It can be a board book.
This is one of our family favourites that has stood the test of time. It is a series by Stephen Cartwright where the child has to find a different creature (Duck, Bird, Puppy etc) in each book.
In the original version there were no words in it at all, but in later additions a few words were added to each page. The simple familiar illustrations which are not too fussy, make this an easy book to read with babies and very young children.
I think I prefer the older version with no words at all and the discussion of the picture is something that makes sharing it with a child all the more fun.
A board book
is a lovely introduction for very young children and the thick board pages make it easier for little fingers to learn how to turn pages, without destroying the book in the process.
Probably what we think of most frequently, when we say picture book, is the familiar large format book for small children, where the pictures take up a lot of the space on the page.
This is where picture books come into their own as the images help to tell the story allowing the writer to cut out any unnecessary words and hone the story so that it flows and has rhythm.
The text may look deceptively simple and will often involve repetition, and sometimes rhyme.
Picture books for young children are designed to be read out loud. But for many people reading out loud is not something they have had much opportunity or occasion to do, quite often not since they themselves were novice readers at school.
For some parents it can be a new and at times daunting experience. But for the child the flow of the story is so much more important than the performance or any little mistakes the parent makes.
One great example of this is Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram. Bob does his normal job every day - clearing up the moon after the tourists have left - and he laughs at the idea that there might be such a thing as aliens.
The delightful thing is that behind him on the moon and even on the bus he takes home back on earth the reader can see little aliens are everywhere but Bob hasn't noticed them. Of course the children see the joke right away.
I wondered about this at first but my little granddaughter of two and a half loves it and she adores joining in when they say
'lick lips, pat belly, my oh my!'
But of course the trolls are... well I won't spoil it for you - just to say that the baby ends up smiling and the trolls get more than they bargained for! A delightful story, the twist at the end and repetition makes it fun to join in.
There are also longer picture books
where the story is much longer but the illustrations still take up around 50% of the book. As children get older they still delight in being read to but may be able to read it themselves.
Some stories are not written for one particular age group. We all love a good story and stories such as the tale of Greyfriars Bobby, that faithful little dog who slept every night on his master's grave for many years, delight old and young alike.
Growing up in Edinburgh the statue of Bobby was a familiar landmark so when I was asked to write a version of Greyfriars Bobby I was delighted. It was great to be working once again with illustrator Sally J. Collins, whose images capture scenes of Edinburgh beautifully.
I often come across children of 8 and 9 who feel they are too old for a picture book and understandably they are still asserting their right to be moving on from picture books, which can be seen as a sort of rite of passage. But I think it is a pity that we tend to think that picture books are only for young children (although if you look for them, there are a few that are quite scary and definitely for older children and adults).
Do you have a favourite picture book?
Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages, from picture books to teen novels and writing handbook Writing For Children