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, October 30, 2011

Who was Goldilocks?

Front cover
Goldilocks and the three bears is a well known children's story in English speaking countries and when I first began using it in Portugal in the early 90's very few Portuguese pre-school educators knew it, it's more well known now I think.  It's a story we use in ELT for numbers and family (mummy, daddy and baby); every thing comes in threes (three bears, three bowls, three chairs, three beds) , and there are some nice adjectives (hot and cold, hard and soft and just right!).  We assume , if we think about it at all, that Goldilocks is a spoilt little brat, going where she has not been invited, doing what she's not meant to do and generally well deserving of the fright she gets when the bears find her in their bedroom. Anthony Browne, takes us on quite a different visual journey in his picturebook Me and You.  In an interview about his picturebook, he says
"I always thought that Goldilocks got a rough deal in the original and I'm trying to redress the balance. How do we know that she was a greedy, selfish little girl? Perhaps there was a reason for her to enter the bears' house? I'm trying to tell the story from two different points of view: the baby bear's story shown in warm, reassuring coloured pencils, and Goldilock's harsher existence painted like a graphic novel, in sepia tones."  The result is a perfect picturebook, to be contemplated from front to back cover, with nothing missed out. 
Back and front covers
The front and back covers of the hard back edition are one whole image, a grassy area in front of a long row of terraced houses.  The bear family are presented on the cover, looking out as us, as though we are taking a photo of them all, a happy little family. In the background, by chance we've also photographed a solitary figure, walking head down, hands in pockets.  
Front endpapers
The endpapers are plain with no illustrations, however the baby blue and orange are prominent in the two narratives we find in the picturebook.  The blue belongs to the bear and his family and the orange to the sepia illustrations of the little girl. 
Title page
The title page contains two illustrations which are copies from later in the book.  They are fittingly inside frames, two very different characters in different worlds, and placed under the three title words, "Me and You", for the story that follows is told in the voice of the little boy bear. The two illustrations are different in both tone and style, the bear is drawn with coloured crayon, the bright colours contrast the duller, darker sepia tones of the watercolour illustration of the little girl, who has a tiny piece of auburn hair sticking out from under her hood, (it almost connects her to the bear).  The title uses different fonts which emphasise the difference between the two characters as well. The dedication on the facing page reads, "For all the underdogs". 
Opening 1
The little boy bear introduces us to his house, a warm yellow home, number 3 (of course!) in a spot of bright green, in the background the rest of the city appears to be big and industrial-like, (but those chimneys and towers could also be tall tree trunks).  There's a menacing looking wolf-like dog entering the illustration, but everything else looks serene and peaceful.  The three bears are each seen from separate windows, in different parts of the house and a solitary red ball bounces alone in the garden outside.  
Opening 2
The book continues in double page format, verso in sepia showing us the little girl's story and recto in bright, picturebook-like colours showing and telling us the little boy bear's story.  The little girl's world is daddy-less, it's cold and drab, they live in a small house in the city, and when we see mummy pause in front of the butcher there is confirmation that there may not be much money to spare either. Now the recto, and if you look carefully at the pencil crayon illustrations, you will see everything is outlined in the orangey brown of the bears, uniting the images within their world. Daddy is tall and wide, behind a more fragile mummy and their cute little son, they ooze affluence - I love mummy bear's skinny ankles, all rich mother's have skinny ankles!  
Opening 3
As little boy bear tells us his story, the story we know so well about porridge that's too hot to eat, the little girl's story visually unfolds - a story we don't know at all, about a little girl who sees a balloon, tries to catch it and gets lost.   We see her face properly for the first time and she is frightened.  
Opening 4
The bears walk in their very posh neighbourhood - three together, yet very seperate, little boy bear describing the events. "Daddy talked about his work and Mummy talked about her work.  I just messed about."  (Look carefully at the background trees, notice anything odd?) We see the little girl walking, getting more and more lost and suddenly coming upon the bears' lovely yellow house in the middle of the greyness she has been runing from.  It is glowing, enticing her with its warmth and she pushes the front door open.   As she moves around the table trying the porridge, the bears walk back home.   As she tries the three chairs (and breaks the little one), they walk through their open front door, mummy and daddy accusing each other of leaving it open.  As the little girl walks up the stairs, we see the three bears begin the  someone's-been-eating-my-porridge-routine.  She tries the beds as the bears find the three chairs...'"We'd better take a look upstairs", whispered Daddy.  "After you, Mummy." '
Opening 9
The little girl is asleep, comfy in little boy bear's bed, her auburn hair flowing as though it's part of the wood grain in the headboard.  The bears are quietly climbing the stairs, '"Do be careful dear," said Daddy.' 
Opening 10
And there they are!  We see the same scene from both perspectives. The little girl in her sepia watercolour illustration is suddenly confronted by three scarey bears.  Browne has skillfully painted their fur to make them look prickly and mean, the background is dark, a darkness which seems to radiate from the bears. We are feeling so sorry for the little girl whose red hair is reflected in the bears' eyes. We see her terror in the little boy bear's version, as he continues with his well known monolgue ... "Someone's in my bed,"I said, "and they're STILL THERE."  Even the bears carved into the head board are surprised. 
Opening 11
The little girl flees. As the little boy bear describes her actions, we see her leave the bedroom, go down the stairs, out through the front door and into the street.  As she runs into the rain we can just make out the bear family peering through their windows at her, the little boy bear upstairs, the adults downstairs.  The graphic novel frames take the girl back into the grey city, past railings, walls topped with barbed wire and others covered in graffiti.  We see this as well as glance across at the little boy bear.  In his colorful picture he is deadpan looking through his window.  At first we are uncertain if he is in or out, the reflection of a wooded landscape looks like it is behind him... the forest that belongs to the original story maybe?  "I wonder what happened to her?" he says to himself.  
The ending is a hopeful one, I say this as Anthony Browne has described it so himself. And of course it is, the illustrations in the final spread are full of hope, at least the final frames are ...
Opening 12
Janet Evans interviewed Anthony Browne in her latest collection of chapters Talking beyond the page  and he explained how the story wasn't originally in its present form. He had thought of telling two stories, first the bear's then the girl's, but it was the editor who suggested telling two stories simultaneously, in parallel, with a hopeful ending. It works wonderfully and we all sigh a deep sigh as we see the girl reunited with her mum.  Do we think about the bear again? A lonely little chap, in his pretty house with a lovely garden.  

