If the world ends on Friday, then there will be a hole in my metaphor. But in that case, it won’t really matter.
Sometimes I feel like I live in a superhero generation. We have probably survived more ends of the world than any other era. In 2000, we survived Y2K. Last year, we endured The Rapture. And, fingers crossed, in a couple days we will outlive the Mayan prediction of the end. For us, overcoming apocalypses has become a common feat. So, surely, we can laugh in the face of the end of picture books.
Every apocalyptic scare so far has been a nervous false alarm. In fact, while the earth has faced its share of disasters, threats, and tragedies recently, you could say that overall society has been thriving and progressing in the face of them. I feel like I have been listening to the same broken record threat for the picture book market, and it’s true that the market is facing some tragedy and threat as well.
The last two bookstores I’ve been in have had smaller picture book sections than I’ve ever seen. The picture books had to fork over their shelves to the YA novels. Why? Because people are buying more YA novels. NOT because kids don’t want to read them. I read picture books to kids every day, and despite the age of technology, nothing has changed about the magic that these books hold over children. When I start reading, kids stop squirming, their jaws hang open, and their bodies flinch when the bad guy nearly gets the protagonist, almost without fail. Then, almost without fail, they ask for another story.
Every chance you get, buy picture books for these young readers who are hungry for them. Every chance you get, read to them so that they remember that books are something they desperately want. And write the kind of picture books that command more shelving in the bookstores. Then look back and laugh at those who proclaimed the picture book apocalypse.