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, November 06, 2011

The cloud - a book that shows emotions

Front cover
I saw The Cloud by Hanna Cumming in a catalogue by The Story Bag for workshops that brought together art and literature.  I ordered it to satisfy my curiosity, it was the only picturebook on the list which I didn't know. 
Child's Play the publisher's give a short description of The Cloud on their web site "Everyone has bad days, and children are no exception. When a black cloud descends on a little girl at school, support from a classmate with a great deal of imagination helps to brighten up everyone’s lives. The atmospheric illustrations really tell the story in this delightful picture book from a new author/illustrator."
It is the atmospheric illustrations that I am going to focus on in my blog post.  
What mood or emotion do you associate grey with?  Most of us will go for sad, negative, angry, upset.  Grey is a depressing colour and suitably so it is the background of the front and back covers for The Cloud.  The top part of the child's face we just see under the foreboding scribbled cloud, confirms the negative, sad feeling the background grey gives us.   Those touches of colour coming in from the edges look hopeful though, I wonder why they are there?
I find the endpapers quite shocking in their bright red, with the coloured crayons dispersed among the black squiggles. I'm not sure why Cumming chose red, maybe because the main character has a red t-shirt?  Why do you think she chose red?  What do your children think?
Title page
Though this page appears grey in my photo, it isn't!  It's actually white, with just the oval under the title in grey!  All those arty materials look fun.  Upon rereading this picturebook children will identify with these images and understand that it was through drawing, colouring and painting with a friend that our character was helped. 
Opening 1
Opening 1 shows us the art class.  We are told it's fun, and despite the grey looking classroom (it's raining outside as well!)  it does look like everyone is enjoying themselves... "Well, almost everyone." There's our character in her red t-shirt, with scowling eyes, arms crossed and tightly closed mouth.  "There was one girl, who sat by herself and drew nothing."
Opening 3
The illustration on the verso page is the one we saw on the front cover. Look at those kids chatting and having fun in the recto, but no one talks to the girl with the cloud over her head.  I'm not surprised are you?  She looks very grumpy.  But one little girl in the class is keen to make friends, so off she goes ...
Opening 5
There's a lovely sequence in verso, showing the little girl being engulfed in black cloud ... having a chat didn't seem to work. I wonder what the reply was?  It is a particularly useful activity to ask the children in your class what they think - a way for them to have a go at reading feelings and emotions and sharing these personal readings. 
Opening 7
But this little blond-haired girl was not put off, she looked at her crayons and thought maybe there was a way.  It didn't go too well to begin with, but she kept on trying, kept on drawing and finally ...
Opening 8
Our girl with a cloud over her head was smiling, only a tiny smile, but it's a smile.   Cloud is a bit smaller too!  And look out the classroom window ... it's almost stopped raining ... and the classroom wall is not quite so grey either - everything looks brighter. 
But it doesn't stop there, the children in the classroom liked the idea of creating pictures together, so they all had a go ...
Opening 9
And here they are!  Can you see the blond-haired girl who didn't give up?  And how much smaller that black cloud is! What fun they are all having, and how much brighter that classroom is now!  Look back at opening 1, just to remind yourselves.  They end up doing a huge class drawing, which really does look fun, but best of all ...
Opening 11
"... the cloud was gone. Well sort of!"  And our classroom window is there again, and even if we can still see a tiny cloud in the sky the sun is shining, shining so brightly that the classroom is all yellow and warm.  It matches the big smile across the girl's face.  
There's a small circular illustration before the back endpapers, showing a happily integrated child playing hopscotch with kids in her class.
Opening 12
There's a solitary figure by the gate, I wonder if the children will invite her to join their game? 

The Cloud is a very simple, clear  story.  It's about accepting and not giving up on people, and the illustrations help readers see and feel emotion clearly too.  This little book is excellent for actively working with emotional intelligence, but as mediators we need to give our children pointers, ask them to look and think:  what colours are the pages and what do these colours make us feel? What are the characters feeling, how do they know this?  Can we imitate their postures and facial expressions, what do they feel like? Encourage children to empathise with the dark haired girl whose cloud eventually disappears, what could she be so upset about? By identifying emotions in others and seeing how problems can be resolved, young children can learn strategies of their own, both when they have problems, or to help others overcome their own. 


The Book Chook said...

Thank you for those pointers and questions to ask our young co-readers. I hope I can find a copy of The Cloud someday as it truly sounds a valuable picture book.

Sandie Mourão said...

Dear Susan,
Thanks for popping by!
If you do online shopping you can order this picturebook through either amazon or the book depository - follow the link in my post.
I'm glad you found the post useful.