Anthony Browne is a genius - this picturebook is challenging on many levels. It needs to be read and re-read, and the children/teens/young adults you are showing this picturebook to, need to be encouarged to talk through what they see and think about as they piece the puzzles together.  When Browne was the UK Children's Laureate  (2009 - 2011) he said the following: " ... Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book."   Me and You does just that and can be used with children and teenagers as a spring board for discussion. 

If you go to the CKG website here, you can download some excellent visual literacy activity sheets for a number of picturebooks, including Me and You.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The true story by A. Wolf

Front cover
"You may think you know the story of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf - but only one person knows the real story. And that person is A. Wolf. His tale starts with a birthday cake for his dear old granny, a bad head cold and a bad reputation. The rest (as they say) is history."
This is the blurb on the inside of the front cover of The true story of the 3 little pigs! It's all about perspective really.  This picturebook shows us the story we know and love from Wolf's perspective, and he's certain he was framed! 
I've already featured a picturebook that takes this traditional story and gives it a twist, The three little wolves and the big bad pig, making it very appropriate for older learners.  This too is a great title for the teenage ELT classroom.
The true story of the 3 little pigs was written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, who together, with Molly Leach as designer, create incredible picturebooks. 
As with all these adaptations of traditional stories, the humour comes from the reader's previous knowledge and understanding of the original story.  This picturebook is particularly special and has been written about quite extensively by academics.  It's considered an example of a postmodern picturebook due to the way the illustrations subvert the words.  Probably one of the reasons it's not used much in ELT.  I hope that by talking about it here, someone will have a go and do great things!
So let's take a look at this example of a postmodern picturebook!
The font cover is the front page of the Daily Wolf - naturally the perfect tabloid to  cover this kind of story: headline is the title of our story and the journalist is A. Wolf (though we are also told that there is a real author "As told by Jon Scieszka") The wolf in the photo is depicted as a well dressed gentleman with a polka dot bow tie and wearing studious glasses. The pigs he is supposedly blowing (huffing?) are pink and shiny.  Our reader is also pig, can you see his trotter holding the bottom right corner of the newspaper?
Back cover
The back cover is a collage illustration of a page of a newspaper - strips of columns of text, interrupted by a miniature illustration in the centre, showing the scenes of the crimes.   So not only does the newspaper represent sensationalism, but there's a hint of the courtroom here, of judgement day. 
Title page
As usual I have the paperback edition of this picturebook.  So it opens immediately onto the title page.   A sepia tone to the title page illustration gives an air of time past.  There are four objects placed together in the centre of the aged background, some tufts of straw and a twig set in a measuring jug, all placed on a brick.  Could these be pieces of evidence?   
And so the Wolf's side of the story begins ... He introduces himself.  
Opening 2
The words are matter of fact, in the  first person (for it is the Wolf who is telling the story).  He asks us to call him Al, "I don't know how this whole Big Bad Wold thing got started ...".  The illustration is dark, but you can just make out the prison stripes in the Wolf's sleeves.  He's looking out at the reader quite innocently, and adjusting  his glasses. "Maybe it's because of our diet.", he says. The Wolf is peering up from behind the table top, "Hey, it's not my fault wolves eat cute little animals like bunnies and sheep and pigs.  That's just the way we are. If cheeseburgers were cute, folks would probably think you were Big and Bad, too."  An enormous hamburger shines out at us from the illustration, Lane Smith has used a photo of a real bun, and filled it with all sorts of delicacies.  Can you see the different animals sticking out of the filling? 
