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 24, 2011

A fun loving grandad

Front cover
Just like by Lynda Waterhouse and Arthur Robins was one of nine books in a collection I featured in a publication by Mary Glasgow Scholastic, Realbooks in the primary classroom, sadly now out of print.   Just Like was published in 2000 and is available very cheaply on the secondhand markets via Amazon.  I'm featuring it on my blog because it's an example of how picture and word are needed together to get the whole meaning.  It's a great little book, and I selected it nearly a decade ago not because of its word-picture interaction but because of its topic and the structures held therein.  I'm ashamed now that it was the words that attracted me to this title, but very glad that as I've learned more about different ways the pictures and words animate each other,  I've come to appreciate the irony which is created when they come together here. 
Back cover
This is the back cover and it explains what this picturebook is about - A boy and a man are  peering up at the framed words... huum I wonder who Sam is like?  If we return to the front cover, we realise these must be all Sam's Aunts and Uncles.  What a motley crew!  Could the red headed boy be Sam?
Copyright and title pages
There's a fun dedication from Lynda Waterhouse to all her aunts and uncles, which might interest the children you are sharing this book with.    This must be Sam, shown looking hot under the colar and sporting an Aunty-like lipstick mark on his cheek.  Bother those aunts! We can see four of them on the title page... it must have been the one with the lipstick!
We begin with the family get together when Sam was born.  A typical British street, with houses which are all the same yet different and a crowd of family members arriving.  
Opening 01
We have no idea who they are, least of all whether the biker is anything to do with the family at all.  Slowly we are introduced to the relations, but you have to be alert, or you'll miss the clues! 
Opening 02
"'Sam looks just like you,' Great Aunt Bertha said to Dad." Can you see the fat Aunt pointing?  That's Great Aunt Bertha!   On turning the page we see that not all the family were in the living room...
Opening 03
Grandad wasn't there!  Look at him!  A wild Grandad!  Notice how the words tell us Grandad as "playing outside", but the pictures show us that he's being very clever with a skateboard!  
This pair of spreads has set us up for the rhythm we will encounter as we continue.  First we are shown a scene with all the family, except Grandad (for now we look for him and see he is never there!), comparing Sam to one of his relations. Then when we turn the page, or move from verso to recto and we see Sam's Grandad doing something completely unexpected!  We are encouraged to turn the page because a sentence is left half finished, "They all munched and nodded ..." [page turn] "... except Grandad. (...)".  But of course we want to turn the page because we know Grandad will be doing something silly! The more this happens the more we want to turn the page and the funnier the story becomes!
Sam is told he has eyes like his Mum ... "They all nodded ..." [page turn] "... except grandad who was racing down the hill." We see him with a group of happy children on a snow sled! 
At a cousin's wedding, Sam was compared to his shy Uncle Norris ... Look at grandad!
Opening 06
He's practising his magic tricks ... practising!  He isn't very good yet!
Sam is told he is a show off like Great Uncle Bernard, he's musical like Auntie Rita, and he has delicate skin like Great Aunt Bertha.  Until on Sam's 8th birthday, which we know because we can count the candles on his cake, he was asked to make a wish.  Every one smiled ...
Opening 12
... except Sam! Oh my goodness is he upset?   Sam was tired of being compared to all his family.  "I am me. And the only person I am like is ME." Not only did the candles blow out, but ...
Opening 13
"The jellies wobbled. The sausages shivered.  The crisps curled.  Nobody said a word."  We are shocked for two reasons, first we have been led to believe that Sam is a quiet chap, who takes all the fuss in his stride, and second the rhythm we have become used to has been broken.  Not to worry, it's soon back... Aunty Vera can't stop herself...
Opening 14
 Finally Grandad takes some notice!   
Opening 15
Sam gets to go on the bike with his grandad and off they go! 

I selected this picturebook to be used with older primary. The humour is perfect and there's a some challenging language there, as well as lots to look for and at in the illustrations. The language, "to look like [someone]" and "to be like [someone]" is used very clearly and the children can have fun using it to for their own personal descriptions.   They can also have a hilarious time describing some of Sam's family, who are portrayed beautifully in the illustrations.  As ever it's a book which needs to be returned to, as there is so much in the illustrations, too much to take in with one encounter.  Leave the picturebook in the classroom and let the children browse through it.  They'll be giggling to themselves as they do!
If you have a moment, check out the other books Arthur Robins has written / illustrated.  There's a nice collection of alternative traditional tales, with titles like Little Red Riding Wolf, and  Ghostyshocks and the three scares - well worth collecting for slightly older children. 


Beverly said...

Hi Sandie,

I used this book a few years ago with a group of 10 year olds and we had so much fun with it - they loved the character of Grandad! It was a great way for the students to bring together all the language that we had been working on in our lessons, and also to introduce those two questions ‘What do you look like?’ and ‘What are you like?’, but it gave us an opportunity to get to know a little more about each other.

I showed my students photos of my family and described them, and then it was up to the students to decide who I most looked like and who I was most like. We also emailed my parents to ask them if their guesses were correct and the students were delighted to get their answer, even though I’m from a small family so it wasn’t too difficult! The students then went on to create their own powerpoint presentations with photos of their family members and recorded their presentations. Good fun and some great language work at the same time.

Sandie Mourão said...

Thank you so much fro sharing the enjoyment you your students had with this picturebook. It's lovely to read. I think it's such a funny book and loved returning to it in this post.
Thanks for reinforcing my faith in a title :-)