Posted by: nancyisanders | June 25, 2010

Summer Reading Club: Picture Book Journal

This summer in my picture book journal, I’m including the following items in my evaluation of most picture books that I read:

Date: The date I read the book.

Stars: I rate the books from 1 to 5 stars with 5 being my favorite.

Title: The title at the top of my entry.

Author: I include the author’s name. This also helps if I want to look for more by this same author.

Illustrator: I include the illustrator’s name. Again, this helps if I want to look for more by this same artist.

Publisher: I include the publisher’s name. This is really helpful if I want to submit a manuscript to a certain publisher because it reminds me which books I liked that they did.

Copyright date: This tells me if the book is current and applies to today’s market or not. If it was published two or more years ago, chance are that even if it’s a bestseller, I can’t get one like this published in today’s market.

Copyright holder:
If this is in the author’s name, it usually means the author has a royalty based contract. If it is in the publisher’s name, it usually means this book was a work-for-hire contract and the author got paid a flat fee.

First lines: I’m trying to collect as many first lines as possible from books in general. I’m really working on creating a strong hook on my very first lines of my manuscript. Collecting first lines is helping me tremendously.

Last lines: I’m also trying to collect last lines, too, to help me craft strong, satisfying endings.

Evaluation: I like to include some of my thoughts about the books, too. This is especially helpful when I come back later and am trying to remember which book is which.


  1. This was very helpful. Thank you!

    • Margaret, I’m so glad you found this helpful! -Nancy

  2. I love this idea! You are so organized. That’s what I love about your Yes! You Can book.
    I am actually headed to the library this morning, so I’m grabbing a notebook to use as my own picture book journal. Recording the leads endings will really help me when I sit down to write my own stories. Thanks again for such great info.–Mitzi

    • Good for you, Mitzi! My beginnings and ends have been very weak and ever since I started writing down first and last lines of really good picture books, my own have become so much stronger. Yours will, too! -Nancy

  3. Neat items to include in a picture book journal! I especially like the first and last lines collection!

  4. My picture book journal is on my computer in Word. I knew I’ve been reading a lot of picture books to get a backlog for my blog. I just checked, I’ve read and kept notes on over 1,151 since January! I knew I was reading a lot but I even surprise myself. No wonder they know me by name at the library.

    I include most of what Nancy suggests. I find that adding an image of the book cover helps me remember more about the book.

    First and last lines sounds like a great addition.

    • Okay, everyone, let’s give a great big clap and hip hip hooray for Mary Ann!!!! Mary Ann, I think you definitely win the award for the most picture books read this year to date. Woooowwww!!!!! You go girl! -Nancy

  5. Nancy, I love your tried and true method! It worked for me and several books came from that approach. It’s so much fun, too! Sort of like going on a picture book vacation (o; The nice people who worked in the Christian book stores used to find me sitting on the rug, in the back of the store, with several stacks of books. I was writing furiously. I forewarned them and said I was doing market research (0; They loved it!

    • Sherri, I can just picture you there! How fun!!! -Nancy

  6. I have started my summer homework!!!
    I have a picure book journal with already 28 books evaluations…
    I went to the library today and borrowed 10 picture books and had to laugh when the women said:
    – doesn’t you son have a card?
    First it was a daughter and second why?
    – You are not aloud children books…
    – Well I read them as my summer home work! I am an author.
    But I had to promiss not to take “adult”books .
    So you see… just the same reaction thousands of kms away!!!
    I also have been typing out one of the books I read.
    Getting ready for a second one… It’s a publisher I really want to ame to!
    But the other day I had a bad experience!! I wrote this story for a anti-sexiste publisher.
    I was so sure they would take my story.
    I sent it very exitedly and three hours later an e-mail arrived: your story is not the kind we publish! I couldn’t believe it!

    Making a long story short I went to sign books the next day and the lady in charge of the bookshop said the books of this publisher saled poorly. It consoled me a bit!!
    The following week I discovered a tittle that sounded the same as the tittle I had given to this special story…
    So I decided to send it to that publisher. A few hours later I had this mail saying that they loved my story and did I have an illustrator in mind…
    And it is a bigger publisher…
    but as you can guess, not a very big one because she is the only one to decide!
    So I am working… slowly but surely!!
    thanks for all your advice!

    • Wow, you’re really moving! And to think that we both had the same experience at the library. Smile. Have fun!

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