Childhood is the most experimental and formative time in our lives, and a time when stories and art play a critical role in shaping our worldview. Nowhere is this more tangible than in the children’s picture book, now experiencing a second Golden Age that eschews “kid-friendly” narratives and includes far more diverse perspectives and experiences than ever before.
Following three of the most original author/illustrators working today–Christian Robinson, Yuyi Morales, and Mac Barnett – Story & Pictures By provides a hopeful exploration of the whimsy and raw power these often overlooked works of art have in providing counter-narratives, fostering literacy, sparking creativity, fomenting empathy, and creating a broader world view in the next generation of citizens and voters.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric of the last election drove Yuyi Morales to share her personal immigrant story through her latest picture book Dreamers, a book that shows what immigrants are forced to leave behind when they migrate and the gifts they bring with them. Christian Robinson includes characters of all different skin colors, ethnicities, religions, and abilities in his stories. In his latest book Another, the protagonist of the story discovers a world through a portal where everyone has a double. It’s that universal feeling to want to meet someone just like you! Mac Barnett’s latest story The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown tells the story of a woman who changed and challenged every rule around writing for children, and whose life was littered with ups and downs, living outside of social norms, only to meet an untimely death (yes, it’s in the book) at a young age.
Research continues to show that one of the most important determining factors in the trajectory of a child’s life is whether or not literacy is established at a young age. A 2015 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Literacy starts with the picture book.
They are the stories that put our children to bed at night. They instill a love of storytelling; they teach visual, auditory, written, and emotional literacy; and they provide the space and agency for children to better understand themselves and the world.
In addition to following Christian, Yuyi, and Mac as they embark on the journey of crafting their next books and as they engage with children in schools and libraries across the country, the film explores the history and nature of the children’s picture book itself. Why do some become part of the canon and others are lost to history? How is a picture book made? Who are the creators and gatekeepers behind these powerful stories? How do they impact our children and how do they impact us?