At just under 1700 words, I disagreed. Yes, this is a picture book but it is a nonfiction book, and maybe I'm just being nutty here, but I am quite sure I read much longer books last year while serving on the Sibert Committee. I feel fairly confident in this. In fact, one of our winners, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, has over 5000 words and is in the picture book format.
But this feedback stopped me cold. Feedback from someone I didn't know and not sure I could even trust - still I couldn't go on. I was confident in my feeling that mine was not too long, but the comment was enough to put a stop to any progress I was making. What to do?
I attended a SCBWI workshop recently and submitted the piece as written thus far and was encouraged to lengthen it into a much longer book. No, no, no! I said. I want it to be a picture book. I really don't want to get into chapters and telling every little detail. That doesn't interest me. But, it was one opinion that it could have more words, not less.
So, I started doing some market research. I found a list of the top 25 books about science and checked them all out from the library. My mentor at the workshop provided a similar list. I found the books could be broken down into four categories. 1. Text only. 2. Graphic novel format. 3. Text with photographs. 4. Picture book format. I was interested in the last category.
I looked at each of those in the picture book category and researched the number of pages, the number of words, and the accelerated reading level. Then I began looking for more biographies of this type that have been printed in the past 6-8 years. I was also interested to see what additional information was in the book in the form of back matter, to see what I might have neglected to add to mine. I found ten books in the science field that fit the bill. The word count ranges from 218 to 2128.
By Dan Yaccarino, Knopf, New York, 2009.
Picture Book Format, 36 pages, 4.8 AR, 953 words.
Some important events in Jacques-Yves Cousteau's life, Selected Sources for Further Study
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Berian
By Margarita Engle, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2010.
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 3.2 AR, 448 words.
By Patrick McDonnell, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011
Picture book format, 40 pages, 3.2 AR, 218 words
About Jane Goodall, A message from Jane, art notes
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylivia Earle
By Claire A. Nivola, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2012
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 5.6 AR, 1693 words
Author’s note, Selected Bibliography
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
By Laurie Lawlor, Holiday House, New York, 2012.
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 6.2 AR, 2128 words.
Epilogue: What Happened After the Publication of Silent Spring, Source Notes
Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman, Astronomer
By Robert Burleigh, A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2013
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 4.6 AR, 1632 words.
What People Have Said About the Stars, Afterword, What Did Henrietta Leavitt Discover? Some Other Women Astronomers, Glossary, Explore the Stars – And More!, Bibliography
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
By Jennifer Berne, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2013.
Picture Book Format, 50 pages, 4.5 AR, 1558 words.
Author’s note, Einstein’s Thought Experiments, Einstein’s Playfulness and Laughter, E=mc2,
The Atomic Bomb and Einstein’s Pacifism, Books about Einstein
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
By H. Joseph Hopkins, Beach Lane Books, New York, 2013.
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 4.8 AR, 1145 words.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
By Laurie Wallmark, Creston Books, 2015.
Picture Book Format, 40 pages, 4.6 AR, 1313 words.
Author’s Note, The World’s First Computer Program, Ada’s Nicknames, Timeline, Footnotes, Partial Bibliography
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea
By Robert Burleigh, A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, New York, 2016.
Picture Book Format, 32 pages, 5.0 AR, 1752 words.
Marie Tharp, Scientist, Some Words and Phrases to Know, Bibliography, Interesting Internet Links to Explore, Things to Wonder About and Do.
Meanwhile, I am submitting the final four chapters to my middle grade fantasy to my critique group in the next two weeks. I wonder how many words I ended up having?