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.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Knock, knock ...

Front cover
Keeping with Anthony Browne, I thought I'd feature a lesser known picturebook, which was written by Sally Grindley and illustrated by Anthony Browne.  Knock, Knock, who's there? was Browne's tenth picturebook, first published in 1985 - it was republished in 2010, so still available through The book depository and cheaply through the second hand book market at Amazon
It's a fun little book, featuring a little girl snuggled up in bed and waiting for her daddy to come and say goodnight.  While she waits she is visited by all sorts of scary fairytale creatures, in a repetitively visual romp. 
The front cover shows us one of the creatures from inside, a freindly looking dragon, comically holding a sign with the title of this picturebook, "Knock, Knock, who's there?"  His plaid slippers look incongruous at the bottom of his bright green scaly legs. These slippers appear consistently throughout the book. They feature on the title page...
Title page
Typical of Browne's characters, this little girl has a fringe down to her eyes and dark hair.  She's peering over at the recto page, at the door which is about to open.  
Opening 1
There are two visual clues to help us guess what will come through the door: we can just see the black fingers holding onto the door and there are bananas interspersed between the pink roses on the wall paper. Guess what's coming ...
Recto of opening 2
"I'm a great fat GORILLA with fat furry arms and huge white teeth." The gorilla fills the doorway, and his plaid slippers look very silly!  "When you let me in, I'm going to hug your breath way!"  We turn the page again, and the little girl denies entry... 
Opening 3
"Then I WON'T let you in!" We can see her imagining the gorilla squeezing her breath away. Even teddy is squeezed. Thus we are set up with this repetitive refrain which comes another five times after the question "Knock, knock, who's there?"  Look carefully at the recto in opening 3, what creature is coming next?  The tip of a pointy black hat pushes its way through the door, and there are black cats between the roses. 
Recto of opening 4
This time the little girl will be turned into a frog if she lets the witch in ... there are those slippers again.  Next she is visited by a ghost, who says he will "spook" her!  A ghost with "chains that jangle and clank", and slippers of course. Little ghosties sit between the roses in the wall paper. Next is the dragon we saw on the front cover.  We can see smoke through the door before it opens and there are firey flowers between the pink roses on the wallpaper. A cool green dragon, who stands hand on hip, confident in his slippers!  He will eat the little girl for tea ... so she doesn't let him in. 
Next is my favourite of fantasy creatures, there's a spiked club nestling between the roses on the wallpaper ... What could it be? 
Recto of opening 10
"The world's tallest giant, with eyes like footballs and feet like a football pitch", clad in plaid slippers of course!  And he is going to tread on the terrified little girl. 
Opening 11
She won't let him in of course. Finally we hear the last "Knock, knock!" - pink roses sit between pink roses and we can see pink fingers clutching at the door in the recto of opening 11. 
Recto of opening 12
It's daddy ... "big cuddly daddy with a mug of hot chocolate and a story to tell." Of course she lets him in, and we see a triumphant little girl (in a very cool nighty), stand with her arms open, welcoming her daddy. 
Opening 13
She recounts everything that happened and then confirms that she knew it was her daddy really, and we finish with the same plaid slippers we started with ...
Last opening
Younger primary children will enjoy looking for the clues in the wall paper, and calling out, "KNOCK, KNOCK. Who's there?" and "Then I WON?T let you in!" And you can play games matching the different deeds the fairytale creatures promise they are going to do.  You could even play around with 'going to' for intention if you wish! 

But mostly what's so nice about this picturebook is the way the visual is so predictive and this will help the children pick up chunks of language and successfully help you retell the story. Don't forget to leave it in their class library so they can peer closely at the wall paper and find those clues. 

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