Monday, October 5, 2009

SCBWI-Carolinas Conference 2009 The Picture Book is NOT Dead by Fatimah Kahn

Fatimah (pronounced Fateema) Khan is Associate Editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers. She is new to the conference circuit and this was her first time addressing a crowd. She confessed immediately to being very nervous but honestly, it didn’t show. She was cute, lively, funny and most importantly, interesting!

She began by telling us that this year has been a great PB year for Little Brown! In this tough economy, that is great news. Especially for those of us who focus mostly on that genre. On the head table she had displayed some of those banner books for us to see and then took the time to give us her take on why she thought they were so successful.

1. THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown (Author/Illustrator)
a. Has a timely, environmental theme.
b. Likeable boy character. No parents involved.
c. Fantastic artwork.
d. Spare text. Easy & clear for kids to understand.
e. Great progression with a beginning, middle and end.
f. Clear message. 1. Anyone can make a difference. 2. “Green” message.
g. Eco-friendly packaging.

2. THE I LOVE YOU BOOK by Todd Parr (Author/Illustrator)
a. Love sells.
b. Has holiday appeal. (Valentines Day)
c. Inexpensive price.
d. Designed to look like a greeting card and makes a great gift.

3. BIRDIE’S BIG GIRL SHOES by Suejean Rim (Author/Illustrator)
a. New take on growing too fast.
b. Wonderful artwork.

4. MARTHA DOESN’T SAY SORRY by Samantha Berger(Author) &
Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)
a. Story is character driven.
b. Has lasting value & appeal.
c. A new story with a classic feel.

5. DINOTRUX by Chris Gall (Author/Illustrator)
a. Marketed to boys. Strong boy appeal.
b. Dinosaurs + Trucks = Hit!!
c. Fantastic design & illustrations. d. Great read aloud.

6. OFF TO KINDERGARTEN by Tony Johnston (Author/Illustrator)
a. Low price.
b. Great back-to-school promotion.

Afterward, Ms. Khan shared with us her list of attributes that she feels make for a good children’s book.

1. Child is the hero.
2. Author uses rich, lively text and dialog.
3. Author is NOT condescending.
4. Characters seem real, complex and show growth.
5. There is a twist.
6. No heavy-handedness.
7. Details are included with a child’s sensibility.
8. There is a story arch.
9. Author has created an interesting, believable world.
10. The story is moving. –It makes you laugh, cry, ect.
11. It carries a fresh revelation through repeat readings.
12. The story is enjoyable for both the child and the adult who
reads it out loud.
13. It has a clear approach.
14. Details are carefully thought out. (This pertains to the design
of the book.)
15. Doesn’t follow a trend but has lasting value all its own.

Ms. Khan is always looking for innovative novelty projects with a playful twist, picture books with strong commercial appeal as well as novelty formats, eye-catching holiday, seasonal tie-ins and fresh fun-to-read-aloud stories. She works on books for the youngest readers ranging from board books to interactive lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel projects. Little Brown does not accept unsolicited queries or manuscripts. Most submissions are through a literary agent.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing all of these picture books!

  3. Nice information, Niki! I'd really like to sub to her!


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