Before I go on, just a note about the illustrations: on most openings they are shown in frames.  There's a photograph like feel to them, as though they have been kept in an album, those wiggly edges remind me of the photos my Mum has of her family in the 50's.  Frames around illustrations are supposed to make us feel detached - we look at these illustrations with very little sympathy. 
Opening 3
Even the illustration of long-ago-school-day slate, here in opening 3, is a framed image.  "The real story is about a sneeze and a cup of sugar."   But the introduction has been made, and we are now ready to hear the real story, Wolf's story.  The verso in this opening is a wonderful collection of letters, representing elements from within the story we know so well.  There are references to the three houses made of brick, sticks and straw.  We can see a piggy tail and a snout. A big mouth with a sticky out tongue (E) and the wolf's bushy tail. And the pair of ears at the bottom of the page, encourage the story along ... go on then, I'm all ears! 
Opening 4
"Way back in Once upon a time ..."  A mixture of real and fantasy in one breath!  Here is Wolf making a cake for his "dear old granny" - her picture is on the wall, and if you look closely you will see two rabbit ears sticking out of the mixture.  What a mixture it is too!  Whole eggs, shells and all.  Lane Smith has used collage quite minimally here, the eggs, the butter in the bottom right corner and the picture frame.   Wolf tells us he ran out of sugar for the cake, so he went next door to borrow some. 
Opening 5
The next door we are shown is miles away! And as we all suspect it's  a house of straw, which the Wolf is most derogatory about, "... who in his right mind would build a house of straw?"  Upon knocking on the door, it fell in and that's when his nose started itching!  He huffed and he snuffed... 
Opening 7
And we all know what happened next! 
Opening 8
The words continue to describe the incident in a dead pan sort of tone... "And you know what? The whole darn straw house fell down. ..."  The illustrations in verso look like the aftermath of a huge explosion, and the dead little piggy's bottom is visible in the middle of the straw strewn ground.    Wolf looks visibly perplexed in the verso "... such a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw. So I ate it up." 
This happens once again with the pig who lived in the stick house, the Wolf's nose tickles, he huffed and he snuffed, and the little pig ended up dead and ... "Think of it as a second helping", said Wolf! There's a small vignette, showing us a fat Wolf, holding his stomach! 
At the brick house the Wolf is very upset: not only did the pig tell him to go away,  a pig who looks big and mean through the small window in the illustration, but he also yelled, "And your old granny can sit on a pin!" The straw that broke the camel's back ... the Wolf admitted to going nuts. 
That's when the cops arrived, to find Wolf "huffing and puffing and making a real scene." Funnily enough they were all pink pigs!
And "The rest they say is history."  
Opening 14
The newspaper in this illustration harks back to the front cover, only this time, it's The Daily Pig, and the headlines read "BIG BAD WOLF!", "Wolf: I'll huff and I'll puff ..., "A.T. Wolf big and bad", Red Riding Hood settles dispute out of court", "Canis Lupus - seen as menace".  The hand holding the paper looks like it could belong to Wolf this time. 
The final page shows us Wolf as he is today, the after-the-story-Wolf, the one who's been framed!  He looks feeble alongside the mean looking pig in prison uniform!
Opening 15

