One of my favorite techniques to study in picture books is the art of the page turn. In a novel, it’s great to end a chapter with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader desperate to know what happens next. In picture books, it helps to think of every page turn as a cliffhanger! The reader should feel motivated to turn Every. Single. Page. Below are examples of spreads that leave the reader no choice but to read on.
The first example is from ZOMBIES DON’T EAT VEGGIES!, written by Megan Lacera and illustrated by Jorge Lacera. This is the very beginning of the book, and already you NEED to turn that page to find out what happens next. The first sentence leaves the reader curious to know what deep, dark craving a zombie could possibly have...I mean, zombies eat BRAINS, what could be worse than that? This is also a great example of getting to the hook immediately and jumping right into the action of the story.
This example is from SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, written by Melissa Stoller and illustrated by Sandie Sonke. Again, this is the very first spread. Using the word “until” with ellipses hooks the reader immediately. “Everything was perfect. Until…” WHAT?! Until what?! We must read on to find out.
This example is from THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL, written by Sandra Sutter and illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne. Here, the mouse-narrator asks a hypothetical question and then asks the reader a question directly. This causes the reader to think about what THEY would do, and then they must turn the page to find out if the mouse did the same.
This example is from MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES, written by Lynne Marie and illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo. Here, the three Scares encounter Moldilocks in their house. We see their creepy shadows encroaching on her and we aren’t sure what they’re going to do. But they look like they might be…smiling? Are they angry or happy?? Better turn the page to find out. Ellipses are used inside a quote for even more of a push to read on.
These examples are from a writing perspective, but of course there are ways to use illustrations to motivate page turns as well—like facing characters and art toward the page turn, creating momentum and interest in what’s to come. I’m excited to learn more techniques in the upcoming Children's Book Academy course The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books, which starts next month.
I hope these examples inspire your writing as much as they’ve inspired mine. Happy creating!