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.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Copy Cat

Front cover
Copy Cat by Mark Birchall was sent to me by the publishers Child's Play at the end of last year, and I've been meaning to write about it ever since.  A lovely picturebook with a great little message and lots to see in the illustrations. 
"Cat was small and Dog was big, and whatever Dog did, Cat did too..."  Ever been 'copy catted'? This picturebook will go a long way in helping children overcome the frustration of 'putting up' with someone who's always around - it's a story about sharing, playing and being friends.
Back and front covers
Front and back covers make one complete picture, a bright blue sky and just the tips of a hills and mounts with occasional houses and trees on them. The title sits tightly in Cat's parachute, floating in behind Dog, already hinting at who copies who. But as we turn the pages, we'll discover that Cat is actually better than Dog, even if he is copying. Look at his happy face in comparison to Dog's, she looks plain scared!
End papers
The cameos of Cat and Dog on the endpapers continue to show us that Dog isn't as good as Cat at most things.  Cat can skate, Dog can't; Cat's plants grow strong and healthy, Dog's don't ... this message is shown in the illustrations only, throughout the picturebook, and I was left wondering if there is a deviousness to Mark Birchall's story, is he telling us boys are better than girls? That's one to wonder at!
Dedication and copyright page and title page
A fun set of dedications, imitating children's drawings and on the title page, our two characters are busy painting.  Cat copying Dog, but look, even here, Dog paints up side down, left to right, Cat paints upside down and right to left (even more skillful!).  This is a lovely title page, cleverly telling and showing. 
Opening 1
"Cat was small and Dog was big, and whatever Dog did, Cat did too." Dinosaur hunting.  Who saw the dino first?  Balancing on the hire wire, guess who is less wobbly! "'Copycat', said Dog."
Opening 3
They went digging for pirate treasure, and who finds it? Deep sea diving and off to the moon.  
Opening 6
It is here on the moon, that Dog really blew ... "Why must you always follow me?" Dog looks mad, and Cat does too (and in the background we can see that Dog didn't do too well at landing her red rocket).
Next day, Dog went dragon hunting (no Cat), then the day after she went looking for the North Pole (no Cat). She wanted to play soccer, but it's not much fun on your own, so she went to find Cat. 
Opening 9
Poor Cat, he had spots! So Dog looked after him, making him soup, giving him medicine and reading him stories and of course Cat got better.  So much better he went to find Dog, to play with. She wasn't anywhere to be found...
Opening 13
Dog was in bed with spots! Now who's a copycat? And of course Cat has to look after Dog now!   
There's a nice little final verso page, of the two friends, well and happy.  Dog leading with map in hand, but Cat knows the way, he can read the signs!  Off they go to The Great Unknown, together. 

It's a cute little book, nothing complex, just a good story, with a neat little message. The illustrations support the words, but if we look carefully they go beyond them - who really knows what to do and does it better?  But does it matter, as long as we do what we do with friends?

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