This is the last in a series of posts elaborating on 5 of the most valuable things I learned (or gained insight into) by reading all the Caldecott winner and honor books, as I originally outlined on a blog post several weeks ago. If you are just joining the series, links to the earlier posts can be found below.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve elaborated on the following things I learned from reading all the Caldecotts, ever:
1. Children’s picture books have evolved dramatically in the last century and many of the changes and evolutions are fascinating and exciting to trace through time. (link)
2. Timeless books do some things that other books don't. Or, if it's possible to be more abstract, certain qualities seemed to rise up again and again in the books that felt most timeless. (link)
3. Not all the Caldecotts’ texts felt timeless to me: there were reasons that some of the books were difficult to locate and required inter-library loans or trips to special libraries at Universities (but then there were also other qualities in those books that made me glad I took the time to seek them out). (link).
4. Everyone knows that, while awards committees do their best to be fair, it’s impossible for subjectivity not to play some role in what gets a sticker and what doesn’t. While reading all the Caldecotts, ever, I often found myself returning to the idea of subjectivity and pondering it. Hopefully I gained some insights on it as a reader that are worth putting to words and sharing. (link).
This week, I’ll focus on thing NUMBER 5 I learned from reading all the Caldecotts, ever:
5. For learning about picture books, there is no substitution for putting in real time with real books and real artwork.
Everything I’ve written about in this series is all well and good for me to say. Hopefully it’s given you some insight. But really, the best way to learn about picture books, isn’t to read about them, it’s to read them, the actual books. Duh. Right?

What I’ve learned by reading so many picture books (not just the Caldecotts, but all the hundreds of other picture books I read every year that don’t have any stickers on them) is a lot more intuitive than what can be put to words in a series of blog posts. In other words, what I’ve learned, I’ve learned mostly by reading, not by reading about reading. Does that make any sense?

It’s like learning a language. When you are a kid you listen to people talk in your language enough that eventually you get it and understand. Indeed, you can go to school and learn how to talk better, and that can be really helpful, but you probably still learn the most by being immersed in the language. In the same regard, as an illustrator, I’ve made it a goal to study and immerse myself in the art of as many picture books as I can so I understand the visual language needed to “speak” myself.

I can go to illustrator talks and read about writing and take classes all I want (and they are often very helpful). But the root of my own knowledge, and the root of my own joy in all of it is reading actual books.

If this series of posts hasn’t inspired you to go digging around for some inspiration in old books, at least I hope it has inspired you to study others' works in whatever discipline is yours.

Thanks for reading.