Picture Book Prompts

hatching bird

Do you want to get a new picture book prompt every week?

Why Prompts?

I have worked with picture book writers and illustrators for more than 30 years and in that time I’ve learned a lot about how picture books work, how good writers think, how to go about making great books, and how to do it more effectively.

I have about a million, kerjillion ideas about how to help you become a better picture books writer, but the most fundamental is this. You must write. You must write a lot. You must write often. And you must write with the conscious intention of becoming a better writer and doing better work.

Although inspiration is lovely, it can be elusive. Skill is vital but not always easy to implement. An understanding of process is helpful but difficult to internalize.

There is a way though to invite inspiration, develop skills, and enjoy the process.

That way is through prompts.

Specifically, prompts for picture book writers.

Prompts are magical. They can:

  • Get the wheels in your brain turning
  • Develop skills
  • Sidestep writer’s block
  • Give you insights
  • Provide you with ideas
  • Help you come up with images
  • Open doors you didn’t even know were there
  • Get your creative juices flowing
  • Keep your creative juices flowing
  • Help you think outside the box
  • Help cultivate a writing life
  • Surprise you in the most powerful ways

And sometimes ...

they turn into manuscripts that are marvelous and marketable.

But that's not the goal.

Prompts are not about producing a "product", but about staying curious, staying open, and staying engaged with the process.

The prompts below are specifically written for picture book writers. I have tried to be as clear as possible about how to use the prompts. Simply follow the instructions—and feel free to take them in any direction that calls to you.

May the muse be with you!


Picture Book Prompt 41

I Can!
(Can be acted out)
I can tie my shoelace,
I can comb my hair,
I can wash my hands and face
And dry myself with care.
—Nursery rhyme

List all the things a three- or four-year-old is newly competent at doing and how they might feel about it. Write about one or all of them.

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 42

“Grown-ups do a lot of complaining!” —Dav Pilkey

Grown-ups really do complain a lot!
What is it that grown-ups might complain about? How might those complaints feel or sound like to a child?

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 43

You can never read a poem too slowly, but you can certainly read one too fast.
—Stephen Fry

This is a reading prompt rather than a writing one! Find one of your favorite picture books and read it as slowly as you can. Stop at the end of each word. Stop at the end of each line. Read it. again. Feel the language!

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 44

“Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it. Not to anyone. No one. No one at all.
I just want to think about it on my own.
Because it is mine. And no one else’s.”
—Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

Like adults, children sometimes need to be quiet, to feel and to process what they’re going through. Write about something that a child might not be ready to share, and what they might tell themselves about the situation.

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 45

“Sometimes all you can do is say, ‘Wow.’”
—Kevin Henkes

“Wow!” is the ultimate expression of awe and wonder. Think of some events and situations that a child might find to be worthy of a Wow! Dig deep and write about it.

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 46

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
—Nursery rhyme

Write about a character who is “contrary,” whatever that might mean to you.

Read More

Picture Book Prompt 47

A hero needs two things: a loyal friend and a tireless enemy.
—Fernando Savater

What might a loyal friend look like to a five-year-old? How about a tireless enemy?

Read More