Monday, April 9, 2012


This summer I'll be teaching a 6-week class entitled Picture Book Design as part of the Children's Book Illustration Certificate program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia.  (Go to   for more info about this exciting new program.)

As I prepare for this class, I'll be sharing some of my material in a series of blog posts with the same title, Picture Book Design.  The blog posts will of necessity be brief; I'll be covering this material much more intensely and in much greater depth with my students in my class this summer.

Today I'll start from scratch, with a few of the common terms that are used when talking about hardcover books, and hardcover picture books in particular.
A book has a front cover; a back cover; and a spine.  The hard covers are also known as boards.
There is usually a paper jacket, or dust jacket, that slips on over the book.  As with the boards, there is a jacket front; a jacket back; and a jacket spine.  The jacket also has a front flap, and a back flap, that tuck inside the book covers and hold the jacket in place.  Flaps usually contain blurbs, author/artist info, and other pertinent info about the book.  With picture books, the front and back jacket images and text usually repeat that found on the covers.
When we open the front or back cover of a hardback book, we see the endpapers.  There are two endpapers at the front of the book, and two at the back. One of the endpapers has been pasted down to the inside of the board.  The second endpaper faces it.  
     We call one piece of paper in a book a leaf.  One face or side of a leaf is a page.  When working with picture books, which are of such limited length, we number every page in the book, regardless of where the story actually begins.  
      To best illustrate this, imagine a piece of paper folded in half---this is the "book".
We now have page 1, page 2, page 3, and page 4.  The "story" in this book might begin on page 2, and end on page 3. Numbering picture book pages in this way allows everyone working on the book (author, artist, designer, printer) to be in sync as to exactly which page is under discussion. And given the physical construction of a picture book, left-hand pages are always even-numbered.  Right-hand pages are always odd-numbered. 
When we are working with picture books, we also often talk about double-page spreads, or simply spreads, which comprise two facing pages.

In my next post in this series, I'll cover some further basics about picture books.  Later posts will deal with analyzing a manuscript---its structure, mood, and rhythm---before getting into the nitty-gritty of composing and creating actual illustrations.


  1. so in a picture book, is page one the right hand page after the glued-down endpaper? i should know this, shouldn't i?

    1. Brattcat, your question will be answered in my next post in this series!