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, June 22, 2012


Front cover
Birdsong is a delightful picturebook written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall and the first of her picturebooks to be published.  She's since written two more and they are winging their way over to Portugal as I write! She doesn't seem to have a website, but Sunshine smiles have beautifully showcased her work here
Her picturebook, Birdsong is perfect for pre-school, with quirky illustrations and a fun rhyming text full of wacky bird sounds. 
BAck and front covers
The front and back covers come together to make one illustration, which when seen opened up show several of the birds who appear in the story, peering out from the other side of the tree on the back cover.  A tree with a lovely rough texture, oil pastel on coarse water colour paper, a nice contrast to the smoother looking birds, who are painted in watercolour, as well as the little, delicate butterfly who flutters nearby.
We open up to the page many paperbooks have, "This book belongs to ...", where that pretty butterfly can be seen again, paused on the word 'to...'
Front endpapers
Next the front endpapers, a textured pasture with collage flowers and a tree in the distance, covered in pastel pink flowers - there's the pink bird from the front cover and, if you look closely, that butterfly is there too. The copyright and title page bring us even closer to the tree ...
Copyright and title page
... and the pink bird and his companionable butterfly begin our story. 
Opening 1
"One small bird, in a tree. Kitcha, kitcha, kee, kee, kee:" You can guess what will happen can't you? 
Opening 2
"Here's another come and see! Urrah! Urrah! Rah, rah, ree. Kitcha, kitcha, kee, kee, kee:"
And so as we turn the pages these lovely birds, mostly watercolour with tiny bits of collage stuck on, see the crest on the yellow and green bird's head. Two more birds come along, and their onomatopoeic sounds continue the rhythm.  "And now an owl's come into view ..."
Opening 4
"Too-whit, too-wit, too-wit, too-woo. Chucka, chucka. Weet, weet, weet. Tchikka, tchikka.Tweet, tweet, tweet. Urrah! Urrah! Rah, rah, ree. Kitcha, kitcha, kee, kee, kee."  These sounds are wonderful, but you need to concentrate as you read through them!  The rhythm helps get the pronunciation right though! Then along comes a parrot, "Ru-tu, ru-tu, ru-tu-tu!"  Then two more, Kirri! Kirri! Kip, kip, kip:" 
Opening 6
The butterfly is still fluttering by and the branch gets more and more bent (an ideal opportunity for talking about accumulated weight!). And don't the birds look happy, together, some of them nuzzling comfortably together ... "Can any more fit on this tree? It looks a little full to me!" Well, along comes a very large colourful bird, we see him flying towards the tree, and then landing ...
Opening 8
A huge bird with a mighty beak joins them with a piercing shriek! KEEYAAAAAAAA!" the font screeches across the page too and knocks the other birds off.  Is he an gaudy bird?  Notice the butterfly is the only creature to fly above the loud noise.  Our gaudy bird sits proudly on the branch, "The little branch is all his own:" But he doesn't see (or hear) the branch cracking, do we if the words didn't warn us? "He hasn't seen the butterfly, gently, gently floating by... Look out bird!" Butterfly lands just by the crack and ...
Opening 11
What a lot of feathers! "... Whatever could have made him fall?"
Opening 12
How forlorn he looks, as the butterfly flutters by and he nurses his head!  The other birds are high in the sky, can you see them? That's spread 12 which is the last in the body of the book, but true to form, this picturebook has not yet ended, for the back endpapers show us how the story is resolved. 
Back endpapers
The eight birds are on the other branch, the one we saw on the back cover and the biggest, loudest bird is skulking off.  Who's in the foreground?  Our butterfly!  
So simple, yet so clever.  Children love the silly bird sounds and pick up the rhythm really quickly.  A lovely book to share and if you want to talk about companionship and sharing it's a nice place to start. 

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