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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What does it mean to be a Huey?

Front cover
The Hueys in The new jumper is Oliver Jeffers' latest picturebook, and by the title it looks like there's going to be a whole series of them - and the back cover confirms it, "An irresistible new series from award-winning picture book creator, Oliver Jeffers." 
The Hueys ... I remember seeing the blob-like creatures on Jeffers' website, on some design work he had up there, but I went back today and they are gone.  They are great little characters, which is amazing when they are just blobby, bouncing-beanie-kind-of-things with stick legs and arms.  Their penis-like noses hang between two dots for eyes and not all of them have mouths. Yet they are as full of expression as anything. Jeffers has pulled a biggie this time. Here's the promo film, which is up on Youtube.
Simple, no minimal, is probably the best word to describe what Jeffers has done in creating the Hueys.  They are simple little creatures, black and white, making a black and white kind of book.  There are none of those lovely watercoloured pages like in Lost and found or the collaged creations found in The INCREDIBLE book eating boy, but the insertion of a powdery blue page or a delicate pastel green remind me of The great paper caper, which  uses these colours, as does Stuck!  But this minimalism works really well.  
Front endpapers
When we open the book (I have the hard back edition, and it's still not available in paperback) we are presented with five Hueys, parading across the front endpapers
Copyright and title pages
The title page omits the orange from the front cover, cleverly emphasizing the dullness that monotony and black and whiteness can bring to life. Even the blobs are bored saying, "bla bla blabity bla" "mm hmm" ... 
I was surprised, when I turned the page, that Jeffers' characteristic hand written font didn't continue into the body of the book ... it does as we'll see later, but as the Huey voices. That's kind of nice.  So this (is it Times Roman?) font represents that voice over we heard on the Youtube video, like the nice man's voice we hear on children's programmes; a matter of fact sort of BBC-kind-of-voice, can you hear it?
Opening 1
My photos aren't good, but you can just make out that the recto page is beige. First one Huey, then two, the beige background accentuating their minimal form and sameness. Then turn the  page again and ...
Opening 2
It's confirmed, "There were many, many of them..." and they are all the same.  They all look the same, think the same (they all think about drinking tea!) and they do the same things (hang up pictures!), that is until our special Huey "- Rupert was his name -" made himself a jumper. 
Opening 5
Here's where the orange returns, bright, in fact quite stark against the muted pastel and white.  A slashing dash of colour and Rupert looks the bee's knees, though "Not everyone agreed with his taste..."  Look at how a simple line across the nose makes a Huey look uncertain, or just moving the willy nose across makes a Huey look secretive. And Rupert is whistling away, very proud of his new jumper. Keep looking at those Hueys faces.  
Opening 6
These Hueys just don't understand Rupert, the thing that united the Hueys was their sameness.   Rupert found his freind Gillespie, who "thought being different was interesting." So he knitted a jumper for himself, just like Rupert's. 
Opening 8
Now Gillespie was different too, and Rupert didn't look quite "so strange anymore".  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and soon lots of Hueys were making jumpers so they could be different too. 
Opening 11
And before you know it, each and every Huey was different. The message being given to everyone makes a mockery of their being different! "Do you like our new jumpers?"  Is this Huey speaking to the rest of the Hueys or is he asking us, the reader? 
Then thank goodness for Rupert, who, true to form, made a mind blowing decision...
Opening 12
He decided to wear a hat! Look at Gillespie's face! "And that changed everything ..." But that's not the end, turn over to see the back endpapers, please!
Back endpapers
Wow the Hueys have gone wild!  Don't they look good?  

So is this picturebook for little kids?  Yes, I htink it would work nicely with early primary, but it would also be a wonderful starting point for discussion with a group of teens or young adults.  If taken at a deeper philosophical level we are looking at how we see identity; just how unique are we and what are the consequences of our actions?  Are we leaders or followers?  Just how important is it to be different and who decides what's different anyway? Oooh!  This simple little book is loaded! 

What's more, these Huey guys are going to be all the rage (mark my words!). You can already make your own Huey here, and there are fun activity sheets here.  Primary children will love these, and so will you, it's such fun!  Here's my Huey ...

From http://www.makeyourownhuey.com/

The Hueys are being marketed, like no other Oliver Jeffers character yet. There'll be Huey t-shirts and Huey mugs.  Watch out! The Hueys are here!

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