One of the first things you hear when you are setting out to write a picture book is, "Don't try to teach a lesson." Kids see through it quickly and don't want it. After all, as picture book writers, we are trying to instill a love of books and kids won't be eager to embrace another source of "do this, not that" in their lives. I certainly don't read fiction to get a lesson out of it. And kids aren't any different.
However, I've come to find this advice rather deceiving. When you pick up just about any picture book, you can derive some lesson from it. There are lessons about friendship, environmental respect, history, the nature of love, what to expect on the first day of kindergarten, what it means to be a big sister, and on and on and on. Picture books are little introductions to the world.
So, what gives? I think I have an idea. Yesterday I tried to sit down and write a book with a lesson (it was an experiment in writing something for my church). And it turned out SUPER BORING! Not a little boring - like sitting around waiting for an oil change. But mega boring - like listening to someone dictate binary code for hours. I think the problem lies in the intent. When I purposfully try to weave a lesson into my writing, it is obvious, forced and preachy. When I try to tell a fun story, it is a fun story - lesson or not.
What do you think?