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.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A fishy exuberance

Front cover
Hooray for Fish!  is nothing  but exuberant!   Written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins, the creator of Maisy Mouse, it is such a fun picturebook, with wonderfully bright illustrations and in her well known gouache style, of large blocks of colour outlined in black.  Cousins also does all the characteristic lettering by hand.  
The edition I have comes with a DVD read by Emilia Fox.  It's a nice addition to the picturebook, but certainly couldn't replace it. I love anything with fish in it, so I'm biased, but this is one of my favourites. 
Blue is predominant - it's an underwater setting after all!  But the blues are different in hue, some are baby blue others are more turquoise, and some pages are almost green.  It's nice to just flick through and see all the different shades. 
It's a concept book in rhyme, using colours and adjectives and some opposites, so for ELT that's a good reason to use it!  But to be honest share this one for the visually exciting experience it gives your young students, together with the lovely rhythmic text.  It's truely brilliant. 
Let's take a look at all the different bits.  Front and back cover are one big illustration, showing us a big spotty fish, in orange and yellow with stripy fins and tail.  Big fish is smiling at a little fish, who's just the same.  The blurb on the back reads: "Splosh, splash, splish! Hooray for fish! Swim with Little Fish and all his fishy friends in this splishy-spalshy riot of colour and rhyme under the sea." Let's go swimming then ...
Front endpapers
Splash... into the underworld.  The front endpapers show us the world Little Fish lives in, there's that baby blue and some very interesting sea plants and corals. Lovely.  No fish though. 
Title page and copyright
And here's Little Fish looking very tiny alongside the wavey plant.  He's turned to the right, the direction in which we have to turn the page to meet all his fishy friends. 
Opening 1
I love those sea plants, wavy and stripy and so colourful.  What a wonderful world Little Fish lives in. Let's meet some of his friends. 
Opening 2
Here are some of his colourful, funny friends.  Little Fish's world is full of diversity.  There are spotty fish and stripy fish, happy fish and grumpy fish, all clearly exactly that - the grumpy fish not only has a turned down mouth but he's brown and black, weighted down with a heavy head and small fins, nothing jovial about him at all.  Grumpy has become gripy in the US edition. 
Opening 5
Here's a nice page with the numbers decorating each fish, as though they have different scales.  Upon turning the page, the simplicity of three white fish is contrasted with a page full of multicoloured ones and enables small children to have fun with their counting, as well as discover some funny fish. Can you see two fruity fish?  
Opening 6
From here on Little Fish's world is ever more creative.  An ele-fish, a big grey fish with a trunk, a shelly fish, a sort of squid in a shell, Hairy fish and scary fish, and then ...
Opening 9
... these lovely rhyming fish!  No mistaking what these fish are!  On we swim, past fat fish and thin fish, twin fin-fin fish, two wonderfully colourful fish with large peacock-like fins and tails. "Curly whirly, twisty twirly ... "
Opening 13
"So many friends, so many fish, splosh, splash, splish!"  Leaf fish, horse fish, fishes with hearts and stars and peacock tails.  Long thin ones, spiky ones, flat ray like ones and sea plants with red heart shaped leaves... 
And then, little fish is suddenly all alone.  "Where's the one I love the best, even more than all the rest?" 
Opening 16
Here she is!  It's Mummy Fish! "Kiss, kiss, kiss, hooray for fish!"  And if we turn the page one more time, the back endpapers remind us just how exuberant this lovely book is!
Back endpapers
All the fish that Little Fish encountered are here on the back endpapers.  There's the ele-fish, and the twin fin-fin fish, the grumpy fish and the hairy fish.  All together with Little Fish and Mummy Fish.  It's really is a Hooray for Fish book!

Now how cool was that?  Children love it, and want it again and again.  They pick up the rhyming words really easily and  chant along with you as you share it with them.  And if you want you can do all sorts of fun arty activities related to fish.  Fishy underworld scenes, inventing wild and wonderful fish, making a daddy fish for Little Fish, and maybe even some brothers and sisters!  
There's a very complete set of activities on the Walker Books page which can be downloaded here and adapted for varied ELT contexts. 

If you haven't got the the DVD you can use the YouTube version of the film, and you and your children can tell the story when the music stops! The music is fun and calypso-like and accompanies Little Fish on his encounters with his fishy friends - trumpets sound when he meets the ele-fish and the music becomes slow and sad when he meets the grumpy fish.  

If you like Lucy Cousins you may also like an earlier post about the picturebook I'm the best.



Hi Sandie. I love your blog! I just discovered it after learning that I get a lot of views on my blog based on your listing Boyz Read on your "My Picture Book Blog List." Thanks so much! I look forward to reading more of your entries.

Gregory Walters
Vancouver, Canada

Sandie Mourão said...

Hi Gregory!
Thanks for checking me out. I'm glad you get visitors from my blog list! I'm glad you've starting posting again, you went quiet for a while :-)