to be published in 2010 or more recently, in most cases, more recently.

First, I looked at big lists (Best books of 2015, Most popular books of 2014, Most anticipated books of 2016 – you get the idea). Then I read a ton of blogs and wrote down every book I saw featured and reviewed (Lauri Fortino’s Picture Books at the Library posts were a great source). Next, I went to the libraries. Every week, I would go in and clear out the new acquisitions shelf (sorry kids). Luckily I live near two major library systems, Las Vegas and Henderson, so I had double the options.

One more note. The numbers don’t always add up to 1000. This is due to numerous factors, some of which I’ll mention as we go along. (One being I lived in rural Oklahoma for three months, and had to get creative with my book finding and recording practices.)

Okay, let’s get to it –

Books by the year:

2010 – 7

2011 – 13

2012 – 44

2013 – 85

2014 – 155

2015 – 315

2016 – 381

Publishers: Here are the publishers I came across most often.

70 – Candlewick

35 – Chronicle; 32 – Dial Books for Young Readers; 30 – Little Brown & Company, A Neal Porter Book

29 – Alfred A. Knopf, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers; 25 – Schwartz and Wade; 23 – Disney-Hyperion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 22 – Harper/Festival; 21 – Abrams Books for Young Readers, Henry Holt and Co., Balzer and Bray; 20 – Ripple Grove Press

19 – Viking; 18 – Beach Lane, Random House; 16 – Scholastic; 15 – Philomel Books, Roaring Brook Press; 14 – Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 13 – GP Putnam’s Sons, Bloomsbury; 12 – Sterling Children’s Books, Holiday House, Kids Can Press, Enchanted Lion, Farrar Straus Giroux; 11 – Owl Kids, Nancy Paulson Books, Little Bee, Groundwood Books, Greenwillow Books

5 to 10 – A Paula Wiseman book, Aladdin, Albert Whitman & Co., Arthur A. Levine Books, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Clarion, Feiwel & Friends, Flying Eye, Gecko Press, Hyperion Books for Children, Kar-Ben Publishing, Katherine Tegen Books, Lee & Low, Megan Tingley Books, Millbrook Press, Nosy Crow, Peachtree, Sleeping Bear, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Tate Publishing, Templar Books, Tundra Books, Two Lions

There were a total of 158 different publishers in the books I read, so don’t give up on your project, there could still be a place for it yet. Keep looking!

 

Authors:

Most prolific with 8 books – Mac Barnett

2 authors (Mo Willems, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal) wrote 7 books

4 authors (Linda Ashman, Kelly DiPucchio, Tammi Sauer, and Philip C Stead) wrote 6 books

4 authors (Silvia Borando, Miranda Paul, Bob Shea, and Michelle Robinson) wrote 5 books

11 authors wrote 4 books

26 authors wrote 3 books

96 authors wrote 2 books

620 authors wrote 1 book

That’s 764 total authors! This is great news. There’s plenty of room for all of you!

 

Illustrators:

most prolific with 7 books – Mo Willems, Christian Robinson, and Oliver Jeffers

3 artists (Benji Davies, Dan Santat, and Bob Shea) made 6 books

8 artists (Silvia Borando, G. Brian Karas, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, Erin E. Stead, Peter H. Reynolds, Lori Nichols, and Tom Lichtenheld) made 5 books

20 artists made 4 books

36 artists made 3 books

106 artists made 2 books

521 artists made 1 book

That’s a total of 697 illustrators! No one dominates these things. Everyone can have a shot.

 

Author/Illustrator combos:

Of the 1000 books, 553 had separate authors and illustrator, and 477 were created by people who did both! That’s almost 50-50. If I’m correct in guessing that most people only do one or the other, it appears that people who do both are at a bit of an advantage.

 

Number of words:

Wordless – 25

Less than 100 – 67

100 to 500 – 547

less that 500 – 639

more than 500 – 328

500 to 800 – 166

less than 800 – 805

800 to 1000 – 60

more than 1000 – 102

I used to hear we should aim for 500 to 800 words. But more recently, people say picture books should be under 500. These numbers definitely reflect that the shorter books are being published more often. 100 to 500 words looks to be the current sweet spot.

(I’ll talk more numbers later when I look at non-fiction books.)

 

Pages:

Most picture books are 32 pages, 32 pages with 8 end pages, or 40 pages. of the books I read, 745 met this standard.

199 books had more than 40 pages.

only 6 had less than 32 pages.

 

Any questions? I can get more specific with some of this information if you are interested. Just ask. Remember,  I only took notes on a fraction of the thousands of wonderful books that are out there. Please don’t be offended if your favorites don’t seem to be represented. I only started  this so I could get an idea of the current trends, and I feel that this survey does generally show those.

The next post is about characters – male/female? ethnicity? most popular animal? Part 2, check it out.

Or if you have a fear of Characters, you can skip on over to Genre in Part 3.

42 thoughts on “1000 Picture Books – Part 1: The Who

  1. I have been doing something similar but I’m at between 600-700 books read and mine span all the years as I’m reading classics too. What I’m interested in knowing is who published the books that you found most appealing and what kind of books do you find most appealing. Thanks!

