Earning the turn

By Rachel Lawson

The page turn is at the heart of the picture book. Unobtrusive or dramatic, satisfying or surprising, it makes a picture book sink or sing.

The turn of a page speeds or slows the pace, sets us up and rewards us, reveals a joke or surprise, draws us carefully through a story to the end—and hopefully, back to the beginning. “Again!”

I enjoy the description by Martha Parravano (from The Horn Book) in A Family of Readers: “Picture books resemble theater or film more than any other literary format: they rely on the page turn to pace the experience, to unfold the story or build the mood; between one page turn and the next, there must be some tension, or the picture book doesn’t function.”

Of course there are dangers in deployment and the new page must earn its turn!

At Gecko Press we prefer to avoid the mid-sentence page turn , especially if it comes with a portentous ellipses—so often a disappointment and overpromise the second time around. A page turn can be obvious, domineering, and take the power away from the readers to control the narrative and how long they want to spend on the pictures. Or it can be quietly in the background, perfectly timed, never drawing attention to itself.

Susanne Strasser builds up to three lovely page turns to finish her board book Can I Sit in the Middle? Rhino finally finds his slippers under the couch. “Aha!” cheers Rhino. “They they are!” But over the page: “OOPS!” He’s tipped the couch and everyone on it onto the floor. “Now what?” The final page reveals the overturned couch has become a blanket tent with everyone piled inside to read a book. “Now they can start!”

Can I Sit in the Middle? spread

And of course we break our own rules, too. An ellipses that is never disappointing is the one that leads to the climax of I Am the Wolf and Here I Come: “I am putting on my great big coat and…”

I am the Wolf 5 Gecko Press

And the final page turn in this book is on the back cover: “Snap the book shut to keep the wolf inside!”

This month’s new release from Gecko Press is a different kind of page turn altogether: the page turn as baby blanket!

Good Night, Belly Button ingeniously uses each page of the book as a blanket drawn gradually higher over the baby’s body: “Good night, little knees!” “Good night, little legs!” Until they are tucked up ready for sleep.

It is a simple concept, beautifully executed—the perfect good night baby book and a perfect, if different, kind of page turn.

Cover of Good Night Belly ButtonIn Good Night, Belly Button by Lucie Brunellière, baby is ready to sleep, so it’s time to say good night—all the way from toes to nose!