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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I love my white shoes

Front cover
I'm not sure where I first saw Pete the cat being reviewed, but I came across him more than once.  I ummed and ahhed but didn't buy the bright yellow book (my photo does not do it justice). Then Zoe from Playing by the book, wrote about Pete the cat on her blog.  I followed the links to the creators telling their story to a group of pre-schoolers and I was hooked.  Pete the cat: I love my white shoes was waiting for me in my pile of holiday post when I got back!  I've been humming his song ever since!   I've also been watching Youtube films of children retelling the story.  I am well geared to sharing it with the first pre-school group I can get my hands on!   There is nothing better than real children interacting with a picturebook to convince me that a picturebook will work. 
So, Pete the cat: I love my white shoes is written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean.  A dark blue cat in bright white sneakers. He is a cool dude.  
End papers
The endpapers show us Pete staring up at four pairs of sneakers, no white pairs there, maybe that's because he's wearing them?  Here's Pete walking down the road...
Title page
And so that's how we start, walking down the street...
Opening 1
That great big foot striding on, it's almost as though Pete is going to step on the reader!  And watch that yellow bird, she gradually gets more involved with Pete's story.  "Pete the cat was walking down the street in his brand-new white shoes.  Pete loved his white shoes so much, he sang this song:"
Opening 2
"I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes."  I can't say this without bursting into song, which is from watching the Youtube film and hearing the Harpercollins song download, and Pete's very cool dude stance is all the funnier for knowing the wacky tune.  The rebus-like message in his speech bubble will attract the children's attention and so will the way the word for "white" has been highlighted in the recto page. 
Opening 3
But wait, "Oh no! Pete stepped in a large pile of ... strawberries! What colour did it turn his shoes?"  How he could have missed that VERY large pile of red fruit is beyond me, but he looks great right on the top of that pile of strawberries!  And of course we all know the answer to the question, don't we?
Opening 4
You got it!  RED!  And there's one red shoe and lots of red all over the place.  "Did Pete cry? Goodness, no! He kept walking along singing his song." Can you remember how the song goes?
Opening 5

And so it continues.  Pete steps in a pile of blueberries, even bigger than the strawberry pile.   In fact there are two piles now, one for Pete and one for the yellow bird. What colour did they turn his shoes?  BLUE! There are two blue shoes in this illustration. (Many of us adults will wonder at this trasformation into plain old blue, for when blue and red come together we normaly get purple.  But hey!  No problem, it's all part of Pete's wild walk.  And "Did Pete cry?  Goodness, no! He kept walking along and singing his song."  You may have noticed that Pete says "Everything is cool" in opening 4, and he has something different to say on each of these spreads... his blue shoes are "Awesome!"   We see Pete sharing his umbrella with the yellow bird as he sings his song, lots of blue rain cascading around them. 
You'll have picked up the visual rhythm and structure for sure, and it's repeated with brown, as Pete steps into a muddy puddle.  Brown shoes, we see three brown feet and Pete is fine about it all, in fact he even thinks it's "Groovy!"  He sings his song and drinks some coffee, which is also brown.   But then he steps in a bucket of water... "and all the brown, and all the blue and all the red were washed away".  The bird looks very worried!
Opening 12
Oh dear, what colour are his shoes now? You guessed it! WHITE! But now they are WET!"  And we see four white sneakers again.  "Rock and roll!" says Pete, and he sings his song ...
Opening 14
"I love my wet shoes, I love my wet shoes, I love my wet shoes." There's no stopping Pete!  And... "the moral of this story is: No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song ..." 
Bach verso
"... because it's all good."   

What a moral!  Good for you Pete, a great way to help children to take it easy and look on the bright side of life.  Love it! 

"AGAIN!"  The children call out... you'll be so tired of telling, and retelling this picturebook, I guarantee!

Watch the YouTube film and see just how much fun the storyteller and the kids are having.  Watch and take notes, and use some of the ideas for your own storytelling techniques.  Really, the pauses, the sound effects and the gestures are all excellent ways to get your students, and you, super motivated and enjoying the experience.  

HarperCollins have a collection of printables for some of their books, and there's one for Pete the cat.  If you want to see their other printables click here.

And if you haven't already, check out the link to Zoe's blog, where she shares the fun coloured playdough she made with her two girls, following on from the idea of fruit dyes.  A great followup activity.  


Beverly said...

Hi Sandie,

Thanks so much for recommending this fun book. I've got the song going round and round in my head! And I can picture the kids really getting into the story, participating in the question and answer "Did Pete cry?" "Goodness no!"

And keep walking along and singing your song is always a good life lesson.

This is a definite new purchase for our school!

Sandie Mourão said...

Hi Beverly,
Nice to have you pop in! So glad you like this picturebook. Do let us know how it goes in your classes this year.
The author / illustrator have recently published a new title, Pete the cat: rocking in my school shoes. I don't have it yet, but it's had some good reviews.
Here it is on youtube:

Michelle said...

Hi Sandie,

Thank you for sharing this great book and the fantastic video. I can't wait to get the book and use it in class.


Sandie Mourão said...

Hi Michele,
I'm glad you are enthused! Don't forget to let us know how it goes.