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 27, 2012

The taming of the wolf

Front cover
Emily Gravett is one of my favourite illustrators. I featured three of her picturebooks in January 2011. She published two titles in 2011, Wolf won't bite and Again. The former is a cracker of a picturebook and I've had lots of fun sharing it with my pre-school groups over the last week.  
"The three little pigs" they all shout as I show the front cover. And what other animal do we associate with the three little pigs?  "A wolf " they faithfully call out ... not reading yet, so they didn't pick up on the title of our story! Open out the book and just as they guessed, we see the wolf on the back cover. 
Back and front covers
The illustration only fits their predictions in the sense that we see the three little pigs and the big bad wolf.  Several children point out that things aren't quite right, as the pigs have the wolf on a chain; he doesn't look very fierce and ... what are the pigs wearing? There's a good deal of giggling as they begin to notice that the pigs are wearing clothes, one's in a tutu.  I wonder what kind of story it will be, maybe the title will help us? They all agreed that the wolf did look rather tame, so maybe he doesn't bite any more. 
With one group I asked if any of them had been to the circus, very few hands went up.  Maybe visiting the circus just isn't part of being a kid anymore?  But several knew what could be seen at the circus, wild animals did tricks, tigers jumped through flaming hoops, dogs stood on their hind legs, danced or stood on stools. Clowns told jokes and did silly things, horses pranced around the ring with ballerinas on their backs and there were acrobats who jumped and did somersaults. 
Let's open the book and see if these pigs take the wolf to the circus.
Front endpapers
Typical of Emily Gravett her endpapers play a part in the narrative, and the front endpapers show the three pigs chasing a wolf and pulling a circus cage on wheels.  
Dedication, copyright and title page
This spread is cleverly uses the idea of circus posters, the title page is a poster advertising the performance we are able to see. The copyright information can be read (with a magnifying glass) on the two rolled up posters!  Once you've read this picturebook to a group of children remember to go back to these pages and talk about them. 
Opening 1
Be ready as you turn the page to call out loudly, "Roll up!"  And there we have it, the wolf, a wild wolf, in a cage.  Note the gold leaf pigs decorating the outside.  And so upon each page turn we are shown what the little pigs are able to do to the wild wolf.  Their feats go in threes, each little pig declares , "I can ..." trying to improve on what the first one was able to do.   This is the first little pig's trick...
Opening 2
Then, the second little pig ...
Opening 3
She's a girl pig, so she does girlie things to the poor wolf!  The third little pig ...
Opening 4
... he can ride him like a horse. The verbal text is salient through out. You will have noticed that the words on each page are large, using different fonts. But here we are also confronted with a chunk of text in capitals "WOLF WON'T BITE!" This repeated pattern occurs three times, the frightened looking wolf is put through his paces, the little pigs proudly showing what they are able to do with him and to him. Their flat snouts turned up in triumph,  the wolf's eyes always open wide in fright.  
The final set of three tricks show the poor wolf having knives thrown at him, being shot from a canon (my favourite spread!)
Opening 9
... and even being cut in half. But then, the three little pigs together get super brave. 
Opening 11
"We can even place our heads between his mighty jaws but wolf won't ..."  now look at our wolf, he's not got that tamed look about him, and those little piggies look so confident.  Can you guess what the next spread shows and tells us?  
Opening 12
Finally the wolf gets his own back.  But that's not the end, we've still got the back endpapers to go!  
Back endpapers
"Ahh ha ha ha ha!"  Those pre-school kids just loved it and we had to read it again.  They had even more fun joining in with the refrain, "Wolf won't bite!" the second time round. A brilliant picturebook, and what fun I had sharing it.  You will too!

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