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.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What does Polly Wally like to eat?

Time for tea Polly Wally is a fun picturebook by Kali Stileman.  It's wacky and silly and perfect for 4 and 5 year olds. Stileman uses a sort of collage technique, cut shapes and scribbles to create lots of textures, in particular Polly Wally herself (himself?) who is a very busy blob of paint strokes.  Polly Wally is a bird, can you see the yellow beak and skinny legs?  What do you think she likes for tea? She's peering at a line of busy ants marching across the bottom of the cover...
The half title page shows a row of coloured birds on the grass, the title a contrasting grey above them.
Half title page
There's also a clue here about Polly Wally's tea, can you guess what it is? A nice bright pair of endpapers greet us as we open the book further ...
Stileman is a designer and these look a little like her wrapping paper designs! The copyright and title pages give us a couple more clues about Polly Wally's tea...
Copyright and title page

Opening 1
Sure enough as soon as we turn the page again we see Polly Wally with her knees knocking, she really is hungry.  Super large font to emphasize just how hungry Polly Wally really is.  Those front cover ants have managed to climb the tree and there's that butterfly again, and the seven-eyed spider we've seen a couple of times already (keep up!)
Opening 2
Ohh goodness, that's Jemima Giraffe!  Jemima likes "luscious lip-smacking leaves ... try some."  Umm, what do you think?  Will Polly Wally like the leaves? (NB the stick insect at Polly Wally's feet).
Opening 3
"Yum!" said the giraffe. "Yuck!" said Polly Wally!  Nope that's not what she likes to eat for tea. Look at her eyes!   Our story is set up, children know that whatever comes next will proceed in a similar fashion.  Polly Wally will try to eat the offered food and won't like it! There's lots of repetition... "I'm hungry" ... "I eat ..." "Try some." Yum!" said ... "Yuck!" said Polly Wally!  That's good as children get to grips quickly with those chunks of language and love helping tell the story with you.  The repetitive format of exclaiming hunger, being offered food and not liking it is also supportive and children can confidently guess what will happen next.
So, Polly Wally meets Xanthe Zebra, who likes sweet green grass, Eleanor elephant who eats lots of fabulous fruit, Colin crocodile who just agrees that he's hungry too... oops, fly off Polly Wally! Finally, Mavis monkey who eats nobbly nuts.  
But, it's not as simple as that because on each spread children notice the mini beasts scattered around, a worm in the grass, a stripy caterpillar ...
Opening 7
Can you see him on the verso page?  On other spreads there's a fat beetle climbing a tree and that seven-eyed spider hangs alongside Mavis Monkey.  And Polly Wally is almost always being watched from a not too far distance by a pert little red bird...
Opening 10
Can you see her in the verso page? When we turn to opening 11 we realise it must be Polly Wally's mummy, who's "come home with ..."
Opening 11
Close up of recto page
If we pull the flaps we'll see she's been cleverly collecting all those beasties for Polly Wally's tea.  "A wiggly worm, a tickly stick insect, a big shiny black spider, a speedy spider,a nd a creepy crawling caterpillar."  
Opening 12
It's our turn to go "Yuck!" now!  YUCK! How could you Polly Wally? It's good hearing/seeing the children making the connection between all the different insects when they see them under the leaves, and of course upon returning to the picturebook they are careful to look for the different creepy crawly beasties, knowing they will turn up on the penultimate spread.  And of course we can have a nice discussion about what we like eating for tea.  
An extra is that this particular edition, a paperback one, has lovely thick pages, so it's nice and robust and will take quite a lot of battering in the library!  
I'd like to thank Random House for sending me a copy of Time for Tea Polly Wally - greatly appreciated and well used already!

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