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.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A box of tricks

Front cover 
Katie Cleminson is a fairly new author illustrator, and her first book, Box of tricks came out in 2009.   I discovered Katie's work when I visited one of my favourite blogs, Playing by the book.  Zoe, who writes this blog has interviewed Katie Cleminson, which is fun to read.   
Katie uses a pipette, (a special dropper with a squeezy rubber top that comes with nose drops or ink bottles), to get the blotchy lines to her illustrations, and the lovely blobby, colourful backgrounds.   Drawing with a pipette must be tricky, but the results are beautiful, in particular the spontaneity that is associated with having to use this kind of tool.    In Box of Tricks Katie Cleminson uses black outlines against large white spaces, and when she brings in colour it is kept to tones of blue or red.  It's a truely lovely book to look at. So let's begin...  
As ever I want to begin with the peritextual bits. The cover introduces us to our heroine and a character we will meet inside. It's a copy of one of the illustrations towards the end of the book, and children recognise this and comment on the outcome when they see the picturebook again, "That's the bear that ..." (I won't spoil the surprise!) You'll also notice that Eva is wearing a cloak here... I wonder why? 
My copy is paperback, but it contains the endpapers, musical staves with dancing rabbits.  
Front endpapers
I'm puzzled by the these rabbits, for they appear in the story, and they dance there too, but seeing them here like this is perplexing.   But don't they make good musical notes cum dancers?  And I love looking and looking again at the different poses, they really are dancing and they are so good at it!  The back endpapers are similar, but the rabbits are different and there's more of that lovely blotchy pipette splodging... it's party like. 
We are shown the box on the title page, Eva is opening it, a box which must be handled with care, for  it "contains magic"... and so our story has begun.
Title page
It's Eva's birthday and she receives a special present, a box.  She opens it and jumps in...
Opening 1
That's a very Alice in Wonderland jump!  And of course she "became a master magician. TA-DAH".  Her first trick was easy, she wished for "... a pet called Monty."
Opening 3
Wow!  That's a BIG pet! There's colour in this spread, for we are in magic-land.  But a pet wasn't enough, next Eva pulled out rabbits, lots of them and with a "flick of her wand they floated in the air." Woah! So did Monty, and all the children listening and looking go WOW! Eva is very small, down below doing her magic.  
Opening 5
But for her biggest trick she threw a party, and for that she needed food and musicians and plenty of dancing ...  It all gets magicked together, here are the musicians:
Opening 8
... I love the next spread, with the whole caboodle: musicians, rabbits, Eva and her Monty, all dancing away - that is one BIG Boogie!  We've followed the colour in a sort of crescendo getting more intense and finally WAM, here it all is, on this wordless full page spread. WONDERFUL. 
Opening 10

An apart, it reminds me of the early Paula Rego paintings, with black and white outlined creatures against coloured backgrounds, though far more light-hearted of course!  (Here's a link to one of Paula Rego's paintings for you to get the picture!)

And after all that dancing everyone is pooped!  
Opening 11
And "Eva shut her eyes, clicked her fingers ... " turn the page and see: " and everything vanished..."  Eva is sitting on the left hand page, a vaste white expanse around her, all that colourful party blodging disappeared.  
Opening 12
Actually, not everything disappeared!  That last bit of magic is falling into the box and Eva got her wish come true, a pet called Monty. 

And if you turn the page one last time, there are those dancing rabbits again, on the endpapers.  What a delightful picturebook.  Such great use of space and line, and the colourful backgrounds when Eva enjoys her magic adventure, coming together in that wordless spread and then calming again and ending quietly - you can almost hear a triangle ping, or a violin string being plucked, signally the end of the story.  Maybe that's why Katie Cleminson has used musical staves  for the endpapers, for there is an orchestral feel to the illustrations.  

It's perfect for pre-school children, and extra special because the illustrations are so different.  You'll find the children will point out all sorts of  things and you can follow it up with some pipette drawings and splodgings too.  Lots of fun!  


Jennifer Lee Young said...

Love the illustrations. This is now on my reading list. Thanks for sharing!

Sandie Mourão said...

Thanks for popping by Jennifer :-)

Teresa said...

Hi Sandie,

I find your blog really inspiring. I have read stories to children for many years and I now realize that I have not paid a lot of attention to the language of the illustrations until started reading your blog. Shame I could not benefit from this then.

Now I am learning a lot myself and although I don't work with chidren any more, I'm passing this information to other teachers.

Most of the titles and the authors are new to me and I think this is great!

I sometimes wonder what your interpretation of picture books which have been like jewels for me when working with children would be.

Here are some titles:

1) "Goldilocks and the three Bears" by James Marshall.

2) "The Giant Turnip" Tolstoy & Sharkey

Thank you for been so generous with us.

Best wishes to you and long life to your blog!


(from very sunny Madrid)

Sandie Mourão said...

Hi Teresa,

Thank you for your lovely comment, and thank you also for sharing what you have learned through the blog with other teachers :-)
I'll look up the two titles you have mentioned and possibly blog about them in the future, promise!
It's been the most beautiful day here in Rio Seco, Portugal too!