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.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rain, please rain.

Front cover
I've chosen Rain by Manya Stojic to celebrate recent rainfalls here in Portugal.  We've gone for nearly five months without any rain, and things were looking parched, plants were small and shriveled and the local farmers could be seen in huddles shaking their heads as they looked at the ground under their feet.  Some parts of Portugal had been rained upon, but not my bit, then a couple of days ago a great storm raged through the night and left everything humming and smelling delicious.  We all sighed happily.  I remembered this lovely picturebook, Rain, a gift from Opal Dunn, who has introduced me to so many picturebooks over the years. 
Rain was Manya Stojic's debut picturebook of over a decade ago.  The illustrations are bright, visibly made with large paint strokes that give the whole book a  feeling of immediacy and joyfulness.  The arm waving baboon on the front cover initiates the frivolity, you can almost hear him calling out happily, "Rain! Yeah!"
Each page and spread is painted right to the edges, this draws the reader into the narrative, and with every page turn we are carried out into an African savannah and feel the animals emotions as they sense the coming rain. 
Title page
Not only are the illustrations bold and bright in this picturebook, but it's a print salient picturebook - the verbal text is also big and bold.  Here on the title page we are shown an adult and baby baboon (the dedication above the illustration reads "In memory of my dad Lyuba with whom I enjoyed watching thunderstorms") and the words shout out at us, big and black.  This page we have to read, "Rain, written and illustrated by Manya Stojic"  What a great opportunity to talk about special picturebooks, created by one person. 
Opening 1
Turn the page and we see heat, sizzling heat.  The yellow grass is painted as though flickering flames and the sun in the top verso corner radiates across the pale blue sky.  Big black letters spell out "It was hot." 
Opening 2
On the next spread we are shown and told how the first of the animals sense the rain is coming. Thus begins a cumulative crescendo... "The rain is coming! I can smell it.  I must tell the zebras."  
Opening 3
Warning of rain comes with a flash of lightening, and the repetitive refrain, "The rain is coming!" (...) Porcupine can smell it. We can see it.  We must tell the baboons." 
Opening 4
With the roll of thunder, the baboons hear it and so our crescendo grows.  "Porcupine can smell it. The zebras can see it.  We can hear it. We must tell the rhino."  Notice that the animals in the three illustrations I've featured are shown in part, close up and even upside down. I really like this minimalist way of illustrating, and it doesn't stop children from understanding. 
Next we see a rhino, with large drops of rain - he feels it. "I must tell the lion."
Opening 6
Onto the lion, who lounges across the spread, tongue out. He can taste it.  
Lots of lovely repetition, which we can encourage children to chorus with us as we tell and retell. And then it rained and rained, black font against a painterly blue background. And what does rain bring?  
Opening 8
Lots of green, and even though the rain has stopped everything continues to grow, and so begins a second repetitive refrain beginning with the lion and going back through all the other animals: "I can't taste the rain now" ... "but I can enjoy the shade of these big, green, leaves." 
Opening 10
Lovely "cool, soft, squelchy mud."  Each animal reappears and delights in the results of the rain.  
Opening 11
The baboons eat fresh juicy fruit; the zebras have a refreshing drink, and the porcupine reminds us that even though he can no longer smell the rain, it will come back. 
And our narrative comes full circle, the sun dries everything up and ...
Verso back page
Wonderful in its visual representation of landscapes and animals, this picturebook is also especially good for young children who are beginning to notice print. Truely great for sharing. 

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