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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coloring Outside the Lines by Judy Press

When I was a kid I loved to color in coloring books, especially if I had a new box of crayons to work with. There was something about the smell of new crayons, with names like, "Granny Smith Apple Green" and "Wild Strawberry Red" that promised hours of creative fun. I also liked the challenge of staying in the lines, although I never thought about what would happen if I disobeyed this unspoken command. It wasn't until around age seven that I gained enough confidence in my drawing skills to put away the coloring books and draw freehand. 
As an art educator, I'm often asked my thoughts about kids using coloring books versus drawing from their imagination. My reply is that I whole-heartedly endorse coloring books, as long as a blank piece of paper and crayons is also available. In the seventies an anti-coloring book was released. It was a fun new take on the traditional coloring books. It  has remained popular and was recently re-issued.
So what do coloring books have to do with writing for children? Sometimes it takes "coloring" outside the lines to come up with a good story. Below I've quoted from an article in the June issue of "Children's Writer" about some new books that test the limits and rules of writing picture books.

"Writer and illustrator Jon Klassen has created handfuls of noteworthy children’s books, and in the process has managed to cut through convention to break new ground. From his much ballyhooed I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick) to the Caldecott Medal winner, This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick) to The Dark (Little, Brown), written by Lemony Snicket, Klassen’s books bust boundaries. Writer’s House Agent Steven Malk represents Klassen, and explains, “I’m often drawn to picture books that many people might describe as quirky or different. For that reason, I think I represent a lot of books that break barriers, but if I had to point to one, I’d have to go with I Want My Hat Back. It’s a great example of a book that contains certain ingredients—in this case, namely the ending—that many people might think would be challenging in the current picture book market, yet it’s become a hugely successful bestseller.”

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