Picturebooks in ELT

Passionate about picturebooks

Welcome to my blog about picturebooks in ELT.

“A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page.” (Barbara Bader 1976:1)

My intention is to discuss picturebooks, in particular the pictures in them! Why? Because, in ELT we tend to select picturebooks because they contain words our students might know. I plan to write something a couple of times a month, sharing what I discover in my readings; describe new titles I come across; discuss particular illustrators and their styles and generally promote the picture in picturebooks.

From January 2008 to December 2011 I benefitted from a PhD research grant from FCT, in Portugal.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Inspiring peace

I discovered Todd Parr recently, while preparing for a presentation about emotional development and picturebooks. I think I'm behind the times though, as Todd Parr even has a TV series.  He's a wacky chap, and I do like his child-like scribbles ... and he's a fellow dog lover too.  This is what he writes about himself: 
The Peace book is one of a whole collection of brightly coloured, smile provoking, I'd even say, inspiring picturebooks.  On the back of many of Todd's books you find a statement of intent ...
"This book is designed to:
Engage Early Literacy
Enhance Emotional Development 
Celebrate Multiculturalism
Promote Character Growth"
... Yeah!  I'd go with that!  Look at the cover of The Peace Book, a wonky world made of unidentifiable continents, surrounded by smiling faces.
Most 5 year olds draw like this, but they don't forget the noses! (I love the inclusion of the punk in glasses!)  And despite the naive look to the illustrations, they are entertaining and thought provoking. 
I have bought the paperback edition, so no exciting endpapers, but that's OK. The title page has a heavy looking multicoloured dove, flying against the bright blue, which Todd Parr likes so much, and he's dedicated the  book to the world.  
So what is Peace?  Lots of wonderful things. Parr opens with this single page ... 
But most of his definitions come in twos...
There's no double meaning in his illustrations, but they do show more than the words tell.  What kind of music are we being shown in the illustration above?  And below we are shown examples of the "different books" we can read: books about worms, food, fish, the world...
He occasionally pops in a doublespread, carefully selected to use the visual space... a nice long centipede here, each foot wearing a long awaited shoe. 
The  saturated colours of the backgrounds remind me of Jan Pienkowski's Meg and Mog books, first written in the 70's, and I do like the sparseness of many of the pages. 
And so... Peace...
Peace is thinking about someone you love, saying you are sorry when you hurt someone, helping your neighbour, planting a tree, sharing a meal, wearing different clothes, waiting for it to snow.  Peace is keeping the streets clean, offering a hug to a friend.  Peace is everyone having a home, growing a garden, taking a nap, learning another language and having enough pizza in the world for everyone ...
Peace is keeping someone warm, new babies being born, being free ...
Peace is travelling to different places, wishing on a star.  Peace is being who you are. 
Peace is an amazing thing, and its variety is what I find so useful for our ELT classrooms.  Despite the illustrations being so child-like, I'd like to suggest this can be used with students right through primary: the definitions and their illustrations will make everyone think hard and come up with several other very appropriate ones - a perfect follow up to sharing this picturebook is making a class book about Peace. 
Todd Parr very nicely completes his book with this last page...

If you are interested in some other titles, I'd recommend It's Ok to be different, but do check out his website and look at the selection of his books at The Book Depository

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