Picture Book

No keyword in children’s literature could be quite as fluid in its application as the one-word picturebook or the two-word picture book. The cultural medium to which this locution refers is itself quite malleable and can be stretched to include nonprint pictorial media for children or adults on the internet, picture-book “format” or “a type of visual encyclopedia,” and humorous simulacra for adults such as Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fuck to Sleep (2011). Or it can simply be a book with pictures in it, as Henry James in 1900 called his illustrated travel book A Little Tour in France (1883–84) a “picture-book,” a hyphenated form recognized by the OED and defined as “a book consisting wholly or partly of pictures, esp. for children.” Barbara Bader’s definition of the picture book in 1976 still stands as comprehensive, making room for the child reader’s experience while acknowledging the book’s physicality (“an item of manufacture”) and exchange (“a commercial product”) and historic value (“a social, cultural, historical document” [1976, 1]).

This essay may be found on page 142 of the printed volume.

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