It's a brilliant picturebook,  using words and pictures to create an entertaining, clever version of the well-known story.  And of course it makes you wonder about all the other underdogs in traditional stories. What about the wicked step-mother?  The two ugly sisters?  The giant at the top of the bean stalk? Maybe they were all framed?  Great extension activities for students to write alternative narratives based on the underdog. 

As usual there are a number of Youtube films but I like this one in particular, the narrator's voice is so matter of fact and jolly, it's great!  

And there are some interesting resource pages on the net if that's what you like: Scholastic resources; LitGuides and other stuff.

More and more I just love the sharing of a good picturebook, and this one is sooo good.  Giggling and laughing together in class, sharing the visual verbal jokes - there's nothing more motivating for a language learner. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Snow White in New York

Front cover
Snow White is a European fairy tale. The version we are all familiar with is probably that of the Grimm Brothers and or the Disney one of 1937.  Whichever, Snow White is well-known to most children.  The story of a motherless child, whose father remarries. The step-mother is jealous of Snow White's beauty and tries to do away with her. She is abandoned somewhere far away, where she happens upon seven kind men, who look after her, until eventually she is poisoned by the step mother and dies.  But all ends well when a handsome prince discovers her coffin, and the bit of poisoned apple stuck in her throat is dislodged and she awakes.  In the Disney version, they fall in love and live happily ever after!  But the Brothers Grimm have the step mother go to the wedding and be forced to dance herself to death in a pair of iron shoes!  
Snow White in New York is vibrantly illustrated version of the Snow White story, set in New York in the Jazzy, Art Deco of the 1920's. It was first published in 1986 and won The Kate Greenaway Medal. The illustrations are spectacular and evoke the era brilliantly.  
Back and front covers
The front and back covers are one continuous illustration.  Those parallel streets we associate with New York, are at the centre of each cover, with huge buildings looming on either side. The abstract colourful shapes represent all the different signs and lights and they blink at us as we study the illustration.  That has to be Snow White walking towards us, the sun rising behind her.   
Title page
The title page comes next in my paperback edition.  The sun is still rising, it's radiating rays in pink and yellow stretch out behind the New York buildings. 
Copyright page
Upon turning the  page we arrive at a wordless spread - well not quite, the verso contains the copyright information, but the recto shows us a large building, quite definitely a rich person's home, with a chauffeur waiting outside in a very smart car.  I wonder who lives there?  
Opening 1
"Once upon a time there was a poor little rich girl called Snow White ... "  so that's who lives there, Snow White.  But poor thing, this is her step-mother, wicked right from the first opening, her pointy red nails and her slit, green eyes looking out at the reader.  The father has no idea of her wickedness, and is shown looking straight ahead.  Snow White is standing in the street, tiny and pink in the back ground. The signs stand boldly behind her pointing towards the happy married couple.   
Snow White's step mother was the "classiest dame in town", but unknown to everyone she was also the "Queen of the Underworld", and she just loved to see herself in the "New York Mirror", the best tabloid in town!   It was in the paper that she read about her step-daughter. 
Opening 3
"Snow White the belle of New York City" ... The two women appear as equals in the illustration and again Fiona French has used symmetrical motifs, showing each woman flanked by men in hats and suits.  Snow White is curvy and pink, yellow arches cris-cross behind her.  She is smiling, her golden curls are soft and luminous. She is the archetypical of goodness.  The men around her are young and handsome too.  The step-mother is in red and black, she is scowling, her eyes are looking straight out at the reader, challenging us to stop her wickedness!  The men around her are old, their noses hooked, their mouths down-turned. We see the good and the bad.   
And we all know what happens don't we?  In this version, Snow White is taken "down town". 
Opening 4
Can you see her?  Down town is dark, in contrast to the rest of the city, filled with sparkling lights.  I really like this illustration.  The contrasting architecture, the reflections in the water, and Snow White being left by the step-mother's body guard.  
Snow White is lost and alone, and she wonders the streets of down town New York, until she hears some music coming from an open door. 
Opening 5
Will our students recognise the kind of music she hears? I suppose it depends, but it's a great double spread, with Snow White peeking in at the doorway, and the red sun rising again in the early morning.  Seven jazz players, and of course they let her stay, as long as she works. 
Opening 6
"'What can I do?' she asked.  'Can you sing?' said one of them."  And the illustration answers the question.  Can she sing!  WOW! The change from black silhouettes to reddy-yellow ones is superb.  Snow White is in the limelight, her white skin, and solid red dress, with just one or two red tassels, surrounded by the seven jazz players, cris-crossed in yellow and orange, you can almost hear the music as Snow White sings for them.   And just as luck would have it a handsome newspaper reporter was in the audience and he writes about this brand new star.  The step-mother reads about Snow White's debut and is "mad with rage".  And so she decides to do the wicked deed herself, and plans a party in honour of Snow White's success. 
Opening 9
"Secretly she dropped a poisoned cherry in a cocktail and handed it to Snow White with a smile." Snow White is surrounded by people who think she is wonderful, but the words direct us to the step-mother mixing a cocktail, the bottle of poison on the plant stand nearby. 
Opening 10
A wordless spread, the happy party represented in the background, the cocktail about to change hands.  
We don't get shown the dying scene, instead we are taken to the New York streets in the rain. Newspapers tell us what happened, as they have done through out this story.  They are full of the news of her death and crowds of people stand in the non-stop rain as her coffin is driven through the streets.
Opening 12
But of course we know what happens, as the seven jazz players carry her coffin up the church steps, one of them stumbles and ... "Snow White opened her eyes." The poisoned cherry, stuck in her throat was dislodged and she looked into the eyes of the handsome reporter. They fell in love, had a big wedding and lived happily ever after!
Opening 14
The illustrations also show us what happened to the step-mother!  

