My #FirstPictureBook

Why did you decide to write your picture book in first or third person?

August 7, 2017

Tags: First-person, third-person, first picture book

"That's just the way the story came out" was the most popular answer to this question. But these writers had specific reasons for their point-of-view choices. Clink on the answer to read more from each author's #firstpicturebook Q&A:

Hannah Barnaby, author of BAD GUY and GARCIA & COLETTE: “For me, the point-of-view for any story comes organically from the mood and tone of the story itself. BAD GUY is a character piece with a surprise at the end, so first-person/present-tense supports that effect. GARCIA & COLETTE is a more traditional friendship story with a very clear structure, so third-person/past-tense felt just right for it.”

Miriam Glassman, author of HALLOWEENA: “Because it is based on a fairy tale, I felt it should have a fairy tale feel to it. So from the very first draft, it was in third person. Also, by not telling it all from Hepzibah’s point of view, it was much easier to show the mother-daughter struggle.”

Tara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE: “Aha! I had originally written the story in first person, in Zack’s voice, but my editor asked me to change it. That was so we could get some fun repetition with Zack speaking, as in “Zack wanted a refund. ‘I want a refund!’”

Shennen Bersani, author of ACHOO!: WHY POLLEN COUNTS: “I felt the third person drives home the science facts and importance of the subject, while allowing children to put themselves in the story more easily.”

Hrefna Bragadottir, author of BAXTER’S BOOK: “I played around with telling it in third person, but it just didn’t feel as strong. I wanted Baxter to talk directly to the reader in the present moment to get a better sense of the journey he goes on. It keeps it short and sweet.”

Cheryl Lawton Malone, author of DARIO AND THE WHALE: “I use third person to tell the story from two points of view—Dario’s and the whale’s. First person might confuse readers because of the two points of view/perspective.”

Susan Farrington, author of WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU: “It seemed natural to tell the story in the first person. I wanted the child to feel the parent/caregiver was speaking directly to them.”

Gaia Cornwall, author of JABARI JUMPS: “I did versions of it in first person and in the end I liked the rhythm of how it sounded out loud in third person. But also it let the dad be a character in his own right as opposed to seeing him through Jabari's eyes-- as you would in first person. I think this way, adults will find him relatable, just like the kids will see themselves in Jabari.”

David Litchfield, author of THE BEAR AND THE PIANO: “I didn't really think about it at the time. But now that I am thinking, maybe it's because if I had written it from the Bear’s perspective and have the bear narrate it would have broken the Magic a bit. After all, if the bear can talk and tell us the story, it's not to far to stretch our belief that the bear can play the piano. So maybe, sub consciously, that's why I wrote it in the third person.”

Hazel Mitchell, author of TOBY: “Originally I wanted it to be almost wordless. But as I worked on the story with my editor and art director, we felt more words were needed. So it's mostly conversational in graphic panels, with some short lines in first person to lead the reader from one scene to another. It's good for the parent to have something to read aloud and not just to look at the pictures and also gives the child something to linger over.”

Robin Newman, author of HILDIE BITTERPICKLES NEEDS HER SLEEP: “I like that you can confide facts to the reader with a third person narrator.”

Brittany R. Jacobs, author of THE KRAKEN’S RULES FOR MAKING FRIENDS: “In the beginning I toyed around with telling the story from the Kraken's point of view, but I wanted to show why the fish don't like him. He's big and scary and has a terrible temper. Bringing the narration out to third person allowed for the reader to experience more of the characters.”

Jodi McKay, author of WHERE ARE THE WORDS?: “Well, for a couple of reasons. One, I figured that if I wrote it in first person, then these unconventional characters may feel more relatable and two, I wanted this to be a simple story with a twist. I imagined children reading it and discovering that the characters speak as their roles dictate. That, to me, would be an incredible learning opportunity.”

Curtis Manley, author of THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ: “The first four years of my working on it, the story was in first person. I felt that made it more immediate. But first person isn’t always the best choice for a read-aloud. My editor asked me to try it in third person; that allowed the humor to come out more, so we kept it that way.”

Jason Gallaher, author of WHOBERT WHOVER: OWL DETECTIVE: “I thought third person served Whobert's story better because a narrator sort of gives Whobert a little credibility in his detective work. Whobert is a dunce detective, but he doesn't know it, and he really does want to do good in his community. I thought by having an omniscient narrator detailing his exploits, it would give this sort of subconscious recognition that at least somebody thinks Whobert's life is noteworthy even if he's not fully aware of his surroundings.”

Megan Wagner Lloyd, author of FINDING WILD: “It’s actually in second person, which wasn't a conscious decision for me--once I got the voice of the piece rolling, I just went with it.”