Posted by: nancyisanders | June 22, 2012

Picture Book Rubric

Child Reading with Teddy Bear

Writer’s Notebook Worksheets: Picture Book Rubric

When I read over picture books, I like to read them for pleasure. But then I also like to study them and analyze them and try to understand what works and what doesn’t.

To help me evaluate published picture books, I developed a picture book rubric that I fill out. It’s amazing how filling in this rubric helps me then self-edit my own picture book manuscripts to make them shine!

To download a copy of your very own PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, visit the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends. Click on the link for the PICTURE BOOK RUBRIC, download it, print it out and add it to your personal writer’s notebook. I like to keep several blank rubrics in my writer’s notebook. I also keep the collection of rubrics I’ve filled out for different picture books I’ve read. Since I started using this rubric several months ago I have nearly 100 completed ones in my writer’s notebook in a section I have marked with a tab for Picture Book Rubrics! This helps me keep track of each picture book I read.

Here’s how to fill in the rubric:
* At the top, rate the picture book. A 5 star rating means it’s tops and definitely a book you want to study and use as an example to help improve your own manuscripts.

* Fill in the title of the book so you can file these rubrics alphabetically in your writer’s notebook.

* Write down the author’s and illustrator’s name so that you can look for more picture books by your favorite writer or artist.

* Include the date of the copyright as well as the name the copyright is under. A more current date, especially within the last 2 years, means that it’s a good indication of what is being published in today’s current market for picture books. If the copyright is under the author’s name, that means the rights belong to an author and was probably offered a royalty-based contract. If the copyright is under the publisher’s name, that means the rights belong to the publisher and the author was probably paid a one time fee.

* Be sure to write down the publisher and list any awards you know of. If you like this book, you can visit the publisher’s website and explore their site for potential book ideas to submit to them.

* On the top right write down the date you read the picture book.

* Include a short summary inside the box. Practice writing a 1-sentence summary of each picture book you read and it will help when you’re writing a pitch for your picture book manuscript!

*Opening Page: The opening page often works with the cover in a picture book, so answer Y for yes or N for no for each item on the list to note if it is accomplished in either the cover or opening page.

* Main Character: The main character is very important in a picture book. Learn to evaluate how the author develops the MC.

*Plot: Some picture books have predictable plots such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie which goes full circle and ends back at the beginning. Others use a story arc that has a set up, a conflicting middle, and a resolution. Some editors prefer one type of plot over another. Evaluate the type your story has to better understand that particular publisher’s likes and dislikes.

*Craft: Study the craft and techniques the author used and mark your observations here. If a story is commercial, it means it could have toys or other products to sell with it.

For the optional section, feel free to write your evaluation on the back to have more room. Identify the book’s universal theme, or underlying theme that every kid can identify with such as losing a first tooth or moving to a new house. Also note if it has a fresh and original slant on this universal theme such as featuring a shark who loses its first tooth of 100. You can also jot down any thoughts you want to remember about this book.


  1. Thanks, Nancy, for sharing this worksheet! I look forward to filling it out.

  2. Thanks for the rubric, Nancy. I’ve never used one of these before.

  3. Nancy, what a smart way to analyze and evaluate what makes picture books great or not so great!!! Thank you so much this valuable help. I’m printing them out and adding them to my notebook NOW! You are an organizer extraordinaire. Can’t wait to use them this summer.

  4. Thanks, Val and Tina! I’m glad you’re going to use this rubric. And Beth…get ready for an eye-opening experience!!! After I started using this rubric to evaluate picture books, my own picture book manuscripts really improved!

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