Similar to the picturebook, The three little wolves and the big bad pig, this kind of adaptation can be used with older students as the first step towards making their own versions of well-known and traditional stories.  But, what I like about this particular title are the visual representations of good and bad, happy and sad, safe and dangerous, Fiona French uses colour and shape brilliantly.  In addition, the technique of filling spaces with lines of colour reminds me of the impressionist paintings of Seurat , who used dots instead of lines, but the idea is the same. Finally using a picturebook like this when students are learning about the period of  Art Deco in history can help them make connections and possibly follow up with some research into architecture, art, clothes, music, cars etc of the time.  

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The house that crack built

Front cover
Not long ago a friend and colleague asked me if I knew this picturebook, The house that crack built by Clark Taylor and Jan Dicks.    I didn't, was intrigued and ordered it. 
My recent focus on traditional songs and rhymes is an excellent background for this particular title, which takes the familiar children's nursery rhyme, This is the house that Jack built  and turns it into a thought provoking picturebook about the drug trade and cocaine addition. What's so clever about taking such a topic and creating a picturebook is the wider audience it reaches. Children in primary can understand the simple text and look at and question the illustrations. Older students, teens and young adults, can use both the words and illustrations as a spring board for deeper, more thought provoking discussion. Its cumulative rhyme has a hip-hop beat to it, which again makes it very suitable for teens. The house that crack built was published nearly twenty years ago with the intention of helping children understand how to make the right choice about drugs. The proceeds of sales go towards drug education, prevention and rehabilitation programs that specifically help children.  
Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso (1932)

Let's take a look at the illustrations. The front cover depicts the street where it all happens. The two more realistic figures reappear in the picturebook on the title page and on the afterword page.  They aren't actually characters from the visual narrative, but possibly represent the children this picturebook is written to help. Children with nothing to do, children whose parents aren't around much, shoeless children in an urban setting. The pale figures in the wall mural, separated by the symbolic crack, hang as though in mid-air, their skin pale and sickly, their faces stylistically reminiscent of cubism.  There's a well-known portrait by Picasso called Le Rêve (The dream), shown here on the right, where we can see some similarities to the way the faces have been painted by the illustrator. The dislocated head position is seen again in some of the later illustrations, representative of being high. In the foreground, the gutter is full of cigarette ends or stubs from left over joints.
The endpapers are scattered with  coca leaves.

