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7 English - Picture Books  

This guide is a support for student and teachers of Year 7 English students learning about visual literacy.
Last Updated: Oct 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Picture Book Basics Print Page

Your Memories of Picture Books

Think back to when you were a child….

What was your favourite picture book? 

What was the story about?  

What colours and types of illustrations were used?

Why did you like the book so much? 

Image from

Image from


What is A Picture Book?

A picture book is a story told in words and pictures. Each makes an important contribution to the way the story is told, the meaning created. 

A picture book is not the same as an illustrated story: there the words alone could tell the story and the illustrations simply break up the words or decorate the text...In the best picture books, the illustrations are absolutely necessary. They carry parts of the story or narrative and in some cases the language is dropped and the pictures alone are all that is needed." (Libby Gleeson. Making Picture Books, 2003. p. 2)

 A picture book really has two main parts – the text and illustrations. Both work together to tell the story. Whilst you could understand some of the story from one part, both parts need to work together to create the full story.

Picture Books

What are some general features of picture books?

  • Many, but not all, picture books are 32 pages long. This is simply because it is easier and cheaper to bind pages together in groups of 8. Some picture books will be 24 pages, 40 pages or 48 pages, but 32 is the standard.
  • Picture books do not often have more than 100 words of narrative text.
  • Picture books are almost always either rectangular or square in shape.
  • They use particular types of media for illustrations, such as ink, crayon, collage, photographs, cartoon, surrealism, expressionism and paint.
  • They can be made for many purposes and different audience (eg to entertain, to teach, to inform).

The Basics


Choose your title carefully. It should be memorable, short and convey the story in some way.

You may use alliteration.


Are you writing for a toddler, primary school aged child or a junior secondary aged audience? Does your story appeal to both boys and girls and will adults enjoy reading it aloud?


The best books have a simple theme running through them. It might have a special purpose to it, like counting, alphabet, days of the week, routines of the child's day.

  • families - grandparents, arrival of a new baby, sibling rivalry
  • emotions - love, fear
  • kindness
  • birthdays
  • playtime
  • animals - zoo, pets
  • children's games - hide and seek


Is your character memorable? What's their name, how do they behave? Are they a hero or are they naughty?


Your story needs to have a beginning, middle and an end. It may be a conflict that is resolved, a question that is answered or a problem that is solved.


Where is the story set? Is it a place the child will recognize or is it unexpected. Children can be more accepting of the absurd than adults.

Reading your book aloud

Many children's books contain rhyme, or repetition of a phrase, something the child can expect on each page.

Consider the voice, flow, length of words, emotion and onomatopoeia (words that resemble or imitate or suggest the source of the sound it describes, for example: meow, roar, tweet, oink, moo).

Words and Pictures

Pictures tell most of the story and can tell a part of the story that the words don't. They can add detail and humour and tell a different story from the text.

Don't let your pictures and text say exactly the same thing.

Think about page turns and pacing, increasing tension, vary rhythm and create excitement and drama.

Perhaps think about a twist to the ending or a big reveal.


How to make a picture book

Physical Format

Picture books are usually constructed as:

  • double-page spreads, illustrations in frames, and white space to allow the reader to focus on an image.
  • 16 page 'signatures' (32 total pages)
  • 32 pages which includes the end papers but not the front and back covers, so you will end up with a book of 24-28 pages.

Picture Book Template

Use the following template, for your images and words. If you do this on a GDoc then you will be able to rearrange your ideas  and edit where needed. 


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Image Selection

Here are some sites for images you might like to use in your own picture book:

If you want to create your own images, try these sites: 

Be sure to acknowledge all the images you use at the end of your book.



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