5 Trends in Picture Books I Do Not Like

Picture Book Trends I Don't Like

Picture books are true works of art! From beautiful illustrations to innovative formats, picture books constantly are reinventing the idea of what a book can be and do. But not all picture books are created equally. Here are a few trends in picture book publishing that I do not particularly enjoy.



Picture books written primarily in speech bubbles seem to be all the rage. While this technique can be done wonderfully, as in Mo Willems’ Piggie & Elephant books, other times, writing the story in dialogue does not seem to add much to the book. It just makes reading the picture book aloud more difficult as one must adopt different voices to differentiate the characters, or find some other way to make sure listeners can follow who is speaking and when.


Sarcastic and Rude Characters

This trend seems to be going along with the first one. The characters using speech bubbles often are rude or sarcastic. The intent is seemingly humor. However, I do not find rude people funny, and I certainly would not want to teach children that is is ever acceptable to make fun of others in order to get a laugh from an audience.

Ugly Pictures

This point is admittedly subjective, but it seems to me that so many current picture books have ugly, scratchy drawings for the illustrations. Do children like these? I would think many children enjoy more colorful illustrations and, well, prettier ones.


Books Geared Towards Adults

Board books and picture books that focus on historical or contemporary figures, scientific concepts, political movements, historical events, and classic works of literature are very in right now. However, the littlest readers do not have much context for these things, so they are not likely benefiting much from a biography where they lack historical background, or a satire where they do not know the book being satirized. These books are written for the caregivers, and not the children.

Longer Text

Longer picture books are, in part, because of the trend of writing books that are marketed towards adults and not children. Also, some picture books are longer because they are meant for older children and not toddlers. However, it seems to me that more and more of the new releases I peruse have an unusually large amount of text. I prefer shorter books, since not every child is going to sit still long enough to finish the lengthier stories.

Have you noticed any of these trends? What kinds of picture books do you like–or not like–to read?

15 thoughts on “5 Trends in Picture Books I Do Not Like

  1. kat says:

    My youngest is still young enough that we only read picture books and I’ve definitely noticed a lot of this! I’ve gotten to the point where I get anxious taking her to look at books because I’m afraid of her choosing inappropriate ones. Mostly, I look to the classic picture books, ones I read as a kid, or I just look up a ton on line before taking her to a store or library so I can curate what I show her. As an adult, I like the idea behind your fourth point, but it’s completely inappropriate for young children. My daughter prefers animals, unicorns, and talking vehicles. Definitely not books with people in them, much less important figures she’s literally never heard of and will probably never remember them when she’s old enough to formally learn about them.


    • Krysta says:

      I can definitely understand wanting to read the books first! It seems weird that you would have to check picture books of all things for appropriate content, but my instinct is that parents should be reading these books first because I think some of the content may surprise them. I know I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of reading a book to a kid only to have to say, “Oh, uh, yes I know that they are calling each other bad names and they think it’s funny, but it’s not funny. Please don’t call anyone the names they are using here.”

      And yes to the animals, unicorns, and trucks! Those are always popular subjects for kids. And guess what? Those books can teach kids about science and such, too! They don’t need to reading a book on quantum mechanics to be learning about the world around them. Often the market is pushing stuff to make kids “smarter” like there is some secret, but when you are new to the world, just experiencing life, playing, and talking to people is learning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kat says:

        I absolutely agree parents should be at least taking a thorough look at books for their kids. So far, I’ve been really lucky, but my oldest was in online learning for 1st grad last year and his teachers put on a video of The Rainbow Fish and, I know it’s a classic, but I was horrified, so now I won’t let them have anything I haven’t thoroughly checked out. Kids are so impressionable and there are so many things they just do not need to be exposed to at such young ages.

        My kids have learned so much from books without any people, and so did I when I was a kid, so I don’t understand this switch into books with people being the popular options for kids. Animals just seem to make so much more sense to them. I can see how some parents or other adults buying books for kids thinking a book on quantum mechanics would be great for kids, but I highly doubt most kids would be able to even understand that book, much less pick it out of a pile of more interesting car and animal books.


        • Krysta says:

          Well, neither Briana nor I like The Rainbow Fish so I don’t blame you for being horrified. The whole idea of the book is what? Tear off your scales so other people won’t be jealous of your good looks/ that you have something they don’t? That’s how one makes friends??

          I think initially the idea was that animal characters are good for picture books the reader can project themselves onto the character. It’s a chicken or a bear, so not representative of any type of person or group. Now publishers are more interested in showing diverse types of people. But I think someone does a study every year and most picture books do still feature animal characters.

          Liked by 1 person

          • kat says:

            It’s so good to know animal characters are still popular. Of course, some, like The Rainbow Fish, can be quite questionable, but animals tend to speak louder to kids. My daughter will also, without fail, ask for almost all the books I read to her have non-human characters, so it’s great to know there will always be a large pool of them for her and future generations.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Shaharee says:

    This is again following a tendency that literature that is supposed to gear for children takes a hidden adult format. And I really don’t understand what authors who produce ugly pictures have lost in the picture book literature.


    • Krysta says:

      I get that people want a book that adults will enjoy reading to the children, since they may have to read it over and over again. But there is such a thing as a book that is appropriate for children AND entertaining for all ages! I’m not sure why publishing doesn’t lean towards age-appropriate books. They have real power to help parents understand what types of books are good for children instead of just trying to push sales of books that aren’t.


  3. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    I’ve noticed a lot of this, as well.

    There’s nothing more irritating than picking out a random picture book and thinking you’re going to read it aloud to some kid and realizing every page is a huge block of text and it’s going to take half an hour to read the thing.

    Also agree with all the picture books that would only make sense to adults. Whom do you read those to? Newborns who wouldn’t understand anything you read anyway?


    • Krysta says:

      I rather think the people making these books don’t really care whom you read them to or if you do at all. They’re being marketed towards adults who mean well for their kids, and think, “Ooh! Look my kid can get an early start on learning physics and history!” But who don’t understand early childhood development, and that a lot of these concepts are still too complex and/or abstract for a one-year-old. It’s about making money, that’s all. In my cynical opinion.


      • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

        I agree. They realize you as the adult like Jane Eyre or Kamala Harris or whatever, so you will buy the picture book about that, regardless of whether it has any meaning to a child. Some of the books might work well for older kids, like 8 year olds, but sometimes I forget how little toddlers know about things. If I tried to read a book about Kamala Harris to a kid who just turned three, I could probably spend half an hour trying to explain what a vice president is, going all the way to what the United States is or what a COUNTRY even is, and the book wouldn’t do a lot for them.


  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Such a great topic! I don’t like ugly pictures either. And I haven’t noticed the speech bubbles trend, but I don’t think I’d be a fan either. But the thing I absolutely hate is books that are geared towards adult rather than children!


    • Krysta says:

      I browse through a lot of the new picture books at the library and I can’t remember the last one that I actually finished reading. The amount of text is astonishing because everyone’s trying to fit in good messages and lessons about important topics. But when you think of some of the most popular/enduring children’s books, they aren’t like that. Pigeon is just a funny bird because he acts like a toddler. The Very Hungry Caterpillar just likes to eat stuff. Corduroy has a narrative about belonging, but it’s not like the narrator interrupts to tell readers A Very Important Lesson about loving himself and being patient and finding people who will accept him the way he is. The message is a natural part of the story.


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