Let the pictures fill in these gaps! What we’ve learned at various SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences is that allowing the illustrator to run with an idea that you as the author sets up, not only allows the illustrator’s creative juices to flow, but is also the greatest type of collaborative process that subsequently shows in the final product.
Here’s an earlier version of the final page 6 as an example. I’ve written that the sheep have gone missing. During the writing sessions, the question asked was, what happened to the sheep? At first, I said, “Who cares? Can’t I simply say they’re just missing?!” Then I realized this is a valid point that some kids might get hung up on. At the same time, if I write out the possibilities, it will stop the flow of the storytelling, and thus halt the plot from moving along at the brisk pace that little kids need to stay engaged. To make sure the story doesn’t get too slow and explain-y, there has to be some kind of compromise that gives the reader enough information as to what IS going on, without getting bogged down in explanations. So in the example, the reader gets a good balance between the statement of fact, that the sheep are missing, and what may have happened that led to their disappearance.
In the “Before” version, I also have Ben doing the “imagining,” as to what might have happened. This is not bad, but really isn’t necessary that we explicitly say that Ben does the imagining. The simpler “After” version is enough information to allow the story to continue along its way. But what do YOU think? Should Ben have stayed in this image?