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, February 19, 2012

Two penguins who do everything together

Front cover
Fluff and Billy by Nicola Killen arrived last week.  What a cute little book, so cute I had to feature it immediately.  Cute in the sense of being endearing and clever at the same time. And just perfect for pre-school children, with the natural repetition in the verbal text and the expressive illustrations. 
Fluff and Billy are two penguins, great friends, who do everything together. Fluff has red feet and Billy has yellow chest feathers.  The painted font on the cover helps us focus on their different features, highlighting their differences, despite both being penguins. Here they are on the back cover, swimming together under water.  
Back cover
Though red and yellow appear on the front cover, it is blue and yellow which are the two base colours, and white of course.  Yellow introduces us to the two penguins, it appears as we open the paperback version of this picturebook in a recto page splatted with yellow paint, followed by a further spread, a yellow background with an oval window showing the two penguins, wings touching as though holding hands. 
Opening 1
The copyright page brings us the blue, that deep sea we saw on the back cover.  The two penguins are speeding forward into the book and a splat of blue slap bang in the middle of the title page repeats the front cover combination of these three words, "Fluff and Billy", the birds' names written with a paintbrush and brought together with an "and" written in Times Roman(?), the rest of the title is also in the same font. 
Copyright and title page
The play between these two font types continues within the picturebook pages.  The paint brush font represents the birds' voices and the other the narrator's.  You may also have noticed that Fluff's font is slightly darker than Billy's. 
Let's begin ... as though we haven't already!
Opening 2
I think this is one of my favourite spreads.  Look at the movement! Those blue foot prints on the verso spread  pushing us upwards as the penguins rush up the snowy hill and then zooming down the hill following the bluey dots as the penguins slide on their bellies.  The font slopes up and down too, and the verbal text comes twice each time, first it's Fluff, then it's Billy.  Each doing the same thing, so their voices repeated. As the mediator you can use slightly different voices too. Then ...
Opening 3
Aaaaaaa!  Aaaaaaa!  Now that looks fun. Lines and dots again showing movement and that crack in the ice on verso once again pushing our gaze across the spread.  Those splodges of yellow just adding a touch of sparkle to the page. 
Fluff and Billy go swimming, "I'm swimming" they both say; then splashing.  Fluff runs here and Billy runs here. 
Opening 6
Fluff jumps up and so does Billy, but woah!  That is one big jump, shown in the illustrations (we can only see his legs as he jumps out of the page!) but also the way the font has been turned on its side and is whooshing up, following Billy off that page. 
Opening 7
We see the result on the next spread.  Fluff looks worried as Billy lands on his head, those yellow splodges falling around him and things change, Fluff rolls a snowball, but Billy throws one ... right at Fluff. But that's not right, don't they always do the same thing?
"'Ouch!" cried Fluff".  On the next three spreads, we see the two friends sitting back to back, but apart, one on each side of the spread, separated first by the penguins words, "I'm not talking to you".  Their feelings are so visible, from their postures, the way their heads are tilted upwards.  They are as frosty as the snow around them.  
Opening 9
On the next spread it is the narrator who reinforces the point: "Fluff said nothing." "Billy said nothing." The penguins don't look quite so haughty.  Then ...
Opening 11
No need for words, we all know how both these penguins are feeling. And so Fluff tickles Billy, and Billy tickles Fluff. 
Opening 13
And they laugh ... "together!"  Yellow and blue in soft floating shapes. Friends again. 
But that's not the end, remember that yellow spread at the beginning of the book, well here it is again, but this time the penguins are leaving, wings touching, rushing off into more adventures. 
Spread 14
One of the cleverest picturebooks I've seen in a while: it's visually exciting and tells a real story, one of friendship, falling out and making up. The illustrations provide brilliant examples of emotions for children to see and talk about. And, as an added bonus, everything gets said twice!  Love it, love it, love it. A MUST for all early years English classrooms. 

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