Their responses appear at her web site, and we can take away several things from the conversation.
Many responders mentioned that picture books must deal with universal themes, which are shared across cultures, genders, and age levels. For example, Harriet Ziefert, author of You Can't See Your Bones With Binoculars, says
I believe there are issues that surface in childhood that continue throughout our lives, and that when we're eighty, we're still negotiating these basic issues: separation, loss, and reunion; dependence vs. independence; insecurity (which includes feelings of jealousy, envy, and rivalry) vs. security; delayed vs. instant gratification.
The stories that have the most powerful effects on both child and adult are ones that deal with at least one of these lifelong struggles. Though a child's experiences are different from a 20-year-old's, and a 30-year-old's are different from a 40-year-old's, the same feelings are at the core.
Lyrical lines, a recognizable sentiment, compression of story, and a character to love.
I think that the best books for this audience are the ones that tap directly into a young child's experience, allowing him or her to enter the world the author and illustrator have created, no matter how unusual or fantastical, and to feel at home there. The storytelling should be straightforward and spare and the art needs to be uncluttered and clearly delineated. Repetition and rhymes sharpen the ears and often invite verbal responses. And who can resist opening a closed flap?
Be sure to visit Marilyn's site to read all the responses, and if you're a "book person" of any type, share your thoughts with her as well. Thanks, Marilyn, for this terrific insight into the literary form which we love so dearly!
How about, Book People? In your opinion, what makes a good picture book?