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It's All About...Page Turns!


This post first appeared on the Children's Book Academy blog.

Page turns in picture books are crucial. Well-placed page turns act as cliffhangers, encouraging the reader to continue reading. They can create anticipation, drama, humor, surprise, and suspense, and help control the pacing of the story. Words and illustrations each have a role in developing an effective page turn. Specific words such as until, then, and but, and the use of ellipses, signal an upcoming page turn. Another page turn technique occurs when an author asks a question on one page, and provides the answer on the next. Cause and effect language also encourages the reader to keep flipping pages through the book. Illustration also plays a large role in highlighting a page turn. Illustrations can keep a scene moving toward the right direction so that the reader absolutely must turn the page. An illustration can feature a comical scene where the reader joyfully flips to the next page to see the result. Also, an illustration can start on one page and end on the next, encouraging the reader to turn the page to visually see where the story is going. Using words and illustrations effectively to transition from page to page enhances the readability of picture books.

Here are five of my favorite page turns from 2018 debut picture books (to get the full effect, you must read the whole book!): 1) “No matter what Rabbit did . . . / Possum didn’t stir until there was a rustling in the bushes.” Rabbit & Possum, by Dana Wulfekotte. Readers want to see what’s in the bushes. 2) “Uh-oh. Shutters bang. Sun hides. Clay dust stings. Sky falls. Fini? Game over? / ‘No way!’” The Field, by Baptiste Paul, pictures by Jacqueline Alcantara. Readers will turn the page to see whether the game continues. 3) “Snow! Snow. / Coat. Scarf. Hat. Mittens. Boots.” Snow Sisters, by Kerri Kokias, illustrated by Teagan White. The beginning of this clever book features the same word on facing pages. On one side, “snow” ends with an exclamation mark, and on the other, with a simple period. The reader will turn the page to find out what comes next on this snow-filled day. 4) “Then Charlotte thought of something. If the doll could talk, then it must have a . . . / Power supply.” Doll-E 1.0, by Shanda McCloskey. Readers will turn the page to find out what the doll can do. 5) “‘This is not a bedtime book.’ ‘We don’t do bedtime.’ / ‘There is no room for toothbrushing and bath time in this book.’” Penguin & Tiny Shrimp DON’T DO Bedtime!, words by Cate Berry, pictures by Charles Santoso. Readers will turn the page to see if the characters are successful at avoiding bedtime. * * * When drafting your picture book manuscript, pay close attention to page turns. Think about creating a book dummy, laying out the words and illustrations so you can visualize the pacing. Proper page turns will create excitement and suspense that will encourage the reader to turn the page . . . and continue reading your story, again and again!


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© Melissa Stoller, 2020.