I have an assignment I'm working on for an Educational publisher. When I do these it is quite different from a Picture Book. With a picture book you can be quite creative and run with your imagination. Educational assignments are very nice to have, but the work is very specific and detailed. These are mostly early readers, or grade level readers and the text and images must fit together in great detail. It is fun to work both ways, although I would imagine that most illustrators would prefer the creative Picture Book approach to the detailed instructional/educational approach.
When I work for an educational publisher I will often make lots of sketches of different elements that appear on various pages of the text. I will cut these figures or objects out and start positioning them on a separate sheets of paper like little collages. This way I can move people and things around until I get an idea of composition and scale. I know this can be done in the computer too, but I like to work with my little paper people first. I will also work on several pages at a time, just to keep the characters consistent.
So here are some elements grouped in an image of how they have been fitted together....just for now. Once this is in the computer, it may change again, but I find the whole process kind of fun and challenging. ( You might be able to see the shadow line of some of the cut outs.) There are actually several more elements that will fit into this scene, but they are still in the scanner.