As we begin the rhythmic cumulative verbal text, the story reveals itself line by line on the verso, with the illustrations facing, on the recto: square illustrations with a white boarder, or frame, around them.  
Opening 1: "This is the House that crack built"
A framed illustration is supposed to have a psychological affect on the viewer, we look at it detached and unemotionally.  Do these framed illustrations make us feel detached? This particular illustration could be any beautiful mansion in a hot country, but the words make us rethink and its affluence takes on a different meaning. 
Opening 2: "This is the Man, who lives in the House that crack built"
We are shown the man who lives in the house:  a sleek, clean cut individual, with an original Matisse, La Nu Rose (1935), hanging on his wall.  The causal sequence continues, introducing us to the soldiers who guard the man, dark eyed men with rifles over their shoulders. Then the farmers who collect the coca leaves ...
Opening 4: "These are the Farmers who work in the heat and fear the Soldiers, who guard the Man, who lives in the House that crack built"
Many of the illustrations in this little picturebook contain unusual perspectives: in opening 4 we have  a close-up of the Farmer, but we can't see his eyes.  The poor woman with no shoes is only shown from the legs down: faceless in the sequence of events.  
In the next illustration we are shown the coca plant against a sunny blue sky, a pretty plant ...
Opening 5: "These are the Plants that people can't eat, raised by the Farmers who work in the heat and fear the Soldiers who guard the Man who lives in the House that crack built." 
... but as the verbal text emphasises the people can't eat it, it feeds no-one, instead it's made into cocaine and exchanged for large sums of money in the the streets of the civilized world. 
Opening 7: "This is the Street of a town in pain that cries for the Drug known as cocaine, made from the Plants that people can't eat, raised by the Farmers that work in the heat and fear the Soldiers that guard the Man who lives in the House that crack built." 
This illustration shows us what it's like in the street.  Seen through a window, a faceless woman holding a baby. Outside, an anguished woman is banging her head on the wall, a man with an upside-down head, high - the cigarette or joint ends separating the foreground figure form those in the background.   
We next meet "the Gang, fleet and elite" then the "Cop working his beat".  
Opening 9: "This is the Cop working his beat, who battles the Gang, fleet and elite, that rules the Street of a Town in pain ..."
We encounter a "Boy feeling the heat" who sells the "Crack that numbs the pain" ...
Opening 12: "This is the Girl who's killing her brain, smoking the Crack that numbs the pain, bought from the Boy feeling the heat ..."
We are shown woman, smoking. Her head too is upside down, her belly is large - is she pregnant? And then we are shown "the baby with nothing to eat, born of the girl who's killing her brain...".  Finally ...
Opening 14
"And these are the Tears we cry in our sleep
that fall for the Baby with nothing to eat,
born of the Girl who's killing her brain,
smoking the Crack that numbs the pain,
bought from the Boy feeling the heat,
chased by the Cop working his beat,
who battles the Gang, fleet and elite,
that rules the Street of a town in pain
that cries for the Drug known as cocaine,
made from the Plants that people can't eat,
raised by the Farmers who work in the heat
and fear the Soldiers who guard the Man 
who lives in the House that crack built."

"This is a book about choices." writes Michael Pritchard in the afterword, "... the author used his poetic voice to remind us the problem is out there. The illustrator used her artistic vision to bring the tragic nature of the problem powerfully alive. And the publisher chose to blend these visions into a book and use its profits (...) to help fight the problem.  Together they have created a tool that can be used to open discussion and to help children learn to make the right choices. Together they have reminded us that in small and personal ways each of us has the power to change the world."

It is indeed a very powerful, though physically small, book and one I am certain can be used with teenagers and young adults in ELT contexts.  I hope that in sharing this title, I have encouraged some teachers to  take up the challenge.