How Can I Read More Picture Books?

Everyone agrees that if you hope to one day craft picture book stories you must start by reading as many stupendous, exciting, and beloved examples of published picture books as you can lay your eager writer hands on.

But averaging $15 a pop for new copies, paying for a pile of PBs might not be the most budget-friendly choice.

Om nom nom

So what’s the next best alternative? When it comes to checking out new and popular releases, I like to spend time in the children’s section of book stores flipping through freshly pressed pages and reacquainting my knees and back with the joys of floors and tiny plastic furniture. Don’t judge!

But those big book stores aren’t as plentiful or as near to home as they were only a few years ago. Making time to visit them regularly can be a challenge.

That’s why libraries are my second favorite haunt. Sure, their books aren’t as shiny and new (some are downright battered), and the titles, particularly the new and popular ones, aren’t always available. But their collections are HUGE and if you haven’t got all day to sit there reading them, you can borrow a stack for quiet and comfy (re: adult-sized furniture) home consumption.

Time spent with borrowed books means more opportunities to analyze what makes a story successful. Ask yourself if your own works in progress have the same ingredients that make the book in your hands so darn juicy and irresistible.

But what if you’re both frugal and a homebody? For you, there may be an even better (re: lazier) library option – web lending. For example, card-carrying members of the Los Angeles County Library have access to free Overdrive software which lets you borrow up to ten titles (including PBs!) from their extensive (and growing) e-collections. Popular titles that are currently “checked out” can be placed on hold and you’ll receive an email once they’re available. You get to keep downloads on your computer or portable reader for up to 14 days, just like physical books. And you never have to leave home to return your selections. Technology rocks!

What are some of your favorite ways to consume loads of picture books on a budget?

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8 comments

  1. I am with you on trying to stay current with new releases without going broke. I, too, “power-browse” at the bookstore. I think it’s legal to read an entire picture book without buying it. Good tip about the online borrowing!

  2. As Lori, Michelle, and others have mentioned, bookstore browsing is useful. The city’s library stacks are great for older classics, but don’t have as many what’s being published now books. There are just a few independent children’s bookstores (beyond the chains, like B&N) left in all of Manhattan, with great selections. I like the look and feel of books rather than on-line borrowing. Good school libraries have great selections and knowledgable librarians. I have found that visits as a volunteer, tutor, sub, and/or writer, and years ago, as a parent, yielded many fruitful hours of browsing, research, and help from librarians.
    I also know that there’s a time for “research” and a time to write.

  3. I prefer physical books too, Sheila, but the convenience of e-copies is hard to beat for writers researching the genre. But if I’m reading to a child, I want the physical version. Call me old fashioned. 🙂

    We’ve also got a great indie bookstore here in LA called The Last Bookstore. Predating the fall of Borders, their name is proving to be more prophetic than originally intended.

  4. I love libraries! They are so under-utilized today. I never heard of Overdrive web-lending. That certainly is a great alternative.
    Michele at Angels Bark

  5. I love picture books, too, since they give me ideas as a storyteller. I also find used books in little free libraries, as well as thrift stores. How about putting up your own little free library and making it exclusively picture books. You can get rid of your used ones and other people may come along to trade in their books. It will certainly keep them circulating.

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