    1. 1000 was not easy, but in the end, I think my efforts were worth it. I chose to only focus on recent books, so I could see what is hitting the stores now – what are the trends. This coming year I’m going to snuggle down with the classics.

      As for my tastes, I like quirky and funny. I like fun use of language and good rhyme. I like meta books and inventive concept books. In NF, I like, biographies. I tend to be drawn to books for older PB readers. I’m not as drawn to lyrical, and serious, but as long as it’s well done, I’m a fan.

      The publishers that created the largest percentage of books added to my favorites list were Roaring Brook Press, Disney-Hyperion, Farrar Straus Giroux, Sterling Children’s Books, Simon and Schuster, Athenium. But there wasn’t a single major or medium sized imprint that didn’t create at least one book that I loved.

  2. Wow! This is great. I made a goal to read 100 picture books right before Christmas. So far I’ve read 35. I live in a rural area and have to interlibrary loan everything. I can’t imagine doing 100. Maybe I should set me sights higher.

    1. I know your struggle. I was in a rural area for three months this year, and the library was nice, but just didn’t get the new books. Another thing you can do (it’s not as good as having the book in you hands) is look up people reading books on youtube. Sometimes it it the authors themselves.

    2. You might be able to borrow e-books – we signed up for hoopla and can read them on our tablets and computers. I was surprised to find there are picture books in e-format.

  3. Wow! Thanks for the mention, David! It makes my heart happy to know my posts have been helpful to you on your writing journey. You may be interested to know that the Picture Books At The Library posts will be picking up again starting Monday.

    And this post is quite interesting. I’ve been wanting to post something like this too, but have never gotten around to it. Now I feel like you have it covered and won’t have to dwell on it anymore. 🙂 I’m sure many picture book writers will find this information helpful.

    1. I was just going to write you and tell you you were mentioned. I can cross that off my to do list. I do look forward to to your coming lists, although this year I have decided to concentrate on all of the Caldecott/Newbery books. I’m going classic.

  4. Fabulous break-down, David. This is really very helpful and super encouraging…I love that you point out how many authors and illustrators there are…and hopefully our books will be on those Caldecott/Newbery lists one day. 😉 😉

    1. And that large number is just from the books I read. There were thousands of more books published. There is room for new talent. It’s just a matter of finding the way in.

      1. Love this advice David!. I am so looking forward to reading all of your series – and exploring more of your blog. Thanks for sharing such wonderful info. I read over 200 last year – looks like I will be reading way more this year.

  5. David – this is amazing, what a wonderful, comprehensive undertaking. I too like “quirky and funny … [with] fun use of language and good rhyme.” Would be curious as to your top books that fall in this category – particularly those whose language you particularly like. I have a hard time zeroing in on those. Thank you so much, again, for sharing your hard work and insights here.

    1. Thank you, Angela. Of course, I always go blank when asked these questions, but a few books I loved because of the playful use of the words are NANETTE’S BAGUETTE by Mo Willems, I YAM A DONKEY by Cece Bell, and A GREYHOUND A GROUNDHOG by Emily Jenkins. I’ll think on this some more.

  6. Wow, David! Impressive amount of work! Thanks so much for sharing! I feel a little wiser now. I kept postponing going to the library to check out children’s books- and your article is inspirational!

  7. This is excellent! It would take me days to sort my tracking spreadsheet and compile this sort of data. I do know that Christian Robinson, Peter Reynolds and Tom Lichtenheld were all top illustrators from my year too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks. Because it is a random sample some really prolific illustrators and authors didn’t have more than one or two books here, but clearly those guys get a lot of work. I peeked at your blog, and it looks like you dive into these projects just like me. That’s so awesome.

        1. Only? That’s an amazing number! I’m glad I got to 1000, but I probably could have learned as much about the current trends with half the books. The 52 first drafts project was worth it. I am a far more skilled and confident writer than I was before. Of course there are all different ways you can set writing goals. This past November I wrote one a day for 30 days, but I think the 52 in a year were easier. I’ll have to try something new this year, but I’m not sure what yet.

  8. I wish I had the willpower to write down what I’ve read! For the most part, the books I read are to my children, but the info would be really helpful to get a sense of what I like. I think I will look at my library history to track down what I’ve read this past year. What I think will be helpful is that the books I check out are mainly due to what interests my children and me. If I then look at the publishing houses, I can see what houses I’m most organically drawn to. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. That’s a great Idea. I know I discovered that there are some great housed that don’t match my writing style, and other where I would snuggle right in.

  9. Wow! Thank you so much for all the “stats”. Your blog should specialized just on that!
    There are tons of aspects on Children’s books that can be measured. Glad you found your own niche in the vast world of Picture books. Keep up!

    1. Thanks, Claudia. I’m not sure what my long term plans are for this project, but I’m enjoying it in the time being.

  10. Thank you for a great article, David! I’ve been reading 10-15 books a week but haven’t been keeping data on them. It makes a lot of sense to do so. Best of luck with your writing and thanks for sharing all of your data!

    1. Thanks, Marilyn. It’s never too late to start. I hadn’t planned on taking notes initially, but was glad I started.

  11. I would be keen to see if you saw a similar theme with the books?
    And also if there were he standard 3 act structure or an alternative type of structure?

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