The April 2008 issue of Notes from the Horn Book, The Horn Book‘s new online newsletter, runs a short interview with TOON Books Editorial Director Françoise Mouly. In response to one question, Mouly differentiates between comics and picture books:
Both have pictures, but the similarities end there. Comic books offer a visual narrative, with words as only one of the elements intertwined with the pictures. The visual narrative in a comic book helps kids crack the code of literacy, teaching them how to read from left to right, from top to bottom. Speech balloons facilitate a child’s understanding of written dialogue as a transcription of spoken language. In a sense, comics are similar to face-to-face interaction. Comics blend words, images, and facial expressions with panel-to-panel progression, sound effects, and even shifts in type size to engage readers and propel the story. Many of the issues that emerging readers have traditionally struggled with are instantly clarified by comics’ simple and inviting format.
J. L. Bell quibbles with Mouly’s points on his Oz and Ends blog. “As the key features that differentiate comics from picture books, I emphasize the number of pictures on a page spread and the way comics ‘show the invisible’ through speech balloons, sound effects, and some other elements Mouly doesn’t mention, such as the motion and emotion lines,” Bell writes. However Bell ultimately concludes: “Of course, there’s no reason for families to choose one form or the other.”
The Horn Book piece also links to a list of recommended comics assembled by that publication.